What are you doing to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Great question! We've developed strict protocols for our patients and clients to follow as well as ourselves, which thus far has resulted in zero transmissions during the pandemic. You can find the complete protocol here as well as a copy of the COVID-19 consent form that is sent out to and signed by every patient prior to arrival.
How does acupuncture work?
In simple terms, acupuncture works by tapping into the body's electrical system (referred to as 'qi') and corrects the flow of that energy. In biomedical terms, acupuncture “down-regulat[es] a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system, thus disrupting and modulating the stress response”. Think about when you're nervous and you get nauseous or when you're angry and you feel your face getting flushed - these sensations are caused by your body's energy going in the opposite direction of what it usually does when you're calm and in homeostasis. Acupuncture and the other modalities within Chinese & East Asian Medicine all focus on correcting the flow of qi because it is the incorrect flow of qi that causes all dis-ease and dis-harmonies. To learn more about acupuncture, check out this page.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Short answer - not generally. The needles we use are about ten-times thinner than that of your typical hypodermic needle, and as Traditional Japanese Acupuncture practitioners the needles we use are even thinner than your typical Chinese-style ones - about the thickness of a human hair. We also use guide tubes, a metal (or sometimes plastic) tube developed by the Japanese 1,400 years ago to help insert needles into the skin even more painlessly by distracting the body's sensory nervous system so that it barely feels the needle insertion (a phenomenon known as nociception). That said, on rare occasion you may feel a slight pinch if the needle happens to disturb a cutaneous nerve - this is especially common in individuals who receive acupuncture right before or during their period.
What are the side-effects of acupuncture?
Most people leave an acupuncture treatment feeling calm and relaxed, although on occasion someone will feel energized right after. After the first appointment, those who come in for acute pain usually feel a 3-7 point reduction of their pain on a 10 point pain scale, and those who come in for chronic conditions will usually see a softening of their symptoms for 24-72 hours after their treatment. Since the therapeutic effects of acupuncture tend to be cumulative, the more treatments you have under your belt the longer you will feel relief.
What is "moxibustion" and how does it work?
Moxibustion (or 'moxa' for short) is the practice of burning a soft, spongey wool made of mugwort or Artemisia vulgaris (ai ye) on strategic points or over strategic meridians without directly burning the skin. Direct moxibustion - which is the form of moxa we utilize most often during treatment - works very similarly to an acupuncture needle as it involves one specific point except it goes even deeper than the needle, penetrating through to the blood level through the use of focal heat and the penetrating nature of mugwort. Most people feel a sensation of warmth radiating up the corresponding meridian and a sense of relaxation when receiving treatment with moxa. In cases of pain many people feel a reduction of pain and increase in range of motion with moxa alone.
Here is a great article from Acupuncture Today that quotes studies that show scientifically the effect of moxibustion on strategic points.
How do you know what points to use during the treatment?
Chinese & East Asian Medicine has a rigorous diagnostic system based on both objective and subjective data points. Objective diagnosis is done through feeling the pulse, looking at the tongue, palpating the abdomen and meridians, and even identifying key smells and color hues on the skin. Subjective diagnosis is done through thorough questioning of each body system and finding patterns that match the objective data. From there points are selected for either acupuncture, moxibustion, or massage based on what we perceive and how your pulse, abdomen, and meridians change throughout the treatment.
How does herbal medicine work?
Herbal Medicine works similarly to how Western pharmaceuticals do in that the ingredients will intervene in bodily processes to create a therapeutic effect. In fact, most modern Western pharmaceuticals originated from botanical and animal components and were designed to synthetically mimic or potentiate the reaction of these components with cells, nerves, hormones, and receptors in the body. In Chinese medical theory, plant and animal medicinals have a profound effect on your internal qi mechanism and therefore once administered properly help to bring your body back to homeostasis from within. Each ingredient in the Chinese pharmacopeia has been thoroughly researched and documented for decades if not centuries to determine its flavor, which meridians it enters, its temperature once inside the body, proper dosage, possible toxicity, and key characteristics of how it interacts with your body's internal qi mechanism. When you are prescribed an herbal medicine formula, each ingredient is chosen for not only its effect on your body but also its synergistic interaction with the other ingredients within the formula and is thoroughly researched for its interaction with any biomedical diagnoses and/or current medications you are taking. For example, if you have high blood pressure we would make sure to restrict dosage of or completely remove licorice (gan cao) from your formula since it has shown to raise blood pressure or if you are currently on warfarin, coumadin, eliquis, or other blood thinners we would be sure to restrict the use of certain herbal medicinals such as salvia root (dan shen) and safflower (hong hua) that have shown to interact with the anticoagulation effect of blood thinners.
The style of herbal medicine we practice is in line with the classic texts (Shang Han Lun, Jin Gui Yao Lue and Jing Gui Yao Lue) as well as more modern texts (Wen Bing Lun and Pi Wei Lun) and under the guidance of world-renowned herbalists. We have found adding herbal medicine to treatment plans can speed up recovery and, in some cases, is the best way to recovery (for example with dermatological conditions).
What possible adverse side-effects are there from herbal medicine?
Our approach to herbal medicine treatment can be summarized in the three-phase method described below:
Phase 1 - Drain: During this phase the focus is to lull your body out of an inflammatory state by removing its triggers and draining heat produced by inflammation from the body via urination, bowels, and/or sweating. This phase usually lasts between 4 and 8 weeks.
Phase 2 - Harmonize: This is the phase that is most delicate and may have multiple subphases within it. The focus here is to continue to quell inflammation while also “mopping up” post-inflammatory products such as dead white blood cells while simultaneously repairing the cellular damage that has occurred due to the long-term inflammation. This phase can last between 6 and 12 weeks.
Phase 3 - Tonify: This is the last phase of treatment and is very important in order to help reduce the frequency and intensity of future flares. Here the focus is on repairing any cellular damage that may be left after the previous phase and modulating the immune system to ensure the body is more resilient to triggers in the future. This phase lasts between 6 and 8 weeks.
When initially taking the formula you might notice a change in your stools, some bloating or slight abdominal pain, a mild feeling of unwell, or a slight increase in symptoms, none of which are of concern but rather are signs your body is starting to assimilate the formula. This should pass within 36 hours of your first dose.
How should I prepare for a treatment?
Before you arrive make sure that you are neither too hungry nor too full, are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and have not smoked nicotine for more than 90 minutes - all of these can manipulate your pulse to the point where it will be hard to differentiate your true pattern. Also please be sure to come to the appointment without having applied lotion or makeup if possible as both can cause the insertion of the needle to be more irritating. Wear freshly laundered clothing that can easily be moved to access points from slightly above the knee and down the entire arm. For those individuals who wear bras please be sure to wear a bra that can be unhooked from the back.
What should I expect during my first treatment?
Prior to your first treatment be sure to fill out the Initial Intake form that is sent to you via email - it is VERY important to do this prior to your first appointment as it gives us clues as to which questions to ask during your initial appointment and allows us to do research on your medications, diagnoses, and biomedical history prior to your first treatment to determine any cautions and contraindications. During the treatment, the first 30-45 minutes will consist of a thorough intake of questions, pulse taking, and palpating of the abdomen and meridians to determine differential diagnoses for the the first treatment as well as the best treatment plan for you moving forward to reach your health goals. After the treatment we leave time for us to discuss your treatment plan, prescribe any herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, or at-home techniques, and schedule your next appointment.
How many treatments until I see results?
The honest answer - it depends. Those are the two most frustrating words in the English language for those dealing with chronic conditions, but outcomes are dependent on so many factors such as the length of time you've been dealing with the condition, lifestyle habits, nutrition, age, pulse quality, concomitant conditions, past health history, and so on. We like to compare treatment plans with East-Asian medicine to those of psychotherapy - it is not a magic bullet, it will take time until successful outcomes are achieved, and the success of the treatment relies on both the practitioner and the patient putting in the work. Some people see significant improvement in three treatments while others won't see significant results until the 30th. During our first treatment together we will design a treatment plan based on desired outcome, medical history, and openness to adapting habits that fits you where you are right now. A treatment plan may include acupuncture, at-home acupressure or moxa self-therapy, herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, movement therapy, integrative lab testing, and anything else that would help you achieve progress. During each subsequent treatment we will re-evaluate that treatment plan based on your progress, and every 4-8 treatments we will have an extended visit where we discuss your progress, review lab test results, and adjust your treatment plan according to your progress. We like to remind our patients that on any given week you have one hour with us and 167 without, so our job is to help you make the most of that time outside of treatment to progress in your recovery.
Do you take my insurance?
We are not in-network with any insurance companies at this time, the reason for which is because of the very low reimbursement rates which would prevent us from being able to give the level of high-touch care we find to be the most effective in helping our patients reach their health goals. That said, we do produce Super Bills for you to submit for reimbursement from your insurance company directly and accept all FSA and HSA plans. In specific circumstances where someone has limited financial resources but would greatly benefit from our approach to care, we are able to offer alternative rates. Please mention your need and we’ll do our best to accommodate your situation.
If finding a practitioner who takes your insurance is necessary for you, here is a list of Bay Area practitioners who take insurance and which insurance plans they take. And if finding low-cost care is necessary given your circumstances, we highly recommend Katie at Sarana Community Acupuncture which is right down the street from our clinic.
What if we're not a good fit but I still would like to try acupuncture?
Our practice is not the right fit for everyone, and because of that we've developed a really powerful local referral network of practitioners who can meet needs that we cannot. Visit our Referrals page for our list of preferred practitioners in the area.