Frequently Asked Questions
What are you doing to keep everyone safe during then COVID-19 pandemic?
Great question! As I practice in a shared clinic space, my clinic-mates and I developed strict protocols for our patients and clients to follow as well as ourselves. 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 smaller than that of your typical hypodermic needle, and as a Traditional Japanese Acupuncture practitioner the needles I use are even smaller than your typical Chinese-style ones. I 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 to affect the qi mechanism without directly burning the skin. Direct moxibustion - which is the form of moxa I 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?
Honestly, it 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 a 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 I 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 I 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 such as warfarin.
The style of herbal medicine I 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. I 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?
There are three phases of herbal medicine treatment: Drain, Harmonize, and Tonify. During the "Drain" phase the purpose is usually to rid the body of inflammation or an external pathogen through the body's natural detoxification system, which usually involves urination, bowel movements, and/or sweating. So if the purpose of your formula is to drain inflammation or a pathogen you should see an increase in any of these areas so don't be alarmed. For any of the three phases it is perfectly normal to feel slight nausea when you first start the herbal medicine protocol and even a slight increase in symptoms, but all of that should resolve within the first 3-7 days.
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 me clues as to which questions to ask during your initial appointment and allows me 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 I 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. I 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, budget, 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, and anything else that would help you achieve progress. Then during every subsequent treatment we will re-evaluate that treatment plan based on your progress. I like to remind my patients that on any given week you have one hour with me and 167 without, so my job is to help you make the most of that time outside of treatment to progress in your recovery.
Do you take my insurance?
I am 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 me from being able to give the level of high-touch care I find to be the most effective in helping my patients reach their health goals. That said, I do produce Super Bills for you to submit for reimbursement from your insurance company directly and accept all FSA and HSA plans. As a way to ensure anyone can get the level of high-touch care needed in order to see results, I can offer lower rate treatment plans for 5 or less followup treatments. Please mention your need and we’ll find a fee that works with your situation.
If finding a practitioner who takes your insurance is necessary for you, I recommend starting with Golden Leaf Acupuncture in Berkeley. And if finding low-cost care is necessary given your circumstances, I highly recommend Sarana Community Acupuncture which is right down the street from my clinic.