How do I know my Acupuncturist is qualified?
The title of Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.) is the title awarded to qualified practitioners, by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). This license is awarded only to those who complete a Master’s degree program in Oriental Medicine. This graduate degree trains students in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and requires 3-4 years of study, with a minimum of 2500 – 3000 hours of training. Courses include anatomy, physiology, botany, chemistry, Western pathology and Western medical pharmaceuticals, as well as psychology and nutrition.
Graduates then sit for the national board exams given by the National Certification Commision for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), which is the only national board examination certifying Acupuncturists in the United States. A minimum of 1800 hours of Chinese Medical education and supervised clinical training plus graduation from an accredited acupuncture school (most require 2500 – 3000 hours training) is required to sit for these exams. Upon passing the NCCAOM exam, an Acupuncturist is awarded the certification required to then apply for state licensure. National certification is renewed every four years, and requires an additional minimum of 60 hours of continuing education.
There are other standards for those who call themselves “Acupuncturists” in Colorado:
- Chiropractors (D.C.)
- Training required: 100 hours. Review 25 case histories.
- No examination required to legally practice “acupuncture”.
- Medical Doctors (M.D.), and Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.)
- No minimum training in either Chinese Medical theory or acupuncture required.
- These professions refer to themselves as “Medical Acupuncturists”
- Physical Therapists (P.T.) have recently been approved by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to practice “dry needling” with acupuncture needles. The only requirement is a 46 hour training and no separate registration with DORA.
I am Nationally Board Certified by the NCCAOM, and am a Licensed Acupuncturist by the state of Colorado.
I am also a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
Does acupuncture hurt?
I am dedicated to making your acupuncture treatment as comfortable as it is effective. Most people barely feel a thing when needles are inserted. Some people feel a slight pinch, similar to a mosquito or gnat bite. In most cases, you feel calm and relaxed soon after the needles are inserted. The reason acupuncture needles don’t give the painful sensation you might expect is because they’re very thin in comparison to the hypodermic needles used to give injections. Hypodermic needles are necessarily hollow so that the shot can be injected. They also have a very blunt point (actually a wedge shape) in comparison to an acupuncture needle. Approximately forty acupuncture needles can fit into the tip of one standard 18 gauge hypodermic needle.
There are certain sensations associated with the therapeutic effects of acupuncture, which are known as Da Qi (pronounced “dah-chee”). These may include slight cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling or electric sensation traveling along a meridian. If any discomfort is experienced, it is usually mild. Overall, your treatment should be virtually painless as well as relaxing.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is very safe. The average liability coverage for an acupuncturist is about $900 per year, while primary care physicians pay an average of $12,000 per year. That’s a 13:1 difference. While this may not translate into exactly a 13 to 1 difference in safety, a visit to an acupuncturist is at least as safe as a visit to your doctor, if not safer.
Acupuncture needles are extremely safe, because they are pre-sterilized, individually packaged, and disposable. Every practitioner gets extensive training in anatomy so as to avoid inserting a needle in a place that can cause damage. This office only uses sterile, single-use, disposable needles.
Do I have to believe in it for it to work? Does acupuncture always work?
Chinese medicine is a medical theory, not a belief system. Acupuncture and herbs work whether you believe in them or not. Of course, having a positive attitude that you will indeed feel better is important to healing in general. Good results are seen in the majority of cases. When all other treatment methods have failed, this indicates a systematic imbalance – exactly what acupuncture and herbs excel at treating.
Acupuncture is widely used on animals, including horses, dogs and cats. Animals respond incredibly well to acupuncture without understanding or believing any of it!
What should I expect on my 1st visit?
During your first office visit, we spend a lot of time getting a complete picture of your health and lifestyle. I examine the condition of your tongue (is it cracked, coated, excessively pink? purple? etc.), and check your pulse on both wrists (the quality of your pulse gives information about possible imbalances). I’ll also ask questions about your emotional state, and specific symptoms you may have.
This is done because unlike Western medicine, TCM treats the whole person instead of focusing on the symptoms of your condition. The first visit can last from an hour and a half to two hours, and almost always with an acupuncture treatment lasting 30-45 minutes.
Your subsequent visits will be shorter – usually about an hour long. We’ll make a short review of your progress followed by an acupuncture treatment.
Please wear of bring loose, comfy clothes to your acupuncture treatment. Gowns or shorts are provided, if needed, although most treatments are provided while you are wearing your own clothing.
How many treatments will I need?
Typically acupuncture treatments are given once a week, for a total of 6-12 treatments. If the condition is acute and painful, treatments may be necessary 2-3 times per week until the condition starts to come under control. The exact duration of treatment depends on the condition, your basic level of health, and how well you respond to acupuncture.
After achieving the results they are looking for, many people come in once every 2-3 months for a seasonal “tune-up”.
How does acupuncture work?
In Chinese medical theory, acupuncture works by balancing the body’s Qi and Blood flow. Qi can be described as a form of bioenergy that runs along 12 major meridians (Qi is the energy; Blood is the substance… they flow together). If Qi gets blocked, it shows up as an imbalance or illness. Basically, if you have a health condition, some part of your body’s system is out of whack. Chinese medical theory allows us to diagnose the imbalance… and balance it.
In Western medical theory, acupuncture appears to work by stimulating parts of the brain. It also stimulates the body to release natural biomolecules such as neurotransmitters, vasodilators, and hormones. The exact mechanisms which brings this about are not completely understood, but the effects are measurable.
A good example of this is the use of acupuncture to induce labor. One of the first things that Oriental medical students learn is that there are a few points that are absolutely forbidden to use with pregnant women. These points cause the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone that naturally induces labor. Studies have shown that using acupuncture to induce labor reduces the active (painful) phase of labor by an average of 3.6 hours.
Does insurance cover acupuncture?
Some insurers cover acupuncture. You can usually find out by calling the number on your insurance card. I provide every patient with a Superbill that provides all the information you need to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. It is a standardized form which insurers expect.
Acupuncture is a tax-deductible medical expense. Please speak with an accountant or tax advisor, or refer to IRS Publication 502 for more information.