What Is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

The theory and practice of acupuncture is based on Oriental medicine (also known as traditional Chinese medicine), a comprehensive natural health care system that has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years to preserve health and diagnose, treat and prevent illness.

Acupuncture treats health conditions by stimulating "acu-points" found at specific locations on the surface of the body. Acupuncturists stimulate the acu-points by inserting very thin needles through the skin to produce physiological effects. Other methods are also used to stimulate acu-points, such as heat or finger-pressure.

The general theory of acupuncture is that proper physiological function and health depend on the circulation of nutrients, substances and energy called Qi (pronounced "chee") through a network of "channels" or "meridians." This network connects every organ and part of the body, providing balance, regulation and coordination of physiological processes.

Pain and ill-health result when the flow of Qi through the body is disrupted or blocked by many things, including disease, pathogens, trauma/injuries and medication (side-effects), as well as lifestyle factors such as overwork, poor diet, emotions, lack of rest and stress.

Stimulation of the appropriate acu-points through acupuncture treatments helps to restore sufficient, continuous and even flow of Qi and other nutrients throughout the body, thereby restoring health and balance to the body, while relieving pain and other symptoms.

The acupuncturist uses a sophisticated and complex system of diagnostic methods that take into consideration the person as a whole, discerning the body's pattern of disharmony rather than isolated symptoms. The aim is not only to eliminate or alleviate symptoms, but more importantly to treat the underlying cause, increase the ability to function and improve the quality of life.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is one of the newest primary health care professions in California. The potential benefits of acupuncture are widely recognized, and it is being increasingly integrated with mainstream health care. Since the 1970's, when acupuncture and Oriental medicine first became available in the United States, more than 15 million Americans have tried it. The risk of side effects is low and the potential benefits are high. Knowing what to expect from acupuncture will help patients get the most benefit from treatments. The purpose of this booklet is to help consumers approach acupuncture treatment from an informed perspective.

Endorsement by the National Institutes of Health

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

In November 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a panel of 12 distinguished physicians and scientists to review the history, licensing, practice and current status of clinical research on the effectiveness of acupuncture. The first formal endorsement of acupuncture by the NIH stated: "There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture's value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value."...

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Licensed Acupuncturists in California

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

The State of California has led the nation in the field of acupuncture, being the first to license qualified practitioners as primary health care professionals in 1979. To qualify for licensing in California, a student must attend a California Acupuncture Board-approved school to receive theoretical and clinical training and graduate with a master's degree. Upon graduation, qualifying candidates must pass a comprehensive state licensing exam. A valid license issued by the Board must be posted in a conspicuous office location....

What To Expect From Acupuncture Treatment

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Being informed and understanding what to expect from acupuncture treatment from the beginning will make you feel more comfortable about the experience. Determine Your Goals Are you looking for a primary health care practitioner or someone who will work with your current physician? Are you seeking short-term treatment for a specific complaint or do you want a prevention-oriented, holistic approach to the health of mind, body and spirit that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can provide? Do you have a work-related injury that is covered by Workers' Compensation?...

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Treatment Procedures

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Modern acupuncture needles are stainless steel, between one-half and three inches long, ultra-fine and quite flexible. They are pre-sterilized, nontoxic and disposable (single use). When the needles are tapped into the skin, there may not be any sensation. Much depends on the location (hands and feet tend to be more sensitive), the condition being treated and the acupuncturist's technique. Needles are typically placed in several acu-points and are usually left in about 20-40 minutes. The goal is to normalize the circulation of Qi and blood by stimulating the energy point, which encourages the body's natural healing process. Stimulation can be...

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Treatment Precautions

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

It is not recommended to have an acupuncture treatment if you are very hungry or extremely tired. Some bruising may occasionally occur after needling. If you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood-thinning medications, you should inform your acupuncturist before undergoing treatment. If you are pregnant or have a pacemaker, tell the acupuncturist so that appropriate herbs and acu-points will be chosen....

Herbal Therapy

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

In the course of your treatment Chinese herbal remedies may be prescribed. They may be dispensed as raw herbs or in pills, capsules, granules, or tinctures which make them easier to ingest. Most herb formulas can treat a wide variety of symptoms while stimulating the body’s natural healing process....

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Who Can Benefit?

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Patients of acupuncturists range from infants to senior citizens. They may be seeking an alternative to Western medicine or it may be their last hope for relief, having exhausted other methods of treatment for a chronic condition. Or, an acupuncturist may be their first choice of health care practitioner for a low-risk form of treatment with few side effects....

What About Insurance Coverage?

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Most California insurance plans include acupuncture treatment in their policies. Ask your insurer about coverage or reimbursement. Some plans that don't normally cover acupuncture will pay for treatments if a physician recommends them. Many acupuncturists are providers for traditional PPO and HMO plans. Acupuncturists are covered under California State Medi-Cal and Workers' Compensation....

How Are Complaints Filed?

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

A complaint should be filed by anyone who believes that a licensed acupuncturist has engaged in illegal or unethical activities related to their professional responsibilities. Anyone may file a complaint, and the Board will review each complaint received. The most effective complaints are those that contain firsthand, verifiable information. While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, many times it is impossible to pursue without documented evidence of the allegations made....

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Conditions Treated

Consumers Guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Treatment efficacy depends on the severity and nature of the condition being treated. Acupuncturists are trained to identify conditions that may require referral to a specialist, so it is important for you to provide detailed information about your condition so that important medical problems are not overlooked. If you are under the simultaneous care of different health practitioners, it is important to keep all of them informed about your treatments to ensure there are no adverse interactions among treatments....

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