Does Acupuncture Hurt?  |  What Can It Treat?
What is Chinese Medicine?  |  What is Integrative Medicine?  |  Other FAQs

Common questions we receive about acupuncture and Chinese medicine


Does acupuncture hurt?
Generally, no. Acupuncture needles are extremely thin — about the width of human hair. Most of us have had experiences with needles used for injections, which are large and hollow. Since acupuncture needles don’t inject anything into the body, they are solid and very thin. Patients sometimes experience a slight, sharp sensation when the needle is being inserted, but usually people only experience a sensation of warmth or gentle tingling when needles are inserted. If any therapy does cause you pain, please let your practitioner know immediately that you feel uncomfortable.


What does acupuncture treat?
According to the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture has proven to be effective in the treatment of pain, including back and neck pain, knee pain, osteoarthritis pain, and headaches. Our patients report improvement for a diverse range of issues, including asthma, digestive disorders, smoking cessation, stress management, and many other problems.


What is integrative medicine?
Integrative medicine integrates the best features of Western medicine and Chinese medicine. Integrative medicine approaches each individual as a whole person, rather than a set of symptoms. An integrative approach to medical care might include Western medicine as well as acupuncture, natural products such as herbal formulas, dietary therapy, massage, movement exercise, and relaxation techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery.


How long has Chinese medicine been around?
Chinese medicine has a rich and complex history. Over the centuries, the medicine evolved in its complexity as it adapted to the growth of Chinese civilization, the incorporation of scientific method, public health concerns and the advent of modern technology. Today, Chinese medicine blends time-tested techniques with modern science from the classroom and in the clinic. Learn more about the history of Chinese medicine.


What does a treatment look like?
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine solid stainless steel needles through the skin. A typical treatment includes needling 8-12 points chosen on the basis of the patient’s constitution and symptoms. Each session is highly customized for you and your specific health concern. Most points selected are on the limbs and head, although back and abdomen points can also be used. Acupuncturists use many approaches to address your overall health in addition to your current symptoms.

Acupuncturists also employ specific diagnostic techniques such as tongue and pulse diagnosis to understand the dynamics creating your health concern. This approach means acupuncture is deeply patient-centered in its approach to care.

How does it work?
There is no known mechanism for acupuncture although many theories have been proposed. According to Chinese medical theory, acupuncture promotes healthy circulation of blood and qi because, “Where there is free flow there is no pain, where there is pain there is no free flow.” The scientific evidence base for acupuncture’s effectiveness continues to grow. It is clear that for pain conditions such a chronic low back pain, acupuncture treatment is both beneficial and safe.

Can acupuncture help with pain?
Yes! Acupuncture promotes healthy circulation of blood and qi thus resolving pain. From a biochemical perspective, acupuncture analgesia is achieved by peripheral nerve stimulation that directs the brain to release endorphins, which in turn block pain pathways in the brain.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, World Health Organization, and an increasing number health insurance providers recognize acupuncture as an effective intervention for musculoskeletal pain. As a drug-free intervention with demonstrated lasting results, acupuncture is an alternative for pain management without the potentially serious side effects as prescription drugs and surgery.

What is an acupuncturist’s training?
The requirements to become a licensed acupuncturist includes a minimum of three years post-graduate studies in acupuncture at a school that is recognized by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Our intern practitioners are in the process of receiving more than 2,000 hours of education and training, including more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience, including hundreds of hours of hands-on clinical and observation hours in OCOM's clinics.

How does it work alongside other medical providers?
Acupuncturists can communicate healthcare providers to ensure the best quality care for the patients. Many physicians are now approaching acupuncture as complementary to their to their patients and their medical practices. Many institutes integrate such therapies. To engage your primary care physician or other health care provider you can convey your preferences and the benefits of the care you receive through acupuncture.

Is acupuncture safe for children?
Kids may not like getting shots, but that doesn’t mean they won’t like acupuncture! Common pediatric complaints like ear aches, bedwetting, ADHD and asthma all respond very well to acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Such treatments can include needling and non-needling techniques such as tuina massage. As a general rule, acupuncture is safe for ages seven or older. Every child should be assessed for readiness for acupuncture on a case-by-case basis.

Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
Yes! Licensed acupuncturists are trained to know which points are helpful for pregnant women and which ones are to be avoided. It’s important to let your acupuncturist know if you are pregnant, or if you think you might be, so that your treatment can be as safe as possible for both mother and child. Acupuncture can help with several pregnancy-related conditions including morning sickness, back pain, premature cervical ripening, preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension), fatigue, heartburn, constipation, and gestational diabetes.

Are Chinese herbs safe?
In the United States, unprocessed raw herbs are classified and regulated as foods by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is why Chinese medicinal herbs like garlic, ginger, and cinnamon are freely available at any local grocery store without a prescription. Schedule an herbal consult with our trained herbalists so that your formula is tailored to you and your condition.