What To Expect After Acupuncture? – FAQs 2023 Part 3

I’ve heard about “community acupuncture.” What is it and how is it different from what you do?

“Community acupuncture” refers to a style of acupuncture that offers free and/or low-cost treatments in a group setting. The main difference between a community acupuncture clinic and a regular acupuncture clinic, is that community treatments are often given in a large room with limited to no privacy, whereas regular treatments are given in private treatment rooms. 
The advantages of community acupuncture are: 
(1) affordable, low-cost treatments which allow the patient to receive several treatments a week if necessary 

(2) social setting – meeting and interacting with others in the community

(3) extended treatment time – usually patients can stay for as little or as long of a time as they want; some patients like to receive treatments for upwards of an hour, which may not be possible at a regular clinic due to scheduling

(4) lots of ear acupuncture which is great for stress, anxiety, PTSD, weight loss, addiction, and smoking cessation – just to name a few! 
The disadvantages of community acupuncture are: 
(1) not much privacy, if at all – some clinics may have a separate consult room where you can talk privately to the practitioner, otherwise you may have to quietly discuss your health issues in front of others 

(2) limited use of points – because the treatments are given in front of others, only points that can be needled without removing clothing are generally used; this includes head, ear, hand, arm, leg and foot points 

(3) limited access to points – if a community clinic only utilizes recliners or chairs for treatment, they may not be able to treat the back of the body comfortably; they can still treat back or neck problems, but not directly 

(4) limited use of needles/time – because community practitioners only charge a small fee, they may not have the time or resources to give in-depth consultations or use a lot of needles; community treatments tend to use only a few points, as opposed to a traditional private treatment which can utilize many
With all that being said, community acupuncture is obviously going to be a good fit for some people, but not others. While I do not offer community-style treatments, I do offer low-cost/affordable treatments compared to other private clinics in and around this area. I also offer discounts for patients that want to be seen multiple times a week, which make my services even that much more affordable! So you have the advantage of having a private, in-depth consult and treatment with me, at a reasonable price, without limitations on where I can treat or the number of needles I can use. If community acupuncture still sounds like a more ideal treatment style for you, I am happy to refer you to a local community clinic to best meet your needs. 

I’ve heard about using acupuncture and herbs to help with infertility. Does is work and what does it entail?

The use of acupuncture and herbal medicine for fertility has been getting a lot of media attention lately, and for good reason: it’s been used to treat both male and female reproductive health for thousands of years. Acupuncture for fertility is one of my specialities. I have had two years of clinical practice at an acupuncture fertility clinic, as well as numerous continuing education classes on a variety of fertility-related issues. I have seen great success using acupuncture and/or herbs in the treatment of infertility, but quite often the success was related to the age of the patient(s), how long they engaged in regular treatment, and what other assisted reproductive technologies they were using, if at all. With that being said, there are no guarantees that acupuncture and herbs can help a couple conceive. However, there are many variables that can affect the probability of conceiving and it depends greatly on you and your partner’s specific issues. I am happy to discuss particular fertility-related conditions and how difficult they are to treat with TCM in a private consultation. Knowing you and your partner’s health history will help me to determine how well I think acupuncture and herbs can benefit you, how long you need to pursue treatment before falling pregnant, and if you would benefit from the services of a fertility clinic in addition to treatments with me. Please bring all fertility labwork you’ve had done to your first visit/consultation. 

What about using acupuncture and herbs in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, such as IUI or IVF procedures?

Many patients choose to use acupuncture in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies (such as fertility-enhancing medications, surgery, and IUI/IVF procedures). Some studies have shown that acupuncture can increase the success of these procedures. While we generally refrain from prescribing herbs while a patient is taking any fertility meds, acupuncture can be used to counter side effects from medications, increase circulation to the reproductive organs, balance hormones, and reduce stress associated with fertility treatments. In my experience I’ve also seen acupuncture enhance the effectiveness of fertility medications, probably through stimulation of the reproductive organs. As you can imagine, acupuncture for fertility uses a lot of points on the abdomen, back, head and ears, to stimulate both the reproductive organs and the brain, which regulate the release of hormones. I offer Day of Embryo Transfer treatments to IVF patients. This includes before and after acupuncture treatments based on a particular IVF acupuncture protocol. Studies have repeatedly shown that the Day of Embryo Transfer protocol can increase success rates of IVF anywhere from 17-25%.  

What about using acupuncture and herbs for male infertility?

Male infertility can also be treated using acupuncture and herbs, along with diet and lifestyle changes. I’ve worked with many male patients with great success. Some practitioners believe that both partners should be receiving treatment in order to increase the probability of conception. I like to assess both partners before making the recommendation that either one or both partners will need treatment. There is a general assumption that women play a greater role in infertility than men do. Sometimes I treat only the female partner while the primary issue may actually be with the male partner – perhaps because the female partner is more proactive in seeking treatment. However, it should be noted that inability to conceive and recurrent miscarriage can be due to sperm quality and not necessarily egg quality, uterine environment, or overall health of the female partner. The best way to assess if the male partner needs treatment is through a recent sperm analysis. Using acupuncture, herbs and diet therapy, we may be able to prevent the couple from needing Western fertility treatments or we can enhance the effectiveness/success of the assisted reproductive technology they pursue. 

I’ve heard a lot about facial rejuvenation acupuncture, also called the “Acupuncture Facelift”. Do you offer this service and what is it like?

I have been trained in “facial acupuncture,” but there are several popular systems of “facial rejuvenation acupuncture” out there which I have not been trained in. Some use upwards of 40-60 needles in the face; others use very tiny “dermal” needles or special tapping needles; and others combine facial acupuncture with the application of products and facial massage (similar to a facial given by an esthetician). I have been trained to perform facial acupuncture using dermal needles in combination with regular facial points. I do not offer application of products or facial massage, but I may consider these services for the future.
Facial acupuncture has gotten a bit of false advertising by being called an “Acupuncture Facelift.” This title implies that the treatment is instantaneous in eliminating wrinkles, dark circles, sagging skin or uneven skin tone. In reality, facial acupuncture is often administered in packages of 10-12 treatments over a few months time. The reason is because it takes time for it to work. Facial acupuncture brings more blood flow to the face, which can help to boost collagen production and relax the muscles responsible for producing fine lines and deep wrinkles. Like regular acupuncture, this process takes time! Many people are left disappointed with facial acupuncture after a few treatments not realizing that the best effects are seen after three or more months of regular sessions.
If you are interested in receiving facial acupuncture alone or in addition to full body acupuncture, please let me know so I can adjust our appointment time accordingly.

I’ve seen pictures of celebrities with huge circular bruises on their backs from something called “cupping” or “fire cups.” What is it for and why does it leave such bad bruises?

Cupping is a treatment we use in TCM for a few different types of conditions:

(1) when somebody is just starting to get sick with a cold, flu or respiratory infection or has chronic respiratory problems,

(2) when somebody has a lot of chronic/fixed pain, or

(3) when somebody has just had a traumatic injury with swelling, bruising, or limited range of motion.

It’s most often performed on the back because this is

(1) where we can draw pathogens out of the body;

(2) where we hold a lot of muscle tension; and

(3) where we have access to a relatively flat and fleshy surface. Cupping can also be done on other areas of the body, but smaller or larger cups are required depending on the area.

There are several different styles of cupping: 

(1) Fire cupping is traditionally done with glass cups and a small flame – usually a lit piece of cotton held by forceps or tweezers. The flame is put inside the glass cup at an angle for a few seconds, then pulled out quickly and the cup is immediately placed on the skin. This produces a vacuum-like effect so that once the cup is placed on the skin the underlying tissues are sucked up into the cup. The patient will feel the suction, but it is not usually painful. A similar method of fire cupping is to place a small amount of burning paper or herbs (moxa) inside the cup and then drop the cup on the skin. While it would seem like the burning substance would land on the patient’s skin and burn them, it doesn’t. As soon as the cup is placed the burning substance uses up all the oxygen in the cup (creating a vacuum) and immediately goes out/stops burning.

(2) Manual cupping (aka air cups or suction cups) uses the same principle as fire cups, but without the heat and flame. They are placed on the skin and then air is suctioned out using a hand-pump or suction pump machine.

(3) Moving cupping is when oil or moisturizer is applied to the skin before the cups are placed. Then when the cups are applied, the practitioner can move and glide the cups over a larger area of the skin. This produces an intense cupping massage which is great for loosening tight muscles and moving the blood.

(4) Wet cupping is done when the practitioner first uses a lancet to puncture the skin at certain points. Then the cups are placed over the puncture sites and begin to pull blood out of the points. This style of cupping is usually done to pull out “toxic blood” from particular areas and can be very messy!

(5) Needle cupping / moxa cupping is done when a needle is first inserted and then the cup is placed over the needle. Moxa cupping is done by placing burning moxa on the needle’s handle and then placing a cup over it. This type of cupping provides a stronger stimulation and is used when the practitioner wants to focus on particular points and add heat to the treatment.

(6) Bruising cupping is done when the cups are purposefully meant to leave bruises or marks on the patient’s body. This is done by applying the cups and leaving them in the same place for 10+ minutes. While this seems like a scary treatment, patients usually don’t feel pain during or after the treatment is over and the bruises/marks resolve themselves in a few days or weeks. Linament can also be applied afterward to speed the healing process. Bruising cups are meant to strongly move blood in a particular area. The bruises that are left behind bring the body’s healing energy to that area as it clears out the blood stagnation. Some practitioners believe that these marks are not actually bruises, but signs of internal congestion and blood stagnation being brought to the surface.
So what’s the deal with the cupping marks? Some people want to try cupping but are afraid of the bruises that get left behind… First, some people are more prone to bruising than others and will bruise with even very gentle cupping. Patients that have bleeding disorders or are taking blood thinners are generally discouraged from cupping treatments because they will bruise badly and the bruises will stay for a long time! Second, the bruises are generally only produced when the cups are left in one place for a long time. I try not to leave cups with a strong suction in the same place for more than 5 minutes. I may reapply the cup to the same place after 5 minutes, but the temporary release of the cup should prevent severe bruising. Last, if you absolutely don’t want the risk of having bruises left behind from cupping then you should not receive this treatment. There’s really no way of predicting what marks will be left behind as everybody’s body is different. I try to avoid bruising by modulating the strength of suction, moving the cups and not letting them sit for more than 5 minutes at a time. This works most of the time, but not all of the time.
And if you’re still wondering about those big purple cupping bruises, here is another acupuncturist’s take on it: 
“First of all, contrary to popular belief they are NOT bruises. These “purple marks” as they are called in Chinese are the expression of internal stagnation and congestion brought to the surface of the body. They do not appear on everyone, only those with a significant amount of congestion, poor blood flow and lymph drainage. Those who are relatively healthy will not express with these “crop circles”, while those with severe muscle tightness, headaches, painful periods and various kinds of musculoskeletal pain will often, and with incredible speed, show with purple-black marks. These marks are both therapeutic (as they bring the stagnation out of the tissues and to the surface, where it can resolve), and diagnostic (the amount and nature of the discoloration gives an insight into the patient’s condition). Traditional cupping, as generally employed in China, where cups are placed and then left to sit for 5-15 minutes tend to result in more of a polka-dot display, while the “oily sliding cup” method tends to leave fewer marks, has the added benefit of treating a wider area, and tends to cause the eyes to roll back in delight.
Generally speaking, the more one has the stagnation pulled to the surface, the less they will express with the spotted evidence of having been cupped. Some famous personalities like Gwyneth Paltrow have been known to sport their spots without reservation. Olympic athletes have also been in the news due to their leopardish appearance. Even though the Western news media, during the 08 Olympics expressed astonishment at the purple spots, it is common knowledge to anyone who has spent any time in the Middle Kingdom that these marks are considered by the Chinese to be as common as teacups. What is more, any grandma in China worth her salt knows how to apply some old fashion buffalo horn cups to treat colds, headaches, backaches and sore shoulders.” 
– Michael Max, Yong Kang Clinic, http://www.yongkangclinic.com/cupping-faq-2/

I am a vegetarian/vegan and I went to another acupuncturist who told me I needed to start eating meat. Is that true?

Eating meat is heavily encouraged by many acupuncturists and TCM practitioners. The reason is because meat has a medicinal quality to it – it builds blood, warms the body and digestion, and can tonify yang energy. Different meats have different properties. Organ meats are generally considered the most therapeutic, especially in the treatment of that particular organ (e.g. eating animal kidneys in order to strengthen your own kidneys.) It’s also important to remember that throughout Chinese history being able to afford and eat meat was considered a luxury and status symbol. To this day, many Chinese cannot comprehend avoiding meat if you have the money to buy it. (The only acceptable excuse for not eating meat is for religious reasons, such as being a Buddhist.) Meat is also considered a valuable flavor-enhancer in Chinese cuisine. For this reason, meat is often just a small portion of a larger dish with vegetables, rice or noodles. 
This is in stark contrast to a typical large serving of steak, ribs or a burger in American culture. Too much meat can have the opposite effect on our health – it slows down digestion, causes gas and bloating, and may produce toxicity, dampness or heat in the body. Additionally, conventional (non-Organic) meat and dairy is often produced in crowded and unhygienic facilities, leading to the broad use of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones. These animals may not have room to move, may not ever see sunlight, and are often not fed their traditional diets of grass, plants or bugs. Animals that are fed corn, grain, soy or (gasp!) meat byproducts, have a completely different nutritional profile than their naturally-raised counterparts. Conventional meat and dairy has more saturated fat and cholesterol with fewer nutrients than grass-fed, pasture-raised and Organic meat and dairy. 
When animals are raised and slaughtered inhumanely, it leads to a build-up of stress hormones within the meat itself. Animals may also be slaughtered or milked in a very sick or weakened state. We are now finding out that tumors, cancerous growths, diseased or deformed parts, and pus are common components of ground meat and dairy products. In essence, we could actually make the argument that meat and dairy products are toxic to our bodies! We are basically taking in the metabolic waste products and toxins that reside within the animal’s flesh.
With all that being said, I don’t think meat is necessary for optimum health, but I can understand why so many practitioners think that it is. I believe that vegetarians and vegans who follow a healthy and varied diet can get all the nutrition they need. I also believe that herbs and supplements can play a vital role in correcting any imbalances, such as qi, blood or yang deficiency, that might arise by avoiding meat or dairy products. There are a few, rare cases where I might recommend adding dairy or meat into the diet – these are mostly limited to patients with extreme emaciation and debility from a long or severe illness. Otherwise, I am a big advocate for vegetarian and vegan diets and can help you structure your diet to be as healthy as possible. In the treatment of obesity and as a general weight loss plan, nothing is more valuable, in my opinion, than taking on a vegetarian/vegan diet.

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