• What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

    Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a 3000-year-old system of medicine that includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, massage and meditation, and moxibustion.

    Similar to the circulatory, lymph and nervous systems, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have mapped out a very specific and complex pattern of energy channels, or meridians, that run throughout the human body.  TCM focuses on identifying disharmony and imbalance in these channels that can lead to disease.  TCM practitioners believe that qi (pronounced chee), vital energy or life force, travels through these meridians and can become blocked or overstimulated as a result of stress or internal emotions, environmental factors, or poor lifestyle habits (diet, addiction, lack of exercise).  The goal of TCM is to restore balance and harmony to qi, creating a state of health.  TCM emphasizes prevention and healthy lifestyle rather than disease intervention.

  • What is the premise behind Traditional Chinese Medicine?

    In very simple terms, Traditional Chinese Medicine relies on the body’s natural healing capabilities to know how to restore and maintain balance and good health in your body.  These natural capabilities can be interrupted by such things as poor diet, stress, or environment, resulting in illness or “imbalance” in the body.   TCM practitioners seek to eliminate the causes of the interruption within the body through therapies such as acupuncture, cupping, herbal medications, and massage.  In contrast, Western medicine practitioners typically treat the symptoms through pharmaceuticals or procedures, without addressing the cause of the illness.

    Traditional Chinese Medicine is the modern-day system of Chinese medicine developed in the 1950s by the top doctors in China.  TCM is based on classic Chinese medicine theories dating back thousands of years, but also incorporates modern ideas into one cohesive system of the most effective and time-tested treatment methods.

  • What is acupuncture?

    Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in which very slender, sterilized needles are inserted into the body’s meridians or energy channels.   There are 14 meridians, each of which is believed to be connected to a specific organ system.  When energy flow through these meridians is interrupted, illness or pain occurs.  Acupuncture is used to restore balance to the energy flow and stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

    The number and length of the needles used depends on the condition being treated.  Needles are left in place for anywhere from a few minutes up to 30 minutes.   Properly inserted needles cause a sensation known as “de qi,” which is a slight tingling, heavy feeling, or numbness in the area around the needles.  Acupuncture often brings about a feeling of deep relaxation.

  • Does acupuncture hurt?

    Generally speaking, acupuncture shouldn’t hurt.  That’s not to say you don’t feel anything.  Most patients experience a “pinch” at the point where the needles are inserted.  They might also feel a tingling, a heaviness or numbness as well.   However, this is typically followed by a feeling of total relaxation.

  • Are there any side effects from acupuncture?

    Typically, patients do not experience any side effects after an acupuncture treatment.  The inserted needles open the flow of energy in the body, which triggers the body’s natural healing ability to take over.  In some cases, the patient’s symptoms worsen for a few days, or they might experience general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state. This is a sign that the acupuncture is beginning to work and should not be a cause of concern.

    It is also very common immediately following the first couple of treatments to feel a sense of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation.  These should subside soon after the treatment.  If anything, a patient might need a brief nap to feel more alert.

  • Is acupuncture safe?

    Acupuncture is generally very safe if done by a well-trained, certified practitioner.   On very rare occasions, infections can occur if the needles being used aren’t sterile.   Make sure that your provider is using packaged, sterilized needles that are thrown away after each use.

  • What type of training must an acupuncturist have?

    Acupuncturists (L.Ac.) in the United States must attend an accredited three- or four-year graduate-level program to be licensed.  Most professional training programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).   In addition, 43 states require certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  Illinois requires acupuncturists to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

  • Is acupuncture covered by insurance?

    As Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture specifically, gain recognition as an effective complement to Western medicine, a growing number of insurance companies are beginning to cover acupuncture and other TCM therapies for certain conditions.   Be sure to check with your individual plan to see what is covered.  Click here for further advice on insurance coverage of TCM.

  • What conditions does acupuncture treat?

    Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of conditions.  But the West didn’t start seeing it used until the mid 1900s.  In the late 1970s, the World Health Organization recognized the ability of acupuncture to treat nearly four dozen common ailments, including neuro-musculoskeletal conditions (such as arthritis, neuralgia, insomnia, dizziness, and neck/shoulder pain); emotional and psychological disorders (such as depression and anxiety); circulatory disorders (such as hypertension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis and anemia); addictions to alcohol, nicotine and other drugs; respiratory disorders (such as emphysema, sinusitis, allergies and bronchitis); and gastrointestinal conditions (such as food allergies, ulcers, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, intestinal weakness, anorexia and gastritis).