Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Are you a Newbie to Chinese Medicine? If so you may find this list of Frequently Asked Questions helpful in preparing for your first Acupuncture treatment. I made this list up based on some commonly asked questions of patients, friends and family. I hope these FAQs will answer some of your questions about Chinese Medicine and that you will shortly be on your way to experiencing improved health & wellness.

Q. What is Chinese Medicine?
A. Chinese Medicine is a complementary medical practice developed in China more than 2,000 years ago that treats the whole body. The medicine is based on the idea that disease occurs when the body is out of balance, so the goal of Chinese Medicine is to bring the body back into balance so that it can function to the best of its ability. Chinese Medicine is often seen as a preventative medical therapy, however it also treats acute and chronic medical conditions. Chinese Medicine is practiced worldwide.

The practice includes:
Herbal Formulas: Herbal formulas are made up of natural pharmacological substances. There are over 1,000 ancient Chinese formulas that cover a broad spectrum of symptoms and disease, such as Anemia, the Common Cold, Menopause, Arthritis, and Allergies to name a few. The formulas and single herbs are prepared in the following forms:

Raw - dried raw herbs in their natural state. This type of formula needs to be cooked for an hour or so depending upon the contents. Directions should accompany your raw formula for exact preparation and dosage.
Powder- A powder form of the herb that can be either mixed in water or encapsulated for consumption.
Tea Pills - Formulas are available in tablet form similar to aspirin.

Acupuncture: Involves the therapeutic practice of inserting needles into acupuncture points along the body. Needles are only used once and then disposed according to guidelines provided by Clean Needle Technique. This therapeutic practice of acupuncture stimulates the body to rebalance. The insertion of the needles is sometimes painful and can cause bruising, however this is not common. There are a variety of lengths and gages for the needles, but to give you an idea – they are thinner than a sewing needle.
Moxibustion: Involves the therapeutic practice of burning Moxa which is made of Mugwort (Artemisia Argyi.) Moxa is used indirectly above the patient’s body, focusing on a particular point and or area of the body. This is particularly useful for issues associated with cold and stagnation- such as muscle pain and poor circulation.
Chinese Cupping: Involves the therapeutic practice of placing cups on the patient’s skin, primarily on the back. This practice relieves stagnation, expels pathogens, and aides in detoxification. The cups are made of either glass, plastic, or bamboo.
Qi Gong: Involves the therapeutic practice of different breathing techniques, postures and movements.
Tuina: Involves the therapeutic practice of Chinese massage and bodywork.

Q. What is the difference between Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Oriental Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine?
A.  The short answer is there really isn’t a difference.  Because Chinese Medicine was translated from Chinese to English, we have several different names for Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into the body at specific points to stimulate “qi” and create balance. The term Acupuncture has also become a catchall for the practice of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncturist is the default title for Chinese Medical Practitioners.
Oriental Medicine and Chinese Medicine, are basically the same idea. There are strong schools of Classical, Korean, and Japanese Acupuncture that incorporate certain techniques unique to their practice, but they all originate from the foundations of Chinese Medicine.The main difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese Medicine, is historical. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was defined in China in the 1950s during the Cultural Revolution and labeled as TCM. It mainly incorporates herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion. TCM doesn’t include practices that didn’t align with the “traditional” views of the government during the Cultural Revolution.

Q. What should I bring to my first acupuncture appointment?
A. When you make your appointment, you will either be sent paperwork to fill out and bring with you, or your will need to come in 15 minutes prior to your first appointment.  You will typically want to also bring any recent lab tests, radiology reports, and a list of current medications including pharmaceuticals, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Q. How long will my appointment take?
A.  As a rule, first time appointments are usually about 90 minutes as we  will want to get a clear and accurate medical history as well as do an examination and then provide a treatment.  Typically the actual treatment takes from 15 – 30 minutes once the needles are inserted. Consecutive appointments will be shorter.

Q. What should I wear?

A. If possible you should wear loose clothing that can be rolled up for easy access to acupuncture points. If needed we can also provide a gown you can wear during your treatment.  Many treatments include points on your feet, legs, arms, front and back torso, as well as your head so the Acupuncturist will need to be able to access those areas.

Q. Why is my Acupuncturist asking about my bowel movements? If I prefer hot or cold drinks?   Do I have difficulty making decisions, and if she can look at my tongue?  My other doctors never asked me these questions.
A. It can be a bit off-putting to talk about your bowel movements, or have someone look at your tongue -especially if you just had a kale smoothie -  but don’t be put off by these questions and others, this is all information that we need needs to gather to make an accurate diagnosis.  If you are coming in for an appointment because you sprained your ankle, suffer from tinnitus, or have insomnia some of these questions might seem unnecessary, but keep in mind that Chinese Medicine looks at the whole body, physically and emotionally, so seemingly irrelevant questions are actually very relevant to having a holistic understanding of your overall health. Also don’t brush your tongue before your appointment- we want to see it in its natural state.

Q. Why did my Acupuncturist say my kidneys are deficient? I have asthma, not kidney failure.
A. Remember it is called Chinese Medicine, not Western Medicine. Acupuncturist study 4 years to receive their license, this education involves learning both Chinese and Western Medicine.  Kidney Deficiency is a Chinese Diagnosis common for certain asthma syndromes, ask to provide a western diagnosis or an explanation if you have questions or concerns.

Q. How many appointments will I need? And do I have to take the herbal formula?
A. As part of your diagnosis you will be provided with a treatment plan, this will include your diagnosis and other relevant information to your case. It might include dietary and exercise recommendations, as well as recommendations for an herbal formula.  Herbal medicine and acupuncture (putting the needles in the body) are complementary modalities. Some situations only require herbs, some only acupuncture, and others require both.  It is not commonly possible for patients to receive daily acupuncture treatments so herbal formulas taken between acupuncture treatments often enhance the overall treatment strategy.