- What is acupuncture?
- How does acupuncture work?
- What conditions can acupuncture treat?
- Does acupuncture hurt?
- How safe is acupuncture – Are there side effects?
- Can pregnant women get acupuncture treatments?
- What happens during a treatment session?
- How often do patients typically follow up for acupuncture treatments?
- Do I have to “believe” in acupuncture to reap the benefits?
- Is there anything I should – or shouldn’t – do on the day of a treatment?
- Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
- How can I find out if my insurance covers acupuncture treatments?
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese method of healing, involves the insertion of very fine, sterile needles into particular points of the body known as “acupuncture points.” Chinese medical theory holds that acupuncture works by normalizing the balance of Qi (pronounced chee) – or, vital energy – throughout the body. If your Qi is depleted or obstructed, you may notice symptoms. An acupuncturist finds the root cause of the disease and focuses on treating the imbalance.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is classically thought to work by influencing the life force – or, Qi – which flows through channels – known as “meridians” – in the body. These channels can be compared to highways. When traffic is moving smoothly, all is well. But, an accident or stagnation can cause all sorts of disruption.
The flow of energy is influenced by the needling of acupuncture points. Acupuncture can unblock obstructions in the body’s meridians, promoting balance in the body. Western thinking and research has demonstrated that the acupuncture needling stimulates a number of positive changes in the body, influencing the body’s homeostatic system or internal regulating system.
What conditions can acupuncture treat?
Patients often ask, “Does acupuncture help treat <insert condition name>?”
The answer is yes! Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help patients dealing with any health concern because the medicine is rooted in treating the whole person. Acupuncture attempts to restore balance within a person, rather than solely focusing on treating a symptom.
This paradigm allows for practitioners to individualize Chinese medicine treatments to each patient. This can be difficult for our Western minds to understand because we desire to have everything explained through a research study. In fact, there are many interesting studies that have been done to help uncover the mechanism of how acupuncture works or to help validate its efficacy. Research demonstrates that acupuncture reduces stress in the body, relaxes muscles, reduces the intensity and perception of chronic pain, promotes circulation, decreases inflammation, and promotes the secretion of hormones that promote a sense of wellness. Because inflammation and stress are at the heart of most disease processes, acupuncture can be helpful for so many different health concerns.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Different people have different sensations, but typically patients feel minimal to no pain when acupuncture needles are inserted. Acupuncture needles are just slightly thicker than a strand of hair. They are solid with a smooth point that makes for a much less painful experience compared to the needles used for drawing blood samples.
During treatment, sensations can include: nothing, tingling, an electrical sensation below or above the needles, or a dull achy sensation. There should never be an intolerable level of pain. And, if that’s the case, the acupuncturist should be informed so they can adjust the needle.
After the needles are removed, there may be a dull achy sensation that shortly resolves.
How safe is acupuncture – Are there side effects?
Acupuncture is an extremely safe treatment. The needles are, sterilize, stainless steel, disposable and used one time only. There are no medications on the acupuncture needles.
When the needles are removed, there may be a small spot of blood. Uncommonly, some experience slight bruising, numbness, or tingling in the area that may last a few days. Other side effects are uncommon.
As energy is being moved in the body and other biological processes are stimulated, an in-body shift can occur. You may experience changes in sleep, appetite, bowel or urinary patterns. Emotions can also be triggered. This type of slight aggravation is not a cause of concern, but usually reflects that the acupuncture treatment is working. Often patients experience deep relaxation during or after treatment, which passes with time and can be overcome with rest.
Can pregnant women get acupuncture treatments?
Yes, however, there are some acupuncture points that should be avoided in pregnant women. So, please make sure that your acupuncturist is aware of your pregnancy.
What happens during a treatment session?
An initial acupuncture session will include a thorough medical history intake and physical examination (particularly, examining at your tongue and pulse) to determine the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnoses. Next, the acupuncture needles (typically 8 – 15 needles) will be inserted into specific acupuncture points. Follow-up acupuncture sessions include a brief medical history intake and tongue/pulse examination followed by needle insertion.
Patients are typically lying down on a comfortable exam bed with the needles for approximately 20 – 40 minutes per session. Patients are recommended to wear loose or comfortable clothing so that acupuncture points can easily be accessed by the acupuncturist.
How often do patients typically follow up for acupuncture treatments?
Typically, treatments are once or twice a week for 8-12 sessions, representing one course. Commonly, patients will report improvements after just a few treatments, but the relief may not be lasting. Therefore, patients are encouraged to finish the initial course of treatments.
For more complex, long-standing conditions, a longer duration of treatment may be recommended. For acute problems or general wellness, fewer visits are typically required. After finishing the initial course, your acupuncturist will discuss further acupuncture treatments and the frequency of the treatment based on your individual needs.
Do I have to “believe” in acupuncture to reap the benefits?
No. Acupuncture is a medical treatment that can work regardless of your belief system. Acupuncture is also successfully used in veterinary medicine on animals who do not understand or “believe.”
With that being said, there is a lot of human mindfulness research that shows us that our positive mindset on a treatment – regardless the type of treatment – can help to reinforce the benefits received.
Is there anything I should – or shouldn’t – do on the day of a treatment?
To get the most out of the treatment, please review these guidelines:
- Avoiding being hungry during a treatment, but also do not overeat immediately before or after your treatment. Small snacks or meals prior to or after treatment are fine.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that can easily roll up to the elbows and above the knees. If this isn’t possible, gowns and drapes will be provided.
- Avoid over-exertion of all kinds prior to and after treatment. Moderate exercise is okay.
- Avoid consumption of alcoholic beverages 6 hours before or after treatment
- If possible, plan your activities so that you can rest after the treatment. Or, at least not have to work too hard! This can be helpful to extend the relaxing and rejuvenating effects of the treatment.
- Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your doctor.
- Keep a journal of your response to treatment and bring it to your appointment – this helps to guide future treatments.
Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
Our acupuncturists are in-network with Aetna, Cigna/ Great West, Carefirst, Coventry (Frist Health, CCN, Southern Health), and United/MAMSI. If you have acupuncture benefits, we will bill your insurance directly; however any co-insurance or deductibles will apply.
Our acupuncturists are out of network for all other health insurances. We can provide you with the documentation necessary for you to file a claim with your insurance company for potential reimbursement.
How can I find out if my insurance covers acupuncture treatments?
Here is an example of what to ask your insurance company to determine if you do have benefits.
Call the member services number on the back of your card and ask:
- Do I have in OR out-of-network benefits to see an acupuncturist?
- How many sessions are allowed and within what time period?
- What percentage do you cover?
- What is my co-pay to see a specialist?
- Does my plan only cover visits that are considered “medically necessary”?
- What diagnostic codes are covered?
- Are there any restrictions?
- Do I have a deductible to meet first? If yes, how much?
- Do I need a physician referral?
- Is pre-authorization required in order to submit an out-of-network claim?
- Obtain the name and even a reference number of the representative whom you spoke with.
If needed, provide the following procedure/CPT codes to your insurance company representative: 97810 and 97811.
Bring the answers to these questions to check in at your initial consult and we will do our best to help you get insurance coverage for the acupuncture service.