Frequently Asked Questions
IS ACUPUNCTURE COVERED BY HEALTH INSURANCE?
Call your insurance provider to inquire about your acupuncture benefits. Currently, there are very few insurance plans in MA that cover acupuncture, if yours does, we will happily work with you to create the proper invoices for you to submit. With most policies, acupuncture treatments are eligible for reimbursement from a flexible spending account (FSA) or a medical health savings account (HSA).
WHAT IS SPORTS MEDICINE ACUPUNCTURE®?
Sports Medicine Acupuncture® is a combination of both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Sports Medicine diagnostic techniques, to view the patient’s injury from both perspectives. For both the professional and recreational athlete, the practitioners goal is to accurately assess the mechanism, and severity of the patient’s musculoskeletal complaint. This is accomplished by using a combination of orthopedic tests, range of motion, manual muscle testing, and palpation to correctly identify the injury, then treating with acupuncture. The objective of this combination is to address the athlete’s healing potential, strengthen the patient, and decrease injury rehabilitation time, helping the athlete get back to their desired activity faster, enhancing performance, and preventing re-injury through treatment and education.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others (pain).
The meridians can be influenced by needling specific acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence internal regulating systems.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
The number of treatments needed differs from person to person.
For complex or long-standing conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be recommended.
For acute problems, typically fewer visits are required, it all depends on how your body responds.
On very rare occasions, a ‘miracle’ is performed and only one session is needed.
The ultimate goal is to get you feeling better, and back to the activities you love. Most people enjoy receiving acupuncture treatments, so they will continue scheduling appointments even after their original complaint has been resolved.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
Not usually. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place, and most people report that they feel a new state of relaxation.
Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a few days, but tend to feel better afterward. Other noticeable changes may be in appetite, sleep, bowel patterns, or emotional states. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.
It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest or a large glass of water to overcome.
WHAT ARE THE NEEDLES LIKE? DO THEY HURT?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only small prick or itch sensation as the needles are inserted, like a bug bite, or a hair being plucked. Once the needles are in place, you will be surprised that you don’t feel them at all.
Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid made from stainless steel, about the size of a dog or cat whisker. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as receiving a shot,or having blood drawn.
All needles are single use, disposable needles, so there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE REALLY WORK?
Yes. In the past 5,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional western medicine, physical therapy, or chiropractic adjustments. It is important that your physician and acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so she can help you get the most benefit from all your treatments.
WHAT KIND OF TRAINING DOES AN ACUPUNCTURIST HAVE?
Generally, acupuncturists obtain a Master’s degree in Acupuncture (M. Ac.) by completing a graduate level program at an accredited acupuncture school. Most programs involve 3-4 years of intense training in both traditional chinese medicine (TCM) and modern western medicine in addition to almost 1000 hours of hands-on clinical training. Upon completion, graduates take four national board exams given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). After successful completion of the boards the NCCAOM confers the title of Diplomate in Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.), and depending on the state, the acupuncturist will then have to apply with the board of medicine for a license (Lic. Ac.) to practice within their state.
Who else can practice acupuncture?
Medical doctors (MD’s), as well as chiropractors, are able to incorporate medical acupuncture into their practice. These practitioners use basic TCM theory, with approximately 900 hours of training and clinical experience. Some physical therapists use a controversial technique called dry needling. Therapists insert needles ‘similar’ to acupuncture needles into various trigger points and do not follow TCM principles. A therapist can participate in as little as a 3 day workshop to become certified in this technique. This practice is currently not legal in Massachusetts.
DO I HAVE TO BELIEVE IN ACUPUNCTURE FOR IT TO WORK?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude (“I don’t know if I really believe in this.”) will not block the treatment results.
DO YOU TIP AN ACUPUNCTURIST?
No. Just like you would not tip your favorite nurse, dental hygienist, or optician, we consider ourselves medical professionals and do not expect tips.