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Acupuncture FAQs


What Acupuncture Is?

Acupuncture is one component of traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for over 2,000 years to treat various health problems. It is a method of inserting fine needles into the body at specific points to help promote natural healing.

Introduction to Acupuncture Treatment Video

How Acupuncture Works?

Traditional Chinese medicine explains that energy called qi, (pronounced “chee”) and blood, circulate through pathways or meridians in the body. Meridians are different from the circulatory, nervous, or lymph systems. They are the pathways by which the qi and blood circulate through the body between the organs and tissues. An obstruction in the movement of energy flow through a meridian congests the flow of qi and blood, which can cause pain and other disorders. Needling specific acupuncture points unblocks the congestion and reestablishes the free flow of energy through the meridians.
From a Western scientific perspective, acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain, to change the experience of pain or to trigger the release of pain-relieving chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities and promotes physical and emotional well being.

How Acupuncture Can Help Pain?

At Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa, acupuncture is used to help decrease pain while the patient learns about and implements other forms of pain management. Acupuncture often gives immediate relief, but it can sometimes take several treatments to take effect. Pain relief can be lasting or only temporary. You will know within 3 to 4 treatments whether acupuncture can reduce your pain. It is helpful to keep a log of how your symptoms respond to treatment.

Acupuncturists Perform the Treatment

Acupuncture is most commonly practiced by licensed acupuncturists (LAc). In California, LAc’s are licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs after completing a 3-year program and successfully passing a licensing exam. Physicians practice acupuncture under their medical license. At Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa, physician acupuncturists have completed a specific course of acupuncture study.

The Acupuncture Procedure

Fine, sterile disposable needles are gently inserted through the skin into acupuncture points. Insertion of these slender needles goes unnoticed by some people. Others may feel a pinch followed by a sensation of tingling, numbness, aching, traveling warmth, or heaviness. The Chinese call this sensation deqi, which means “getting the qi.” Deqi usually passes quickly and indicates that the energy is starting to move. Some acupuncture points are more tender than others, and people have different pain tolerance levels, so some people will feel acupuncture doesn’t hurt at all, while others are more sensitive to it.

Sometimes the acupuncture points are connected to a gentle electrical stimulator to help relieve pain and spasm. Needles are left in place for 25 to 40 minutes while the patient lies quietly listening to music. Total treatment time takes one hour.

Are there any Side Effects?

There are usually no side effects after treatment and many people feel a sense of deep relaxation. Infrequently, one may feel mild disorientation, which resolves with brief rest. Dizziness or a heavy, tired feeling can be due to lack of food. It is advised to eat a small meal prior to treatment.

Occasionally after treatment, pain symptoms worsen or the patient experiences unusual fatigue. Flare-ups are a sign that the brain has stimulated the immune system to work on the problem and generally subside after one to two days followed by a reduction in pain level. Fatigue indicates either that the body is deficient of energy or that it has been holding a lot of tension.

Some people experience an increase in energy after acupuncture treatments. It is important to reserve this energy for healing rather than engaging in strenuous activity.

How To Get a Referral

The primary care physicians refer patients for acupuncture and patient charts are team reviewed. If appropriate, the patient is generally scheduled a series of treatments, often one to two times per week.

Without a referral, Kaiser Permanente members are also eligible to receive discounted acupuncture treatments outside of Kaiser Permanente with specific practitioners.

Be Prepared for Your Appointment

  • Be on time: Please arrive five to ten minutes early allow time for registration.
  • Use the bathroom: Use the main bathroom before being called in for your appointment.
  • Enough time: Allow one full hour for your appointment.
  • Punctuality: If you arrive more than ten minutes late, you will be rescheduled.
  • Medication: Continue to take all prescription drugs as directed by your doctor.
  • Alcohol/drugs: Please refrain from using alcohol or drugs during your sessions. Substance abuse can interfere with the effectiveness of acupuncture.
  • Concerns: Please feel free to discuss any concerns with your licensed acupuncturist.

Patient’s Role During Treatment

To receive the best results, please attend all scheduled appointments. Acute health problems and family crises occasionally occur; however, we discourage cancellation for convenience or last-minute schedule conflicts. To avoid discontinuation of your treatment program, please cancel no later than 24 hours before the appointment.