Greater Houston Acupuncture Alliance
By Hung Van Doan, L.Ac
Five Oceans Acupuncture & Herb

Q:  What is Acupuncture?

A:  Acupuncture is a complete and holistic medical system with a history of more than 5000 years, and is one of the main branches of Oriental Medicine.   It involves the insertion of fine, flexible, hair-like needles onto specific points of the body to promote natural healing, strengthen immunity, eliminate pain, and restore physical and emotional health.  As one of the oldest continually practiced medical systems, acupuncture has stood the test of time with its vast knowledge of effectively treating many illnesses ranging from everyday to complex.

Q:  How does it work?

In Eastern Medicine terms:

A:  Acupuncture works by unblocking and promoting the energetic flow called Qi (pronounced “chee”) of the body through a network called “meridians,” similar to the systems of nerves and blood vessels.   The entire body’s vitality and its functions depend on this energetic network.   Pain or illnesses are formed from the blockage or lack of flow, like a dam blocking a stream watering the trees.  Each meridian is connected to a specific organ, and the pathways are mapped onto the body in specific acupuncture points.  These points are like relay stations that regulate the network.  When being needled, they activate the communication and restore the Qi flow of the meridians.

In Western Medicine terms:

A:  Western Medicine has yet to fully understand how acupuncture work, mainly due to the difference in medical structure and holistic philosophy.  With research, popular theories have come up such as Autonomic Nervous System Theory, Gate-Control Theory, and Blood Chemistry Theory.  These systems are thought to be activated when certain points are being needled, resulting in pain relief, and improvement in immunity response.   The specific points have also been shown to have lower electrical resistance than non-acupuncture points.  Modern research has been able to identify the physical structure of the meridians as micro-tubular networks called Bonghan Channels, rich in DNA fragments, stem cells, and hyaluronic acid.  They are theorized to be able to carry high volume of information versus the limited one-way signals of the nervous system.

Q:  What is Qi?
A:  Qi is the fundamental energy that makes everything exists and functions.  When it comes to health, Qi is the equivalence of biological electricity that circulates, activates, and balances the overall functioning of our bodies.  The abundance of Qi or lack thereof, as well as the quality of flow, determines our physical, and emotional well-being.  Qi flows on pathways called “the meridians.”  Through thousands of years of experiments, the meridians have been accurately mapped.  There are more than 362 acupuncture points where Qi can be accessed and activated. 

Q:  What will my acupuncturist do?
A:  Your acupuncturist will first ask you questions about your current condition(s), its history, your diet and lifestyle, and any related issues/symptoms.   Your acupuncturist will then take a look at your tongue, and take readings of your pulse to determine the diagnosis in Chinese medicine terms.  Physical examinations may be necessary to further help the diagnosis.  Once the treatment protocol is planned out for you, you will receive your first acupuncture treatment.

Q:  Does it hurt?
A:  This is a very common question!  Acupuncture is very gentle, and most often painless.  The needles are so thin that about 5 of them can fit in a hypodermic needle.  Everyone is a little different in their sensitivity, however, and you may feel the area being needled a slight sensation of achiness, warmth, tingling, or even relaxing.  This is absolutely normal. 

Q:  How many treatments do I need?
A:  The number of treatments depends on the severity and the type of condition that you have.  Recent conditions will typically need fewer treatments than chronic conditions.  The average number of treatments is 4-6.  It can be done once, or twice a week, whichever yields the best result for you.

Acupuncture works in a series of treatments.  You should not have treatments too close together, nor too far apart.  For example, you may initially come in twice a week for the first 2 weeks. Then once your symptoms improve, we'll back off to once a week, steadily increasing the level of improvement.  Once the symptoms are basically gone, it's ideal to come in once every 3 weeks or once a month for a tune-up on the results.  It's important for every patient to keep this structure to prevent off-and-on symptoms from creeping back in-between, so that results will stay more permanent. 

Q:  How safe is acupuncture?
A:  Acupuncture is very safe, and minimally invasive.   Your acupuncturist has been trained extensively for safe handling of the needle.   Make sure your acupuncturist is licensed, and has been trained in a nationally accredited school by NCCAOM, with at least 2800 hours, and has a diploma in Oriental Medicine.

Q:  I take many medications, will I still benefit from acupuncture and/or herbs?
A:  Most Western medications have significant side effects.  If you are coming in for relief of those side effects, then yes acupuncture can help.  However, you need to talk to your doctor about the medications if they are bothering you.  As for herbs, some herbs do have interactions with medications, but most don't.  It's important to bring in your list of medications to help determine the best treatment for you.

Q:  I have received acupuncture from my chiropractor and physical therapist.  Is this the same form of acupuncture, and how do I expect the difference in results?
A:  Chiropractors and physical therapists that perform acupuncture usually receive training as a short, adjunct, or over-weekend course.  Therefore, the philosophy and methodology of treatment is very different and limited: such as pain and local trigger points.  Anything beyond that is considered out of scope.  If your previous acupuncturist is NCCAOM accredited, then rest assured that your treatment will be more thorough in getting to the root of the problem. 
Q:  What can I expect after a treatment?
A:  After a treatment, a patient will usually feel very relaxed and calm.  If your treatment is for pain relief, you can expect a reduction in pain, or may feel a little tender to the area that has been worked on.  This is normal and it is a healing response.  For many pain cases, relief can be instant.  Depending on your severity, the length of relief can vary, from days to a week or more, which then you may have to follow-up to maximize your results.  Acupuncture effect is cumulative, so the effect of the current treatment is boosted by the previous treatment, until you are fully well.

Q:  Is acupuncture effective and safe for kid?
A:  Yes, acupuncture can be very safe and effective for kids.  The general age eligible is a minimum of 6 years old.  If younger, then acupressure (non-needle) can be used to obtain similar results.  Kids’ constitution compared to adults is very responsive to treatment due to lack of complexity, and faster energy flow.

Q:  How should I prepare for an acupuncture treatment?
A:  Because acupuncture works with your own energy, it is recommended to eat a light meal or snack before the treatment.   Make sure to not brush the tongue beforehand for a correct diagnosis.  Loose clothing like sweat pants, buttoned shirts, and t-shirts is recommended.  If needed, you may have to change into a gown for easier access.   Be sure to bring your list of medications just in case the acupuncturist can help determine the appropriate treatment protocol.

Q:  Where are the needles being placed?
A:  For most cases, needles will be placed on the extremities of lower arms and legs.  Other cases may need local areas to be needled as appropriate to the diagnosis.

Q:  What are other treatment modalities in Oriental Medicine besides acupuncture?
A:  The other modalities include:

-Herbal therapy:  Your acupuncturist may prescribe you herbal medicines either in the form of pills, tea granules, or loose herbs, to help maximize your results.  Chronic conditions will often benefit from herbal therapy.

-Diet therapy:  Diet is very important and often the core of your well-being.  A popular saying in Chinese medicines states “Most diseases start from the mouth…”  Your acupuncturist will provide nutritional guidelines to help you get the maximum and long-lasting results.

-Tui-Na:  This is therapeutic bodywork that your acupuncturist may perform to help release tension, correct musculo-skeletal imbalances, improve circulation, and complement acupuncture session to provide maximum relief.

-Gua-Sha:  This is a manual therapy of using a tool with a blunt edge and stroke along certain areas of the body to release the tension, breaks up knots, and improve immunity.  Gua-sha can be a treatment of its own or can be combined with acupuncture.

-Cupping:  This is a manual therapy of adding fire to a glass cup to create a suction effect, which then quickly be placed on the body to pull upwards layers of muscles and tissues.  This helps release the tension, improve circulation, free the fibre adhesion, and improve immunity.  



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Greater Houston Acupuncture Alliance