Q & A

Q: How do I choose an acupuncturist?
Q: What Credentials to Look For?
Q: Does the patient have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
Q: Does it hurt?
Q: How many treatments and how often will I need them?
Q: What will happen on my first visit?
Q: Is it safe?
Q: Are there “Do’s and Don’ts” for a patient on a day of treatment?
Q: Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor?
Q: What can I expect after the treatment?
Q: Should I tell my doctor?
Q: Should I continue with my prescribed medication while receiving acupuncture treatments?
Q: How effective is acupuncture?
Q: What if I don’t have any health problems? Can acupuncture enhance my health or prevent future problems?
Korean Acupuncture Q&A

Q: What is Acupuncture?
Q: What is moxabustion?
Q: How does acupuncture work?
Q: What is Qi and how does it travel?
Q: What can affect Qi?

Q: How do I choose an acupuncturist?

A: Your results with acupuncture will depend to a great extent on the provider you choose. We recommend finding an acupuncturist with whom you feel comfortable. If you like and trust your practitioner, your experience will be more positive. It is also important to know about the acupuncturist’s training and experience, and what to expect from the treatment. The clearer you are about who is treating you and exactly what the treatment involves, the more you will be able to relax during the acupuncture session and benefit from this ancient form of health care. [Top]

Q: What Credentials to Look For?

A: Acupuncture is an acknowledged and respected field of medicine, and most states, provinces and countries requires formal training and certification. In particular, the United States has rigorous training standards for acupuncturists. Most states require a 4-year Masters degree in Acupuncture (MSAC) or Traditional Oriental Medicine (MSTOM) from an accredited acupuncture school. In addition, an acupuncturist must pass written and practical state and/or national board exams in order to become licensed. Training includes all aspects of Western medicine as well as Traditional Oriental Medicine. If you live in a state that does not require licensing, choose an acupuncturist certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Its members are required to have a degree in Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from an accredited school, or have worked as an apprentice acupuncturist for at least four years, and passed both written and practical national board exams. Those who have passed the acupuncture portion of the exam are entitled to add “Dipl Ac.” (Diplomate of Acupuncture) to their names. Practitioners of Traditional Oriental Medicine have passed the exams required for the Dipl.Ac. and the Herbal Medicine exam. [Top]

Q: Does the patient have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

A: No. Acupuncture has been used successfully to treat children and animals, neither of whom have preconceived beliefs about the effectiveness of acupuncture. As with any healing modality, be it western medicine or a complementary system such as acupuncture, a positive mental outlook and lifestyle can reinforce the effects of treatment, just as a negative attitude or lifestyle can hinder healing. [Top]

Q: Does it hurt?

A: Acupuncture employs very thin, disposable steel needles 1/4 mm in diameter and 1 to 1.5 inches in length. The needle is solid and made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin feels very different from the injections or blood sampling. Most patients feel only a minimal pricking pain as the needles are inserted; some do not feel anything at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Although, it is considered normal and even beneficial to feel certain sensations at some acupuncture points during the treatment. You might feel tingling, distention, warmth, mild aching around the needle or traveling up or down the involved meridian.

Most patients find treatments very relaxing and it is a common practice for patients to fall asleep during the treatment. [Top]

Q: How many treatments and how often will I need them?

A: The number of treatments will vary from person to person. Some people experience immediate relief; others may take months or even years to achiever results. Chronic conditions usually take longer to resolve then acute ones. Plan on a minimum of a month to see significant changes. Usually the acupuncturist will set up a treatment plan consistent of 10 to 12 treatments. Patients with severe Qi imbalance will be seen twice a week until their energy begins to hold balance for longer periods at which point treatment will be once a week. Then you can go once a month for maintenance treatment. The ultimate goal is for your body to hold the Qi energy balance on its own and for you to visit an acupuncturist only when temporary stresses bring an imbalance to your Qi. [Top]

Q: What will happen on my first visit?

A: For your initial consultation, the acupuncturist needs to assess your general health. You will be asked about your current symptoms and any treatment you have received so far. It is also important to gather detailed information about your medical history and that of your family, your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state. To discover how the energies are flowing in your body, the acupuncturist is likely to check your pulse. The structure, color and coating of your tongue also provide keys to your physical health.

Stimulation of specific areas affects the functioning of various organs. However, those areas may not be close to the part of the body where you are experiencing a problem. For example, if you suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted into your foot or hand. There are around 500 acupuncture points on the body, and an experienced acupuncturist will use a selection of perhaps 10 or 12 of these for each treatment. Often during the course of treatment, different points will be selected as the patient’s condition changes.

The acupuncturist may also supplement needle treatment with moxa, a smoldering herb used to warm acupuncture points. Other methods include lasers or electro-acupuncture. Massage, or tapping with a rounded probe, are techniques particularly suitable for small children or for people with a fear of needles.

We recommend wearing loose, comfortable clothing to receive acupuncture treatment. You should also be aware that the acupuncturist might need to access points on your torso, arms and legs. [Top]

Q: Is it safe?

A: Yes. Licensed acupuncturists required to pass and be certified in the Clean Needle Technique exam that ensures safety of the treatment. Acupuncturist in this office uses only sterilized, individually packed, disposable needles that never saved or used in multiple treatments, which eliminates the possibility of transmitting a communicable disease by a contaminated needle. [Top]

Q: Are there “Do’s and Don’ts” for a patient on a day of treatment?

A: Yes, the following suggestions will help you get the maximum benefits from your treatment:

Maintain good personal hygiene to reduce the possibility of bacterial infection. Wear loose clothing and if possible, avoid wearing tight stockings. Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, hungry, full, emotionally upset, or shortly after sex. Avoid eating a big meal within one hour of your appointment (digestion alters the pattern of your pulse.)  Avoid alcohol, tobacco, food or drinks that color your tongue (such as coffee) immediately prior to treatment or just following a treatment. Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first few visits. Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem. [Top]

Q: Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor?

Please bring with you any information about your case you may have from your other doctors, including things like lab tests, blood work, reports of x-rays or MRI’s, etc. To save time you may fill out our office forms before coming into the office.

Relax; there is no need to be frightened. Ask your practitioner any questions you have along the way so that you can get the most benefit possible from the treatment. During the treatment, do not change your position or move suddenly. If you are uncomfortable, tell your practitioner.

Very few people experience dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, shortness of breath, or faintness during treatment. This can occur if you are nervous. Inform your practitioner immediately so he or she can readjust or withdraw the needles. Also, let your practitioner know if you feel an increasing amount of pain or burning sensation during the treatment.

If you find your treatment unbearable at any point, be sure to speak up so that your practitioner can make proper adjustments or stop the treatment.

It also helps to be in a calm state. Try to arrive 10 or 15 minutes before your appointment to give yourself a chance to relax. Comfortable, loose clothing should be worn, and you should not wear any metallic jewelry, watches, or earrings. Makeup and nail polish should be minimized or eliminated. Please also avoid the use of perfumes, colognes or strongly scented cosmetics. [Top]

Q: What can I expect after the treatment?

A: You may note a spot of blood at one or more of the needle sites and/or a small bruise could develop. These should not be harmful, but please talk to your practitioner if you are concerned. Patients often experience the most dramatic results after the first treatment. Some patients experience an immediate total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms. This relief may last or some pain may return after a day or so. In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief, but patients notice the diminishment of pain over the next couple of days. Generally, you should expect to feel better, but in some small percentage of cases, the treatment provokes a “healing crisis”; in such cases, the pain actually increases as a result of the treatment. This is actually a positive sign and usually indicates that relief will follow subsequent treatments. [Top]

Q: Should I tell my doctor?

A: Absolutely! Acupuncture is a legally accepted branch of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the US, just like chiropractic manipulations. Only combining the Western and Eastern medical care we can reach optimum health and well-being. If you are receiving treatment from your doctor, then it makes sense to tell him/her about your intention to have acupuncture. Feel free to give your medical doctor any and all information about your acupuncture provider and encourage them to contact us. At the same time, you should always inform your acupuncturist of any other treatment you are receiving, such as medications, as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment. [Top]

Q: Should I continue with my prescribed medication while receiving acupuncture treatments?

A: Yes, at least until you have thoroughly discussed your options with your doctor or the practitioner who prescribed the medication. Many people seek the help of an acupuncturist because of dissatisfaction with drug treatment – whether it does not seem to be working or there are unacceptable side effects. However, DO NOT stop taking any medication without professional guidance. [Top]

Q: How effective is acupuncture?

A: Acupuncture is highly effective not only as a preventative medicine, but as a drug-free treatment of signs and symptoms. Studies indicate that acupuncture influences the central and peripheral nervous system and evidence shows it releases endorphins from the brain, which makes acupuncture particularly effective in pain control. Among a host of factors, acupuncture affects sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the blood; the functioning of the gastrointestinal system; and the activity of the endocrine system. Acupuncture works with the body, strengthening and balancing energy. It improves circulation and allows the body to heal itself more quickly and more completely. [Top]

Q: What if I don’t have any health problems? Can acupuncture enhance my health or prevent future problems?

A: Yes. Acupuncture has traditionally been used as a preventive medicine. Recent research has now verified that acupuncture stimulates immune function, which increases resistance to bacterial and viral infections. Acupuncture can dramatically increase overall vitality and energy. It treats underlying causes, resulting in a deeper kind of healing. It brings about profound changes in peoples¹ lives on the emotional level as well. Many people find that occasional acupuncture tune-ups are the best medicine to feel “in sync” and insure continuing health. [Top]

Korean Acupuncture Q&A

“What’s so special about Korean acupuncture?” Certainly, it all seems like sticking a bunch of needles into the epidermis. But as is with KM in general, acupuncture has also developed into something else here in Korea. Some branches involve using different materials, some use different rules for selecting acupoints, and some even use special acupoints not included in most books!(that is to say, they don’t have names like LU 9 or HT 4).

The methods described here were chosen because they have been used in practice for a substantial period of time and have been scientifically proven or clinically demonstrated to be effective. There are also other well known theories such as Korean hand acupuncture that fit the bill but have not been dealt with in this article because of the subject’s comprehensiveness. [Top]

Saam acupuncture

Saam acupuncture is a unique Korean method that is 400 years old, founded by the hermit Saam and discretely handed down. This method treats illnesses by tracing the fundamental cause of the disease. Therefore for various treatments exist for a common illness in different people and different situations. Also, completely differentsymptoms or diseases complained by many people can be treated by the same treatment. The boundary of Saam acupuncture is limitless, for it can be applied according to the physical and psychological state of the patient. Because Saam acupuncture uses acupoints at the ends of the four limbs, it is practiced safely albeit the intense stimulation, and has a powerful healing effect. The less than eight acupoints used in a Saam acupuncture treatment are situated distal from the elbow and knee joints, making it free of the danger of injuring the organs. They are selected carefully after examining the whole body and its current state, so the outcome of the treatment is immense and immediate, for both newly acquired and chronic illnesses.

Just like KM itself, Saam acupuncture does not leave the field of Eum Yang. Its fundamental principle is Eum taking charge of Yang and vice versa. Any deficiency should be tonified and any excess purged. Reducing and reinforcing methods should be altered precisely according to the characteristic and meridian of a disease. For example, HT8 is the acupoint that has the characteristic of Fire. It belongs to the heart meridian, which is also Fire in Five Phases. Therefore the Ki of Fire is strong in HT8 making it a great acupoint to tonifyin people whose bodies are cold, but doing the same in people who have a lot of heat could be dangerous.

There are two main concepts in Saam acupuncture. Jeong Gyeok (which loosely means the original sequence) is tonifying the deficient organ’s mother organ. SeungGyeok (the reverse sequence) is purging the excess organ’s son organ. Let us make an example of a person who has symptoms typical of an ailing lung system. If the symptoms point to a deficiency syndrome Lung Jeong Gyeok is administered to that patient. Lung is Metal, so its mother Earth is tonified in the self meridian (LU) and Earth (SP). Fire, which checks Metal is purged in the Lung and Heart meridians. If the patient’s symptoms are those of an excess syndrome Lung Seung Gyeok takes place. The acupoints purged in the Jeong Gyeok are instead tonified in the Seung Gyeok. Metal’s son is Water, so KI10 (Water meridian’s Water point) and LU5 (the Lung meridian’s Water point) are purged. The Five Phases acupoints (called Five Su points; hyeol means acupoint) are shown in the table below. They are all located in the extremities of the four limbs. The Jeong Gyeok and Seung Gyeok are organized in the next table.


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Taegeuk acupuncture

Taegeuk acupuncture is the acupuncture version of Sasang constitutional medicine treatment. Sasang constitutional medicine, a system unique to Korean medicine, is a system of classification which puts patients into four categories according to discrepancies among energies of major organs. It provides a convenient way to treat the patient with a tailored approach. (to find out more about Sasang constitutional medicine, read ‘Our own hippocrates’ and ‘KM seen by the books’

Taegeuk acupuncture puts emphasis on acupoints on the Heart meridian. This is because the Heart is said to “hold the office of lord and sovereign” in ‘Nei Jing’ and ‘Dong Eui Su Se Bo Won’, the classic of Sasang constitutional medicine. Therefore, Taegeuk acupuncture stimulates acupoints on the Heart meridian to control the basic imbalance between the major organ energies. Since a Taeyang person is said to have a strong Lung and a weak Liver, he or she is considered to be in a state of Metal excess. Thus, a practitioner using Taegeuk acupuncture would start with stimulating HT8, the Fire acupoint on the Heart meridian. Such acupoints may also be used in diagnosis; a pleasant sensation and alleviation of symptoms on stimulation confirms that the patient indeed belongs to the according constitution.

Spleen is considered Fire because Heart is regarded as the basis of life, and thus the characteristic of Earth is attributed to it.

The table below shows each constitution’s characteristics and important acupoints.

⊙ Basic characteristics of the constitutions and related acupoints on the Heart meridian

Constitution Strongest Organ Weakest Organ Acupoints
Tiayan Lung(Metal) Liver(Wood) HT8(Fire)
Shaoyang Spleen(Fire) Kidney(Water) HT3(Water)
Taiyin Liver(Wood) Lung(Metal) HT4(Metal)
Shaoyin Kidney(Water) Spleen(Fire) HT7(Earth)

If the practitioner feels the need for additional tonification or purgation, he may generally treat excess by purging the strong organ, and treat deficiency by tonifying the weak organ. For example, the appropriate stimulation for a Soyang person would be to tonify KI3 and purge SP3. The Soyang person would have a strong Spleen Ki and a relatively weak Kidney, so the Source point of each meridian is purged or tonified accordingly. The exception to this rule is the Soeum constitution. The Soeum person has a strong Kidney, but since the Kidney is the source of Essence and primordial Ki, the Large intestine is purged instead.

⊙ Constitutions and Source points

Source points are acupoints which control the Ki of the according meridians.

Constitution Source Points
Taeyang LR 3(+) LU 9(-)
Soyang KI 3(+) SP 3(-)
Taeeum LU 9(+) LR 3(-)
Soeum SP 3(+) LI 4(-)

 * (+) indicates tonification and (-) indicates purgation. [Top]

Eight Constitution acupuncture

Eight constitutional acupuncture is part of Eight constitutional medicine, developed by Dr. Do Won Kwon and first presented in 1965. Eight constitutional medicine categorizes people according to the person’s prominent organ. The categories are related with the Five Phases and Eum and Yang. They are Wood Yang(Hepatotonia), Wood Eum(cholecystotonia), Earth Yang(Pancreotonia), Earth Eum(Gastrotonia), Water Yang(Renotonia), Water Eum(Vesicotonia), Metal Yang(Pulmotonia), and Metal Eum(Colonotonia).

The practitioner uses a combination of acupoints based on these categories and applications of interpromoting and restricting relationships, according to the patient’s status. An example of such combinations is Vitalization combination. Different Vitalization combinations exist for each constitution, based on the logic forementioned.

The needle is basically inserted superficially and removed quickly. This is to promote the arrival of Ki. The needle may be inserted at slanted angles to tonify or purge Ki. The whole procedure is repeated a certain number of times. [Top]

Herbal acupuncture injection therapy

Herbal acupuncture injection employs an equipment foreign to the history of Eastern medicine; the hypodermic syringe. Inspired by the use of bee venom in acupuncture treatments dating back to at least B.C 200, aqua-acupuncture started in China in the 1950s. But since then, the Chinese enthusiasm has flagged, and with the introduction of differentiation of syndromes in accordance with the theory of the Six meridians and the Eight principles, Korea’s offshoot of the method developed into Meridian Herbal acupuncture and Eight principle Herbal acupuncture.

The crossover between acupuncture and herbal medicine has an advantage in that benefits from both treatments can be gained at the same time. Bee venom or extracts from herbal ingredients are injected varying with need. Herbal acupuncture is known to be especially effective for chronic pain, such as in arthritis.

Because the theoretical basis of the methods are highly suited to the individual patient, acupuncture in Korea is also more focused on treating the individual. Also, new methods introduced to Korean medicine opens new ground for treatment. The strong points of Korean acupuncture lies not only in its tradition, but also in its development. [Top]

Q: What is Acupuncture?

A: Acupuncture is a holistic system of healing, which originated in China about 5,000 years ago and is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world. Acupuncture points are areas of designated electrical sensitivity shown to be effective in the treatment of specific health problems. While perhaps best known for pain relief, traditional acupuncture is used to maintain health and treat a wide range of illnesses. It focuses on the patient’s overall well-being, rather than treating only specific, isolated symptoms. The basic premise of all Oriental medicine is that health is dependent on the body’s life force, “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), flowing in a smooth and balanced way through the network of meridians (channels) connecting all major organs. Qi consists of equal and opposite qualities, known as yin and yang. When the Qi is disturbed, these become unbalanced, resulting in illness. Any number of factors, such as anxiety, stress, poor nutrition, weather conditions, hereditary, infections, toxins and trauma, can disturb the flow of Qi. The acupuncturist restores the balance by inserting fine sterilized needles into the channels of energy, stimulating the body’s own natural healing mechanisms. As a holistic method, the principal aim of acupuncture is to restore equilibrium between a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual aspects.

In the U.S. acupuncture has been available since 1972 when an aide of President Nixon was successfully treated in China. All told, Acupuncture is used by nearly one third of the world as a primary health care system and many more as an adjunctive therapy. [Top]

Q: What is moxabustion?

A: Moxabustion is an Oriental medicine heat therapy utilizing moxa, or mugwort herb (Artemisia Vulgaris). It plays an important role in many Asian traditional medical systems. During the moxabustion, the specially processed leaves of Artemisia Vulgaris are burned at or above the acupuncture points to warm regions with the intention of stimulating circulation and inducing a smooth flow of Qi and Blood.

The word moxa comes from Japanese mogusa (the u is not very strongly enunciated). The Chinese character for moxa forms one half of the two making up the Chinese word that often gets translated as “acupuncture” zhenjiu. [Top]

Q: How does acupuncture work?

A: Traditional acupuncture is based on the ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (Energy)(pronounced: Chee) and Xue (Blood) through distinct meridians or pathways that cover the body in a way that nerves and blood vessels do. There is an old Chinese saying, “If there is free flow – there is no pain; if there is no free flow – there is pain”. According to the ancient theory, acupuncture removes blockages in the meridians and allows Qi to flow to the areas where it is deficient and away from where it’s excessive, regulating and restoring the energetic balance of the body.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain, including endorphins, enkephalins and other neurotransmitters. Either these chemicals will change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones that influence the body’s own internal regulating system, bringing about a normalizing effect on neuroendocrine function. 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. [Top]

Q: What is Qi and how does it travel?

A: At the core of this ancient medicine is the philosophy that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or Life Energy flows throughout the body. Qi helps to animate the body and protect it from illness, pain and disease. A person’s health is influenced by the quality, quantity and balance of Qi.

Qi circulates though specific pathways called meridians. There are 14 main meridian pathways thoughtou the body. Each is connected to specific organs and glands. Meridian pathways are like rivers. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water that nourishes the land, plants and people. In the same way, meridian pathways transport life giving Qi to nourish and energize every cell, organ, gland, tissue and muscle.

When Qi flows freely thought the body, one enjoys good physical, mental and emotional well–being.  An obstruction of Qi anywhere in the body is like a dam, backing up the flow in one area and restricting it in others. This blockage can hinder the distribution of the nourishment that the body requires to function optimally. [Top]

Q: What can affect Qi?

May things influence the quality, quantity and balance of Qi. Physical and emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise, over exertion, seasonal changes, diet, accidents or excessive activity can lead to a blockage of imbalance of Qi.

Normally, when this imbalance occurs the body naturally bounces back, returning to a balanced state of health and well-being. When the disruption to Qi is prolonged or excessive, or if the body is in a weakened state , then illness, pain or disease can set in. [Top]