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Frequently Asked Questions

1.Does Acupuncture Hurt?

For most people acupuncture is very comfortable, but it can sometimes hurt. Acupuncture is generally regarded as painless, but not sensation-less. Many people imagine the feeling of getting a shot when they think about needles and acupuncture, but acupuncture feels nothing like getting a shot. Acupuncture needles are very fine and significantly smaller than hollow-core hypodermic needles that people have experience with. Many patients don't even feel the needle go in, and the majority of people find acupuncture very relaxing and fall into a deep rest. Some people do feel the needles, and some people have a hard time with acupuncture. In some cases, the more the pain someone is in, the more painful acupuncture can be at first, which can make it difficult in the beginning when we are working with patients in severe pain. However, as they begin to heal and their pain reduces, acupuncture gets easier. Patients coming off of narcotic painkillers can find acupuncture difficult at first due to the way narcotic painkillers alter brain chemistry and actually increase pain sensitivity over time. Again, most patients make it through the first few treatments and then their body's pain response begins to improve and acupuncture gets easier.

The style of acupuncture can have a significant impact on the level of sensation. By using different needle sizes and needling techniques, we can adapt to fit most people's needs. Japanese acupuncture techniques use the smallest diameter needles available and gentle techniques for sensitive patients. Distal needling techniques like Master Tung acupuncture are appropriate when pain is severe and can help reduce pain without directly needling near the affected area. For example, when there is severe low back pain from an acute disc herniation, using distal techniques with needles in points in the hands, feet, scalp, ears can offer relief with minimal needle discomfort. For chronic pain, we may employ orthopedic or trigger point acupuncture - which typically has the most sensation of acupuncture techniques - as we get muscles to contract and relax by releasing the trigger points. By using different techniques, we can accommodate a variety of people's needle sensitivity.

Acupuncture is not a good fit for everyone. People suffering from severe PTSD, severe anxiety and fear, and needle phobias are not always a good match for acupuncture treatment. When acupuncture treatment is not a good fit, we can still help with other effective Chinese Medicine modalities including Zen Shiatsu, Chinese herbal medicine treatment, Cupping and Myofascial release.

2.Can you help me with ______?

Chinese Medicine treatment is holistic in nature, which means that acupuncture and herbal medicine are able to help people with a very wide range of conditions. All health conditions arise from imbalance and dysfunction of one or more body systems. By using holistic assessment and treatment methods, the symptoms and the root cause of many conditions can be improved or resolved. Visit our conditions treated page to see some of the conditions that we have helped patients with. If you still have questions about whether we can help you, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment and fill out our online forms (a week ahead of your appointment) with the details of your condition. If we don't think we can help, we will let you know ahead of time. No medical professional can realistically guarantee results of any kind, so you will not receive any answer of that type from us. During our initial evaluation, we will give you our assessment of how much we may be able to help and how long it may take.

3. How long will it take to resolve my condition?

Duration of treatment is highly variable depending on the person and the severity of their condition. Acute conditions often respond within 4 to 6 acupuncture treatments and/or 2 to 3 weeks of herbal medicine treatment. Chronic conditions require more treatment. For acupuncture treatment, in most cases we will recommend a trial of 10 to 12 acupuncture treatments over the course of 6 to 12 weeks for chronic conditions. Some patients will experience immediate relief, some will start seeing relief in 4 to 6 visits, and some patients will start seeing improvement in 10 to 12 visits. For herbal medicine treatment, we will often recommend a trial of 8 to 12 weeks with 6 to 8 office visits throughout the course of treatment.

Phases of treatment: 1) Relief 2) Stabilization 3) Maintenance

When treating any condition, the course of treatment goes as follows. In the relief phase, we aim to get significant (60% or more) reduction in symptoms. If it took 6 visits to get to that place of relief, in the stabilization phase we apply the same amount of treatment (in this example 6 visits) to get the improvement to stick. Once the stabilization phase is complete, we start reducing treatment in the maintenance phase while still maintaining or continuing to see further gradual improvement. For most conditions we aim to cease acupuncture and herbal treatment completely at some point and have patients maintain their new health through exercise and lifestyle measures. In some cases, regular but less frequent acupuncture treatment or low doses or herbal medicine is needed to prevent worsening of degenerative conditions.

For many people who are new to acupuncture and Chinese medicine, they hope for magical results in 1 or 2 treatments, even when dozens of specialists and years of medications haven't resolved a problem. Unfortunately, that is not how traditional Chinese Medicine works. While we often do have patients get great results when nothing else has worked for them, it rarely happens in 1 or 2 visits. Consistent and adequate treatment is how we achieve great results.

4. How does Acupuncture work? (Short Answer)

  • Acupuncture induces a parasympathetic relaxation response. Chronic stress keeps many people in a sympathetic dominant nervous system state, aka "fight or flight." A parasympathetic state allows us to achieve deep rest, and this state allows our body to reach its peak healing potential.

  • Specific point locations and needle techniques stimulate peripheral nerves and myofascial channels to communicate with your brain and central nervous system, indicating to your brain where your body needs to focus its healing efforts.

  • Local orthopedic and trigger point needling stimulate contraction and relaxation of muscles to release tension and stimulate muscle tone and balance. Local needling manually breaks up scar tissue and adhesions in the fascia to allow free movement of muscles and fascia.

  • Acupuncture promotes blood circulation to facilitate optimal healing and recovery.

  • Acupuncture stimulates the release of endogenous pain-killers, which decreases inflammation and pain, and leads to increased blood perfusion to the affected area. Better blood perfusion results in increased rate of healing.

  • Acupuncture relaxes muscles, tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, and relieves spasms and pain.

  • Acupuncture stimulates the release of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine, to calm the mind, reduce pain, and balance the body.

  • Acupuncture regulates metabolism and proper distribution of body fluids.

  • Acupuncture breaks up stagnant blood and fibrous muscle adhesion’s in muscle and connective tissue to aid in resolving pain and recovery, including from chronic injury.

  • Acupuncture stimulates and regulates the nervous system.

For a more detailed dive into how acupuncture works, check out our article "How does Acupuncture work?"

5. How much does Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine treatment cost?

Initial Visit: $150. Follow-up Acupuncture or Herbal Evaluation: $100. Zen Shiatsu: $100. Chinese herbal medicine: $60/week or $240/month. For more details see our services page.

6. Will my insurance cover acupuncture & herbal medicine treatment?

Currently our clinic is in-network with:

  • Blue Cross of Idaho. Mara and Sean are in network with Blue Cross of Idaho.

  • Regence Blue Shield of Idaho. Mara and Sean are in-network with Regence. Find out if your Regence plan has acupuncture benefits. Call the customer service number on the back of your ID card, or sign in to view your benefits.

  • III-A. III-A covers 100 visits per member, per year. III-A covers 60 min initial and follow-up acupuncture visits. To see a list of iii-a agencies click here

  • VA. Veterans need a referral from the Boise VAMC.

  • For all other insurance networks we are out-of-network providers, meaning that payment is due at time of service but you may submit superbills to your insurance for reimbursement.

  • Auto insurance often covers acupuncture in the acute phase after car accident related injuries.

  • Most HSA and FSA plans can be used for acupuncture and sometimes for herbal medicine.

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