What kind of training does an acupuncturist have?

In Massachusetts, an acupuncturist needs to be licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, and nationally certified by the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). In order to get those certifications, one needs an undergraduate education, science pre-requesites, followed by 3-4 years of full-time post-graduate education in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, which includes four semester courses on western pathology and pharmacology so that acupuncture can be better integrated into our current health care system.

The post-graduate school must be recognized by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which requires at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience.

What should I expect from my first appointment?

You will be asked to fill out a short health history form and we will talk about your health concerns (about 15-30 minutes). I will then diagnose you and treat you accordingly. Treatments usually take 45 min-1 hour depending on what we are working on. After the treatment we will talk about your treatment plan, and when you should come back again. You may also be then given “homework,” such as paying attention to a certain symptom throughout the week.

What should I wear?

Something loose and comfortable. We will need access to your arms and lower legs as well as the torso, so wear shirts and pants that can be pulled up easily.

How should I prepare myself for my treatment?

Try to have a light meal before your treatment. It’s important that you have eaten something within 3 hours of your treatment, but don’t come overly full. We want you to be nourished but we don’t want your body’s full attention to be on digestion!

How long does it take to get better with acupuncture?

It depends on your specific condition and goal. To get a better idea, schedule a free consultation to discuss your concerns. On average, it takes 8-10 sessions to make significant and permanent change. However, change starts happening after the first couple of treatments and you should be able to notice that.

Does it hurt?

Patients will sometimes report not even feeling the insertion, and feel surprised that it’s already in! More commonly you will feel something like a mosquito bite. Sometimes you may also feel a dull achy feeling around the needle when it’s in. This is what we call the “qi” (pronounced chee) gathering at the point; it’s your body’s life energy being activated by that needle, which is a very positive response. If you are very afraid or sensitive to needles, you can request an entire treatment with magnets and other non-insertive techniques only. Some patients and some needling locations are more sensitive than others. However, in acupuncture you should always talk to your provider if something feels uncomfortable; needles can be adjusted or re-inserted when necessary. Treatments are usually relaxing and patients often fall asleep!

Is acupuncture safe?

Yes. Acupuncture can be safe and effective. The needles I use are always sterilized, single-use, and disposable (it goes from a sterilized package, to your body, then disposed). They are sometimes thinner than a hair, and they are usually made of stainless steel, though silver and gold needles can be used sometimes. If you have metal allergies, be sure to express that to your practitioner.

What else is used besides needles?

There are many adjunctive techniques that may be used depending on your condition, such as:

  • Cupping & Guasha: a type of bodywork that uses suction cups and massage tools to relieve muscle tension, break up knots, and detox. Cupping can also be used for congestion in the lungs with difficulty expectorating. Cupping and guasha can bring out some bruising, which fades away in about 4 days.
  • Electro-acupuncture: additional stimulation of acupuncture points and muscles through a mild electric current.
  • Moxibustion: stimulation of acupuncture points by burning small threads of moxa, or mugwort, which brings warmth to the area, relaxes tension, and improves circulation.
  • Magnets: for those who are very needle aversive or for continued treatment at home,  magnets can stimulate acupuncture points and can be very effective as well.
These will always be discussed with you first and practiced safely.