Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient medical treatment based on regulating the body's Qi (pronounced "chee"), or "life energy," which flows in the body along pathways called meridians. Hundreds of acupuncture points can be opened like gates to balance and harmonize the flow of Qi, relieving pain and many other symptoms of disease.

Does it hurt?

No. Most people enjoy treatment and find it very comfortable, restful, and relaxing.  Sometimes the needle insertion feels like a quick pinch that rapidly subsides.  Some people report a mild tingling, heaviness, warmth, or a dull ache at the acupuncture point, which is a sensation of Qi moving.  Generally sessions last about an hour, in which the patient rests or naps.  After treatment, you can expect to feel less pain, more energy, and a  heightened sense of well-being. 

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments required depends on the severity and duration of the symptoms to be addressed. For a cold or flu, one or two treatments can be very helpful. For chronic health conditions of years or even life-long duration, a longer course of treatment is normally required. Within the first 4-6 sessions, the effectiveness of the treatment is often evident and clear treatment goals should be established. 

Does health insurance cover acupuncture?

Most insurance plans do not cover acupuncture yet. However, some policies are beginning to include acupuncture because of its cost effectiveness as a treatment and because consumers have shown a willingness to pay for it out of pocket. The web site www.acupuncture.com includes a list of insurers that cover acupuncture, many of which are on the west coast. 

In New England, some of the large insurance providers are looking closely at consumer demand for acupuncture and are offering discounted plans. Unlike covered services, the insurance companies donít pay for acupuncture services; instead they require participating practitioners to discount their services for subscribers. Some companies and unions with self-insured plans are funding coverage for their members. In some cases injuries sustained while on the job or in a motor vehicle accident may be covered for acupuncture care under workers compensation or automobile insurance policies. A bill currently under consideration in Congress provides for covered acupuncture care for seniors under Medicare.

Training and Licensing of Acupuncturists

Today acupuncturists are trained in accredited, 3-4 year, graduate programs and are licensed by most states. Acupuncturists may be certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, (NCCAOM), a national organization established to regulate the practice of acupuncture. After passing national examinations, these acupuncturists are designated as board certified in acupuncture or diplomates of the NCCAOM. (Dipl.Ac.)  The NCCAOM maintains a directory of certified practitioners on their web site, www.NCCAOM.org.

Some physicians offer treatment known as medical acupuncture, a kind of mini acupuncture based on a much shorter course of study. While an accredited masters level program in acupuncture includes about 2500 hours or more of study, some of the programs for physicians offer about 200 hours. Acupuncturists who graduate from accredited programs have completed an extensive course of study of Oriental Medicine as well as of Western biomedical approaches to illness. Contemporary acupuncturists are prepared to work with physicians and other health care providers to bring the most effective aspects of Oriental Medicine into the conventional medical clinic.

text copyright @1998 by
Meredith St. John,
Boston, MA