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frequently asked questions
Marin Acupuncture Clinic

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Does it hurt?

The answer to this question depends on the person since pain is a subjective experience, but the general answer is no if the practitioner is well-trained. At Marin Acupuncture Clinic we use the thinnest possible needles (literally a hair-thin!) that are nothing like the thick, hollow needles used in giving a shot.

Patients often don’t notice the acupuncture insertion. Occasionally a patient might feel a light prick that quickly subsides (like a mosquito bite). People have also described sensations of warmth, tingling, or a light buzzing. However, after about one minute the sensations subside and people drift into a very relaxed state.

Acupuncture treatments are often described as peaceful and blissful. There is nothing to be scared of. We at Marin Acupuncture Clinic do everything possible to ensure your highest comfort level.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world, originating in China more than 5,000 years ago. The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques.

American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. But generally acupuncture means the gentle insertion of hair-thin, pre-sterilized needles into the shallow skin layers.

Is Acupuncture safe?

Yes, absolutely. The FDA requires that sterile, non-toxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single use by qualified Practitioners only. At Marin Acupuncture Clinic we have only ever used and will only ever use single use, disposable needles.

It is unethical to re-use needles and we have very strict guidelines about needles in our office. Also, all acupuncture needles are disposed of in biohazardous waste containers, as also required by law, and are disposed of on a regular basis.

What are the benefits of treatment?

deep relaxtion
pain relief
emotional balancing
stress reduction
improved mental clarity
increased energy
faster recover from illness, surgery and pregnancy

improved immunity
enhanced digestion
greater stamina
enhanced body awareness
healing touch
cultivation of self-discipline

self-empowerment
tools for healthy living
no side effects and non addictive
longevity/disease prevention
motivation to change
a peaceful, quiet mind

How long does a typical treatment take?

The first treatment always takes longer because, like any health Practitioner, the Patients history must be taken and condition assessment must be performed. The first treatment usually takes about 1 ½ hours. Follow-up treatments generally last from 45 minutes to 1 hr.

How many sessions do I need for treatment?

Since each person is unique, the number of treatments required will vary, depending on the type of condition, whether it’s chronic or acute, as well as the overall health of the individual.

The general rule of thumb is the longer a person has been experiencing an ailment, the longer it will take to restore health. Acute ailments tend to be easier and faster to treat. Keep in mind, dramatic results are unusual after a single treatment. Most patients will experience a gradual relief of their symptoms over days, weeks or months.

What should I wear to my treatment?

You should wear loose, comfortable clothing that can be easily rolled up to your knees and elbows.

How should I prepare for a treatment?

  1. Wear loose, comfortable clothing

  2. Don't eat large meals just before or after your visit.

  3. Refrain from overexertion, working out, drugs or alcohol for up to 6 hours after the visit. 

  4. Avoid stressful situations after the treatment.  Make time to relax, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids and rest.

  5. Between visits, take notes of any changes that may have occured, such as the alleviation of pain or changes in the frequency and type of problems you're experiencing. 

  6. Come with any questions you have---we're here to help you. 

How thin are the needles and how many will you use in a treatment?

At Marin Acupuncture Clinic we use 36 to 40 gage needles, which are about as thin as a human hair. The number of acupuncture points selected in a treatment varies for each case and individual. Typically, 4 - 12 points are used at a single visit.

Each point has its own particular function and groups of points are combined in various ways according to a patient’s needs. Again, there is nothing to be scared of. We make every possible effort to ensure your comfort and safety. We have advanced training in painless needle techniques.

Should I stop other medications?

No. You should continue to follow your current physician's instructions. But please tell us which medications and supplements you’re taking so that we can rule out drug-herb interactions. Some herbs can even complement Western medications. The regular use of herbs may eventually reduce the body’s need for western drugs.

Are there any side effects to the treatment?

Very few side effects have been reported from acupuncture and herbal medicine, unlike allopathic medical treatment. After the first couple treatments you may feel tired or achy, but with regular treatment patients usually notice that they feel a combination of energized and relaxed after acupuncture.

Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a few days, which is part of the healing. Patients also may notice changes in appetite, energy, sleep, emotions or bowel and urination patterns. These should not cause concern; they are usually indications that the body is rebalancing itself.

How are Acupuncturists Licensed?

The California Acupuncture Board is responsible for licensing Acupuncturists. Once a Practitioner has completed many years of Acupuncture schooling and have graduated, they sit for the State exam. Upon successful completion, Acupuncturists are licensed.

Like other medical Providers, Acupuncturists must complete CEU’s (continuing educational units) to stay current in their field. They must renew their licenses every two years and must possess malpractice insurance.

Acupuncturists are considered to be primary healthcare providers in California and are contracted with many insurance companies.

What will my practitioner do during my initial visit?

During the initial visit, a full health history will be taken.  Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health and lifestyle. Your practitioner will also look at your tongue and check your radial pulses, which are key diagnostic tools in TCM.  All of this information is then organized to create a complete, accurate and comprehensive diagnosis of where the body has become imbalanced. 

After the interview process, you will receive a treatment in the modality of your choice.  If you are coming in for an herbal or dietary consultation, you will receive a prescription or diet plan. 

Does Acupuncture Work?

Yes, it does! An increasing number of Western doctors and scientists agree that acupuncture is a safe and reasonable option for a number of clinical conditions.

The World Health Organization has formally proclaimed acupuncture as an effective medical treatment. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorsed acupuncture, stating: “There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.”

Acupuncture has been around for over 3000 years and its longevity is testament to the fact that it works.

What is the Western explanation of Acupuncture?

The 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus of Acupuncture reported that “studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery.”


The NIH Consensus also suggested that acupuncture “may activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally have been documented. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture.” (NIH 1997)

The following are the current theories on the mechanism of acupuncture:

1.) Neurotransmitter theory---Acupuncture affects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of neurotransmitters influences the immune system and the antinociceptive system. (Helms 1997)

2.) Autonomic Nervous System Theory---Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylocholine and several types of opiods, affecting changes in their turnover rate, normalizing the autonomic nervous system and reducing pain. (NIH 1997)

3.) Gate Control Theory---Acupuncture activates non-nociceptive receptors that inhibit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn, “gating out” painful stimuli. (Cho et. al)

4.) Vascular-interstitial Theory---Acupuncture manipulates the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues. (Helms 1997)

5.) Blood Chemistry Theory---Acupuncture affects blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids, suggesting that acupuncture can both raise and diminish peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body toward homeostasis. (Astin et al. 1998)

Additional neuroimaging studies show that acupuncture seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation. Doppler ultrasound shows that acupuncture increases blood flow in treated areas. Thermal imaging shows that it can make inflammation subside.

Scientists are also finding parallels between the ancient concepts and modern anatomy. Many of the 365 acupuncture points correspond to nerve bundles or muscle trigger points. Several meridians track major arteries and nerves. "If people have a heart attack, the pain will radiate up across the chest and down the left arm. That's where the heart meridian goes," says Peter Dorsher, a specialist in pain management and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. "Gallbladder pain will radiate to the right upper shoulder, just where the gallbladder meridian goes."

While scientists say further research is essential, some studies have provided evidence of acupuncture's effects.

• Arthritis of the Knee: Acupuncture significantly reduced pain and restored function, according to a 2004 government study.

• Headaches: Two 2009 reviews found that acupuncture cut both tension and migraine headaches.

• Lower Back Pain: Acupuncture eased it in a big study last year, but so did a sham treatment where needles didn't penetrate the skin.

• Cancer: Has proven effective in reducing nausea and fatigue caused by chemotherapy.

• Infertility: Improves the odds of pregnancy for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization, according to a 2008 review of seven clinical trials.

• Addiction: Often used to help quit smoking, drinking, drug use and overeating, but there is no conclusive evidence that it works.

According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 51% of medical doctors understand the efficacy and value of acupuncture, and medical doctors refer patients to acupuncturists more than any other alternative care provider. (Astin 1998)

Do you treat children?

Although we are not a primary care pediatric facility, we see children for a wide variety of health problems, such as allergies, recurrent infections, abdominal pain and headaches. We particularly enjoy working with teenagers to balance their hormones, clear up their acne without the use of antibiotics, relieve their menstrual cramps, and teach them self-care and relaxation tools.

I was referred to you for cancer support. What can you do for me?

There are many ways to help you through the difficulty of undergoing cancer treatment. Acupuncture can not only help support your immune system, but is also useful to decrease chemotherapy side effects. Nutritional supplementation and specific Chinese herbs can also help to protect normal cells against damaging effects and increase effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments.

What should I expect from a Medical Qigong treatment?

Medical Qigong treatments involve light-touch bodywork while clients are fully dressed.  You will lie on a comfortable massage table in a peaceful treatment room.  Your practitioner will perform energetic balancing over internal organs and acupressure massage on specific acupuncture points.  Treatments generally last 45 minutes. 

Patients find Medical Qigong treatments to be very relaxing, balancing, and restorative.  Many fall asleep during the session.  Some patients experience dull, heavy, warm, or cooling sensations in the areas that are being worked on.  Others experience deep emotional releases.  There is nothing you're "supposed" to feel. 

Medical Qigong treatments are ideal for those patients who are fearful of acupuncture since no needles are used.

After the treatment the patient and the practitioner will have a chance to discuss the session and share feedback.  The practitioner will also prescribe Qigong exercises to assist in on-going healing.  These exercises, sounds, visualizations, and/or meditations are tailored to your needs.