Frequently Asked Questionss

What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world and is the most widely used form of complementary medicine in the United States. It is aimed at naturally promoting health and alleviating sickness by balancing, regulating and strengthening the energy of the human body. Acupuncturists recognize particular pathways of energy that circulate throughout the body. These energetic pathways connect all of the internal organs with the rest of the body and provide a constant flow of energy to every cell which nourishes the body's organs and tissues. Any imbalances or blockages in the flow of the energy will result in illness, disease and pain. The gentle insertion of hair-thin sterile needles at specific points along the body's channels of energy helps to balance the energy and restore harmony at the deepest level for the body, mind, and spirit.

Extensive Western medical research has shown that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release biochemicals, such as endorphins, immune system cells, and neurotransmitters in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. In addition to treating pain, these chemicals can influence the internal regulating system of the body and affect involuntary bodily functions such as blood flow, immune reactions, body temperature, and digestion. Both the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health have evaluated scientific research and clinical trials of acupuncture and found it to be effective for a wide range of conditions.

What can Acupuncture treat?
The World Health Organization and National Institute of Health recognize Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine's ability to treat over 43 common disorders, including but not limited to:

  • Chronic and Acute Pain - Injuries, headaches, arthritis, neck/shoulder/back pain, joint pain, tendonitis, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia.
  • Digestive Disorders - Irritable bowel, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, gastritis, acid reflux, food allergies, ulcers, bloating.
  • Gynecological - Irregular, heavy or painful menstruation, leukorrhea, infertility, PMS, menopausal symptoms, uterine fibroids, morning sickness.
  • Pregnancy - Pre and post-partum care, breech positioning, labor and delivery.
  • Neurological Disorders - Post-stroke recovery, Bell's Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Trigeminal Neuralgia, movement disorders, neuropathy, dizziness.
  • Urogenital Disorders - Stress incontinence, urinary tract infections, sexual dysfunction.
  • Circulatory Disorders - Hypertension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis, edema, anemia.
  • Respiratory Disorders - Asthma, allergies, bronchitis, sinusitis, sore throat, laryngitis, colds & flu.
  • Eye and Ear Disorders - Tinnitus, Meniere's disease, impaired vision.
  • Immune Function - Recurrent infections, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, AIDS.
  • Addictions - Addictions to nicotine, alcohol, food and drugs.
  • Psychological/Emotional - Depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, insomnia.
  • Supportive Therapy for other immune compromised individuals as well as patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Is Acupuncture Safe?
Acupuncture and herbal medicine, when administered by a licensed acupuncturist, is an extremely safe way to treat a variety of illnesses and prevent diseases. In contrast to many drugs, acupuncture is non-toxic with little or no adverse reactions. At Zenkai Acupuncture, we exclusively use sterile single-use needles that are safely discarded after each use. There is virtually no chance of infection occurring as a result of acupuncture treatment.

What does it feel like? Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture needles are extremely thin and the insertion is painless for most patients. Many patients experience a relaxed and peaceful state during the session, and many people fall asleep Each unique person experiences acupuncture treatment differently. Many patients will feel nothing, while others may feel heaviness, distention, dull ache, warmth and/or a tingling sensation. The amount of sensation varies between different point locations on the body and different people’s sensitivity level. If you have any questions or anxiety about needles, please share them with Hadley before or during your treatment. Her technique is very gentle and she is sensitive to her patients’ needs. Your comfort, before, during, and after acupuncture, is of paramount importance. If you prefer, she can use fewer needles or do a non-needle treatment instead.

How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments required depends on the nature of your complaint & your underlying health. Acupuncture is a gradual process of retraining your body, and treatment amount varies from person to person. Some people experience significant improvement after one or two treatments, while others may take weeks or months to achieve lasting results. Acute conditions tend to resolve more quickly with an intensive series of treatments, whereas chronic conditions may require a longer and more consistent series. After she becomes familiar with your condition, Hadley should be able to give you an idea of how many treatments will be needed. Because acupuncture has an additive and cumulative effect, Hadley may recommend frequent treatments (1-2 per week) during the initial phase in order to gain speed and momentum in the healing process, and then she will gradually taper off your treatments to a maintenance plan as your condition improves. Some patients continue to come for acupuncture treatments on a monthly or seasonal basis after their complaint has resolved in order to maintain health and to prevent future illness.

What is the difference between getting acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) or from a medical doctor or chiropractor with an acupuncture certification?
In the state of Maine, Licensed Acupuncturists are required to complete all standard pre-medical undergraduate requirements and a minimum of 3+ academic years of advanced degree study. In addition, prsactitioners must pass 3 rigorous national board examinations given by the National Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. In contrast, medical doctors can practice acupuncture with little or no acupuncture training, and chiropractors can practice it with as little as 300 hours of training. A Licensed Acupuncturist uses acupuncture and its underlying theories as their main method of healthcare, enabling them to fully focus and expand their expertise in that area. This allows them to take advantage of the broad range of its applications as well as go more in depth in treating individual cases. Meanwhile, others practicing acupuncture without the L.Ac. title may only use it for very limited applications or as an adjunctive technique.

I heard that acupuncture only works as a placebo. What if I don’t believe in acupuncture?
You are not required to believe in acupuncture for it to work. The idea that acupuncture only works as a placebo is one of the biggest misconceptions about acupuncture. Studies have shown acupuncture to be very effective in treating a number of conditions in humans, as well as animals such as horses, dogs, and cats. Animals are incapable of actually “believing” in acupuncture, yet it still works very well for them. There have been numerous studies conducted at major universities that have concluded that acupuncture acts as more than just a placebo. For more on this subject, please review the following articles: Acupuncture 'more than a placebo'
New Studies Confirm Acupuncture Relieves Pain
University of Vermont Study First to Confirm Acupuncture's Effect

Who can benefit from acupuncture treatment?
Acupuncture can improve wellbeing, treat disease and prevent illness in patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, and in all stages of disease. A body at any age can be brought to greater balance and harmony. Children respond very well to Chinese Medicine and it can help them through the common childhood illnesses in a way that supports their ongoing growth and health. Elderly patients are able to gain tremendous support, increased vitality, and reduction or elimination of unwanted symptoms when utilizing acupuncture. Acupuncture can help the body deal with everyday stresses, and minor health issues can be resolved before they become more deeply rooted problems.

Can pregnant women receive acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine?
Acupuncture and herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat pregnant women. As long as you work with a qualified practitioner, acupuncture and herbs can help relieve various symptoms occurring during pregnancy, including morning sickness, constipation, & back pain, and can provide benefit to the developing fetus.

What do I wear for my first visit?
You should wear something loose and comfortable for your acupuncture appointment, ideally clothing that can be easily rolled to your elbows or knees. Please refrain from wearing make-up, perfumes/colognes, and try to avoid brushing your tongue or eating or drinking anything that stains the tongue before your visit. We will typically ask that bracelets and watches be removed, so you may want to keep jewelry to a minimum.

Should I eat before my treatment?
It is best to have something to eat about 1 hour or more before the treatment. Please try to avoid coming to your appointment on an empty stomach or eating a heavy meal just before coming to your appointment.

Where do the needles go?
This depends on the condition being treated. Acupuncture points are located throughout the entire body. Many common points are located on the extremities from your elbows down to your hands, and from your knees down to your feet. Other common areas include the abdomen, back, head, and ears. The acupuncture needles may be placed in locations that are different from the location of your pain or ailment. For example, some of the most effective acupuncture points used to treat back pain are located on the hand, and some of the most effective points for treating digestive issues are on the leg.

Are there any side effects of acupuncture?
Acupuncture is safe and effective, and rarely are there any “side-effects”. The most commonly reported side-effect is relaxation. Rarely, a small bruise could develop at the site of the needle. Cupping will typically cause painless bruising which typically clears up in 3-10 days.

What should I do while receiving acupuncture?
Relax. Please feel free to ask ANY questions you have along the way so that you can get the most benefit from your treatment. Try not to change your position dramatically or move suddenly when the needles are in. If you begin to feel uncomfortable in one position, let Hadley know so she can help you adjust.

Should I cancel my treatment if I feel sick or under the weather?
No, acupuncture can help to boost the immune system and shorten the duration of an already existing illness.

Is there anything I should do after treatment?
We suggest making sure you drink enough water, preferably room temperature, following the treatment. It is also important to be aware of any changes you experience, better or worse, in regard to how you are feeling. This is important as you want to report any changes to your acupuncturist at your next visit.

Why does my acupuncturist look at my tongue or palpate my abdomen?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the inspection of the tongue and palpation of the abdomen are very important in helping your acupuncturist to properly diagnose your condition. In tongue diagnosis, different areas of the tongue relate to various organ systems in the body. The color, coating, shape and texture of these areas of the tongue yield information about the state of your health. Like the tongue, different parts of the abdomen pertain to different internal body functions. Detecting tension in different areas of the abdomen allow a practitioner to correctly choose the appropriate treatment points. Prior to an acupuncture appointment, it is important to avoid eating or drinking anything that will discolor the tongue and give a misleading impression to the practitioner.

Will my insurance cover acupuncture treatments?

Zenkai is an out-of-network provider for all insurance plans. Insurance coverage for acupuncture treatments varies widely from one plan to another - even among plans offered by a single insurer. We will be happy to verify what coverage your insurance provides for acupuncture treatment, and if acupuncture is covered by your plan, we may be able to bill your insurance directly for the cost of your treatments. In some cases, we may have to provide you with the forms you need to submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement for your acupuncture treatments. Please note that you will be responsible for any portion of your bill that is not reimbursed by your insurance.

It is strongly recommended that you contact your insurance provider before treatment to clarify your specific plan’s reimbursement policies. We may also be able to verify your benefits at the time of your first treatment. Please understand that we file acupuncture insurance claims as a courtesy to our patients. We do not have a contract with your insurance carrier, only you do. We are not responsible for what benefits they pay on a claim, we can only assist you in estimating your portion of the cost of treatment.

Questions to ask your insurance provider:

  • Will my policy cover acupuncture? If so, how many visits are covered per calendar year? What is the rate/percentage of reimbursement for acupuncture treatment?
  • Does the acupuncturist have to be in-network in order for me to receive acupuncture benefits?
  • Do I need a referral from an MD to get coverage?
  • What is the co-pay, if any?
  • Does acupuncture apply to my deductible? If so, have I met it?
  • Does acupuncture coverage only apply for certain conditions/diagnoses? If so, what conditions?

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