Frequently Asked Questions


What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the use of tiny needles to stimulate specific points around the body to repair and reestablish health.  Acupuncture has been in use as the primary form of medicine and has undergone rigorous study and experimentation for thousands of years in Asia.  Through micro stimulation of the Acu-Points the movement of energy (Ki or Qi) throughout the body is brought back to balance.  When the flow of energy through the meridians is smooth the body, mind and spirit are healthy.

What are meridians?
The meridian system of Chinese medicine is like a road map of energy channels throughout the body.  The energy that moves through the meridians is what animates and activates all the physiological as well as emotional processes of the body.  When the smooth flow of energy is impeded by injury, stress or pathogens there is pain, distress and disease in the body and its organ systems.  Acupuncture stimulates the meridian system to encourage the correct flow of Qi or Ki.

What is Ki or Qi?
Ki (Japanese) and Qi (Chinese) are both terms describing the energy that is present in, produces, sustains and animates life in all forms.  In regards to health and health care, Ki / Qi is the force that drives all of the organ functions, fills the meridians and the skin to protect the body from infection or invasion by external factors, initiates and propagates movement and activity at all levels from running a marathon to cellular respiration.  Without Ki / Qi there is no life and when Ki / Qi flow and movement is impeded there is pain, disharmony and disease.

What are Acu-points?
Each meridian has locations along its pathway where the Ki / Qi is more readily accessible near the surface of the body.  These locations are called Acu-points and they allow the practitioner to manipulate Ki / Qi movement in the meridians.  Acu-points have properties that are unique to themselves as well as some properties that may be similar to other Acu-points.  This means that a practitioner often has multiple point prescription options for treating the same condition.

What does acupuncture feel like?
Patients generally report feeling very comfortable and relaxed during and after an acupuncture treatment.  The body sensations vary from point to point and from patient to patient.  Sometimes there will be a feeling of energy movement throughout the body, or along a meridian.  There may be a sensation of pulsing or mild to intense pressure like a tiny balloon getting blown up at a the insertion site of a needle or you may feel nothing at all.

Are the needles sterile?
All of the needles used in San Ki Healthcare are single use, pre-sterilized needles from highly reputable manufacturers using the latest technology to ensure the safety of use.

How long do the needles stay in?
This will vary from practitioner to practitioner and from treatment to treatment, however, the general rule for needle retention is 10-45 minutes.

What education is required to practice acupuncture?
In the U.S., each state has its own regulations regarding the practice of acupuncture.   In the state of New Mexico the requirements include the completion of an educational program, which includes 2,400 clock hours of education with a minimum of 1,100 classroom hours and 900 hours of supervised clinical practice. This program awards a Master’s of Science Degree. For information about the requirements in other states please click HERE.

How does acupuncture work?
Chinese medical theory looks at the human body as being made up of various parts (muscles, bones, tendons, organs, blood vessels, nerves, cells etc.) that function together based on the proper supply and movement of energy/Ki/Qi through an integrated network of channels or pathways called meridians.  When there is sufficient Ki / Qi in the body and it is moving freely through the network then all the parts have the nourishment, energy and direction that they need to function properly.  When the Ki / Qi is insufficient or gets stuck then dis-ease or disharmony are likely to result and pain may be present.  Acupuncture uses focused stimulation with the point of a needle at very specific points along the channels to encourage the proper movement and supply of Ki / Qi in the channels of the body. Once the balance is restored the body is able to heal and repair itself.

What conditions does acupuncture treat?
Because acupuncture is used to ‘remind’ the body what it is like to function in a relaxed, calm and healthy way it can be used to treat nearly all health concerns whether physical or emotional.  The most common ailments for which acupuncture has been found to be effective include:

  • Low Back Pain, any joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Poor Digestion
  • Allergies
  • Insomnia
  • Menstrual Disorders
  • Asthma
  • Infertility
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • Weight Loss
  • Fibromyalgia
  • and much more!

Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture has few side effects or complications and when patients experience them they tend to be mild.
“Commenting on the relative safety of acupuncture compared with other treatments, the NIH consensus panel stated that “(a)dverse side effects of acupuncture are extremely low and often lower than conventional treatments.” They also stated:
“the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same condition. For example, musculoskeletal conditions, such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and tennis elbow… are conditions for which acupuncture may be beneficial. These painful conditions are often treated with, among other things, anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, ”etc.”) or with steroid injections. Both medical interventions have a potential for deleterious side effects but are still widely used and are considered acceptable treatments.”

How do I choose a good practitioner?
Acupuncture Practitioners are not all alike.  Each practitioner brings his or her own, unique approach to the practice of the Art of acupuncture.  In addition to the unique skills and approach of each practitioner, each patient is likely to connect more or less to various practitioners.  Choosing a practitioner is most often done as a result of referrals from friends and family who have had treatment.  Ask someone you know who they would recommend and start from there.  The therapeutic relationship between a patient and a practitioner is one that must engender respect and trust so be sure to find like-minded folks to recommend an acupuncturist to you.

What research has been done on acupuncture?
Acupuncture research has been done all over the world in the last 50 years.  To see a review of some of the many clinical trials done on acupuncture treatments for various diseases and disorders click HERE.

Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
Many HMO’s and PPO’s are covering acupuncture treatments for a variety of conditions.  The coverage varies from plan to plan and to determine what coverage your plan does or does not provide you should contact your insurance company.  Not all acupuncturists will bill insurance companies so inquire prior to your first treatment if you are interested in using your health plan to cover the cost of your treatments. If your acupuncturist is an insurance provider you will still be responsible for the co-pay as outlined in your plan.  To see information about insurance coverage at San Ki Health click HERE.

How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments needed will vary widely and depend on a few factors.  A very general rule of thumb is that if the condition is newer you will likely need fewer treatments and if the condition is older you will likely need more treatments.  Treatments are generally more frequent with severe conditions and less frequent with milder conditions.  Once your condition has either been eliminated or improved to your liking your acupuncturist may suggest that you continue to receive ‘maintenance’ treatments for a period of time.  These treatments are generally at less frequent intervals to ensure that you do not relapse.

Does acupuncture work even if you don’t “believe” in it?
The short answer to this question is a resounding ‘Yes!’  The effectiveness of acupuncture is not dependent on belief which is proven over and over again in acupuncture offices across the country and the world when folks come for treatment the first time with a statement like ‘I never would have come for acupuncture but my wife, father, sister, mother, insisted I try it.  I don’t believe in acupuncture,’ and leave with their pain reduced or eliminated and their jaw on the floor. ‘I can’t believe it really worked!’ Belief can be a powerful assistant in any treatment method for any condition but it is not the reason that acupuncture works.

Why does my acupuncturist have to feel my pulse?
In Chinese Medicine the pulses reflect the condition of the energy in the meridians or channels in the body.  The way that the movement of the blood feels in the ‘radial’ or ‘wrist’ pulses (which is where most acupuncturists will check though there are many locations to do this on the body) tells your acupuncturist about the condition of the energy in all the body systems and helps him or her decide on a diagnosis and an appropriate course of treatment.

Why does my acupuncturist look at my tongue?
As with the pulse, the tongue shows the condition of the various systems of the body.  Different areas of the tongue coupled with different colors, hues, textures, coatings and sizes will add to the collection of information that your acupuncturist uses to decide on a diagnosis and an appropriate course of treatment.


What are Chinese herbs?
Chinese Herbs are plants, animals and/or minerals, which are used to treat any of a variety of health concerns.  Some of the herbs are special species and varieties found only in China and some are common and native to many countries.  Chinese Herbal Medicine is the system of combining herbs to create formulas that are customized to treat a specific persons specific condition and are extremely effective when properly prescribed with very little, if any, side effects.  Some familiar examples of herbs used include ginseng, aduki beans, lotus seeds, barley, goji berries, magnetite, gypsum, ginger, talcum and even cicada moultings, centipedes and deer antlers!

How safe are Chinese herbs?
Chinese herbs are safe and effective when properly prescribed and taken as directed by your Chinese Herbal Medicine professional and purchased from a company that is GMP (Good Manufacturing Processes) certified.  The herbs that come from reputable companies are routinely tested for contaminants and adulterants and are safe for consumption.

How often do I take my herbal prescription?
The frequency of doses varies somewhat depending on the goals of treatment and your practitioner will instruct you on the proper dosage for your formula but it is most common to be instructed to take a formula 3 times per day around mealtimes.

Can I take my herbs with other medications?
Always inform your practitioner of ALL medications you are currently taking (including supplements and vitamins) before starting an herbal formula so that your practitioner can ensure that your formula will not contain herbs that will interact with your other medications.  As long as your practitioner is aware of your other medications he or she should be able to prescribe you a formula that will be safe for you to take.  In some instances there will be complications that make it difficult to take Chinese Herbs with a pharmaceutical prescription but this is something that will be determined by your practitioner.

When is the best time to take my herbs?
Some formulas are better taken before meals, on an empty stomach and some are better taken after meals when the stomach is working on digesting your food.  One factor which may necessitate taking a formula after meals is when the patient has very weak digestion or a sensitive stomach as there are occasions where the herbs may be too strong for the patient to digest on an empty stomach.  This tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Will the herbs take the place of my medications?
It is generally the goal of any medical endeavor to help a patient return to a state of health where the body is able to care for itself without the use of medications of any kind and there are certainly cases where patients are able to reduce or eliminate the use of the medications as they progress through herbal treatment and/or acupuncture.  That being said, every situation is unique and requires individual assessment to determine the need for all medications.  This is a decision to be made with full disclosure to all involved including the patient, the prescribing doctor and the Chinese herbal practitioner.

Should I tell my PCP about my herbal prescription?
Your health and safety is a healthcare practitioners number one concern, regardless of the nature of the medicine.  For a patient to receive the best, most comprehensive and complete care it is crucial that all those who are involved in a patient’s health care decisions be informed at all times.  You should always inform your PCP about your herbal prescriptions just as you should always inform your Chinese herbal practitioner of your pharmaceutical prescriptions.

How much will the herbs cost?
Cost will vary with the type of formula, the length of treatment and, sometimes, with the source of the herbs.  In general, a formula will tend to run between $5.00 and $20.00/week

Does my insurance cover herbal prescriptions?
Unfortunately, herbal medicine is not yet covered by any of the major health insurance plans.

How long will I have to take the herbs for?
Since Chinese Herbs are prescribed in unique formulas customized to treat a very specific pattern of symptoms, the length of time needed to complete a course of treatment will vary from patient to patient.  Your acupuncturist should inform you of the expected length of treatment when giving you your herbal prescription.

Are there any side effects for Chinese herbs?
Chinese herbs can have side effects and it is important that they are taken as prescribed by a licensed Acupuncturist or Chinese Herbal Practitioner.  The most common side effect is digestive upset including constipation, diarrhea, intestinal rumbling or stomachache.  These are typically quite mild and are easily alleviated by taking the herbs with food.  There are, however, some individual herbs included in certain formulas that have other side effects that your practitioner will be able to inform you of.  Always be sure to inform your practitioner of any and all supplements, vitamins and medications that you are taking so that all possible interactions can be evaluated for safe and effective herbal prescriptions.

Have the herbs been tested for contaminants?
There are many sources of Chinese Herbs sold to herbal practitioners and, like all products, there are various levels of quality to the herbs sold in the U.S.  Most Chinese Herbs sold in the U.S. are tested for contaminants and pass rigorous quality control standards but you should always check with your practitioner about the quality control practices of his or her supplier.  The FDA has enacted Good Manufacturing Practices that apply to Chinese Herbs along with Dietary Supplements and these rules include testing for contaminants, proper labeling, packaging and ingredients.  Your practitioner may know offhand or can easily find out if their supplier complies with the FDA’s current GMP guidelines.

Is there research supporting Chinese Herbal Medicine?
There is a lot of research that has been and is currently being done on Chinese Herbs and herbal formulas and their effectiveness on various conditions.  If you would like to know about a particular formula or herb you can ask your practitioner for more information or you can look into some of the research yourself at various online sites.  One place you can start is HERE.

If you have other questions that are not answered here please feel free to CONTACT me and I will be happy to answer your questions to the best of my ability.