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Acupuncture FAQ

Here we answer the most common acupuncture questions.  If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for, please contact us.

About Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile, disposable, single-use needles into the skin in order to:

  • Improve circulation by enhancing generation of nitric oxide (1)
    • Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, increasing blood flow and regulating blood pressure.
    • Release muscle tension and pain by stimulating and breaking up bands of bound muscle fibers called trigger points
  • Relieve pain by producing endorphins, your body’s natural opioid-like peptides
    • Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of enkephalin, beta-endorphin, endomorphin, and dynorphin, which together have an analgesic (pain relieving) effect similar to opioid drugs but without the side effects.
  • Activate the parasympathetic nervous system (2), the body’s “rest and digest” state in which healing can occur
    • When our body is in a state of stress and our sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” mode is engaged, we instead experience increased muscle tension, blood pressure, and inflammation
  • Regulate the immune system by stimulating production of cytokines, T-cells, and B-cells (3)

Acupuncture is part of a system of medicine originating in China over 3,000 years ago. It has truly withstood the test of time, undergoing numerous processes of critical inquiry, experimentation, formalization, and refinement throughout the millennia in East Asia primarily. In the past 100 years there has been another phase of evolution through its interaction and integration with Western medicine practices and research. The two modalities complement each other well, with Chinese medicine able to offer effective solutions in many arenas where Western medicine falls short.

Acupuncture is relatively painless, and the most common negative side effect is bruising or soreness on rare occasions.

Because of how acupuncture works on the whole system, patients often report improvements in many other symptoms in addition to the main complaint that is bringing them in. Some common “side effects” of acupuncture are:

  • Improved sleep and digestion
  • Pain relief at multiple sites of the body
  • Reduced stress and greater emotional balance

The sensations produced via acupuncture needles can vary from little to no sensation at all to an achy heavy sensation at the site of the needle and radiating out. Sensations vary from person to person and based on the location of the point and other factors.

Feeling a dull, heavy, achy sensation is a good indication that the point is activated and it is doing what it is supposed to be doing.

Few patients report pain with acupuncture needling in large part because the needles used are incredibly fine, much much thinner than a hypodermic needle used to draw blood.

When performed by a competently trained, licensed practitioner, acupuncture is typically safe. Ensuring the use of sterile disposable needles to avoid any risk of infection is best practice. Treasure Valley Acupuncture uses sterile, disposable needles.

Forty acupuncture needles can fit into the tip of one standard 18-gauge hypodermic needle routinely used in hospitals and clinics.

The average acupuncture needle is as thick as a human hair, ranging anywhere from .13mm to .25mm in diameter.

No sort of medicine or treatment is guaranteed, but we have seen enough patients (14,000+) that we have a good idea how the vast majority of cases will respond to treatment.

If we don’t think we can help, we will tell you that. If we can help, we will construct a comprehensive treatment plan in line with your goals. 

Your Treatment Session

You will spend 15-30 minutes answering questions about your health history and receive an examination and assessment. This will be followed by the acupuncture treatment itself, for a total of approximately 45-60 minutes.

You will lie on a padded table during the session and wear your own clothing or a gown or sheet. Many tables are cushioned and warmed.

The practitioner can explain where needles will be placed during the treatment. Let your practitioner know if you would like this done. 

  • Wear loose clothing
  • Ensure you eat a LIGHT meal 1 hour prior to prevent dizziness
  • Drink plenty of water (8-16 ounces)
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs 24 hours prior that can alter your sensory experience/perception of the experience
  • Avoid caffeine 8 hours prior to treatment if possible 

Your job is to rest and mentally and emotionally focus on how great it will be when you get to the outcome you desire.

Many people fall asleep during their session, which is normal and good, so they will only be able to do this right before the needle and upon waking.

Others will not fall asleep and can help their body by providing it guidance in the form of imagining/focusing on how your desired outcome improves your life quality. 

It is most advisable to plan time for rest and avoid strenuous activity for at least a few hours. Staying hydrated helps facilitate the healing process.

You should avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods and drinks, dairy, and processed meats. These foods slow down your body’s ability to process the treatment. Also avoid hot showers, saunas, hot tubs and strong air conditioning, cold and windy conditions for 12-24 hours. Listening to your body to observe for changes or benefits is recommended. 

Drink plenty of water before and after treatment. For approx. 4-6 hours after treatment you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods and drinks, dairy, and processed meats. These foods slow down your body’s ability to process the treatment.

Also avoid hot showers, saunas, hot tubs (your skin will be sensitive with open pores making you vulnerable to infection and body temperature changes. Also avoid strong air conditioning, intense exercise, cold and windy conditions.

Generally, acupuncture will bring notable relief within the first two weeks of treatment. Once you are out of pain, we focus on resolving the underlying cause of the pain at its root. The treatment course will vary depending on the intensity of the pain and how long you’ve had it.

Chronic conditions usually take longer, often several months to resolve versus acute conditions since by the time a condition is chronic, it usually involves more than one body system. The longer you have a condition, the more your body has to compensate by taking energy and resources from other systems.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are not quick fixes like a pain pill that masks the symptom, but a restoration of health.

Our goal is to not only get you pain free as soon as possible, but to resolve the issue so that you can maintain results with minimal treatment.

Treatment Methods and Techniques

Alternative forms of stimulation-like acupressure, laser therapy, cupping and moxibustion, can be used for those who dislike needles but want to achieve similar benefits. Talk with your practitioner about your options.

Suction is created by glass or plastic cups that draws fluid into the treated area. The suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under your skin. This is how you get the temporary appearance of bruising. Your body replenishes the cupped areas with healthier blood flow and stimulates proper and normal healing at a cellular level.

The drawing force the suction creates has a decompressive effect on tight fascial tissue allowing movement of stagnant fluid in the area. It is an ancient form of alternative medicine. It can help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being such as a type of deep tissue massage does.

If you have skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema let your practitioner know. Treatment can be uncomfortable, but should NOT be painful and you should tell your practitioner if this happens. Treatment should be modified to your tolerance. 

Gua sha is a traditional Chinese healing method in which a trained professional uses a smooth-edged tool to rub your skin to stimulate blood flow and break up adhesions. It is often done along side other complementary treatments like heat therapy, massage, or herbal medicine.

It can create a lifting of the skin that may help with lessening toxins by freeing them from tissue. Treatment can be uncomfortable but should NOT be painful and you should tell your practitioner if you are having pain. Treatment should be modified to your tolerance.

The Graston Technique is a trademarked version of the similar Gua Sha non-trademarked massage technique. The difference is that you get Graston from a physical therapist or chiropractor and Gua Sha from other alternative practitioners such as acupuncturists.

Gua Sha tends to target the skin and capillaries, while the Graston Technique specifically seeks to target underlying muscles, tendons, and fascia by going deeper. The tools used in Gua Sha are different than the Graston tool. 

Chinese medicine is the greater philosophical and medical system of which acupuncture is a part. Other Chinese medical modalities include herbal medicine, moxibustion (heat therapy and herbal medicine applied to acupuncture points), dietary therapy, qi gong (similar to tai chi or kung fu, with a focus on internal energy flow), and tui na (massage).

On the one hand, each of these modalities can be seen as a complete system unto itself. For example, a skilled Japanese moxibustion therapist can use moxibustion to treat high blood pressure quite successfully. A skilled qi gong master could do the same. On the other hand, each modality also has its own affinity and superiority for treating particular conditions. For example, acupuncture has an unparalleled ability to remove pain, immediately in some cases, in the treatment of conditions such as sciatica.

What these modalities have in common is a shared framework rooted in Chinese philosophy and cosmology. A shared understanding of the organ networks, yin-yang, the five elements, the six stages… all are lenses of understanding our reality and our physiology in an artful and clinically effective way.

It is a form of Chinese Medicine that involves burning moxa, a cone or stick made of ground Mugwort leaves, on or near your body’s meridians and acupuncture points.

Practitioners believe that the resulting heat helps stimulate these points and improves the blood and lymphatic flow in your body. It is also believed to help smooth the flow of Qi to expel pathogenic influences. 

While both involve the insertion of needles, their philosophy and applications are different. Acupuncture is based on Chinese Medicine, aiming to balance your system energy resources and flow. Energy must flow for you to grow. Stagnant energy leads to dis-ease.

Dry needling focuses on stimulating specific muscles to relieve pain and tension, based on Western medicine principle that often segment the body into siloes as though they are not connected systems. 

Acupuncture and Your Health

Yes. Many use acupuncture to promote well-being, boost the immune system function, and manage stress. 

Acupuncture is often part of a larger approach to wellness that includes dietary advice, exercises (such as tai chi, stretching, Qi Gong or Yoga – start with gently exercise and work up from there if you are not already active), herbal supplements, and stress reduction techniques, such as breathing techniques.

Its philosophy encourages a balance within the body AND with your environment to arrive at a lifestyle that supports overall health and longevity.

Acupuncture is a comprehensive system of medicine that is capable of treating a wide variety of ailments. A 2003 report by the World Health Organization published a comprehensive evaluation of the existing research on acupuncture at the time. Based on the existing research, the WHO determined that acupuncture “has been proved through controlled trials to be an effective treatment” for the following conditions. Note, this list is non-exhaustive and nearly two decades old; there has been much more positive research on acupuncture since 2003.

Treatment of Pain Conditions

  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Tooth pain
  • TMJ dysfunction

Treatment of Internal Conditions

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Biliary colic
    Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Dysentery, acute bacillary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Hypertension, both essential and primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Leukopenia
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stroke

Further list of conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown through research but more research is recommended

  • Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
  • Acne vulgaris
  • Alcohol dependence and detoxification
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Cancer pain
  • Cardiac neurosis
  • Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
  • Cholelithiasis
  • Competition stress syndrome
  • Craniocerebral injury, closed
  • Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
  • Earache Epidemic hemorrhagic fever
  • Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
  • Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
  • Female infertility
  • Facial spasm
  • Female urethral syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
  • Gastrokinetic disturbance
  • Gouty arthritis
  • Hepatitis B virus carrier status
  • Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
  • Hyperlipaemia
  • Hypo-ovarianism
  • Insomnia
  • Labour pain
  • Lactation, deficiency
  • Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
  • Ménière disease
  • Neuralgia, post-herpetic
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Obesity
  • Opiate dependence
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain due to endoscopic examination
  • Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein–Leventhal syndrome)
  • Postextubation in children
  • Postoperative convalescence
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Prostatitis, chronic
  • Pruritus Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
  • Raynaud’s syndrome, primary
  • Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Retention of urine, traumatic
  • Schizophrenia Sialism, drug-induced
  • Sjögren syndrome
  • Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
  • Spine pain, acute
  • Stiff neck
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • Tietze syndrome (Costochondritis)
  • Tobacco dependence
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis, chronic
  • Urolithiasis Vascular dementia
  • Whooping cough (pertussis)

While acupuncture is suitable for most people, certain conditions warrant caution. These include pregnancy (some points can induce labor), cancer patients undergoing certain active treatments, individuals with pacemakers-especially those having E-stim (electroacupuncture), and those with sever mental health conditions.

The safest thing to do is talk with your healthcare provider before starting acupuncture.

Choosing an Acupuncturist

Qualified practitioners have completed extensive training (typically a masters degree in Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine) and are licensed by the state regulatory board. Treasure Valley Acupuncture only hires vetted, properly trained, and licensed acupuncturists.

Look for a licensed (L. Ac.) acupuncturist with training from an accredited Acupuncture school or traditional Chinese Medicine program.

Certification from a recognized professional body, such as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in the USA is a good indicator of proficiency.

Additionally, consider a practitioner who has prior experience in treating your condition(s). Treasure Valley Acupuncture only hires NCCAOM certified acupuncturists. 


Coverage for acupuncture varies from region to region, plan to plan, and condition to condition.

We ask that you contact your insurance company to ask them directly because they will be able to provide details that we cannot answer up front. They can tell you how many treatments they allow for what conditions, if any. They can tell you if they require a doctor’s referral and who that referral needs to come from.

Some plans do not cover acupuncture. Most insurance plans have a disclaimer that “It’s up to you to always check if your provider is in your health plan network before you receive services.”

Yes, as this helps confirm coverage by your plan. 

Some plans cover full treatments and others cover partial costs. When only partial payment is received, you may be responsible for covering the rest of the cost. If you have not met your deductible, you may have to pay the full amount, or your plan may have a co-pay.

If your insurance plan denies payment, you will be responsible for payment of the full cost of treatment.

We are currently working on accepting VA, TriWest, Blue Cross, Pacific Source, Workers’ Comp, and MVC insurance claims.
We will provide more information soon.

This can vary widely depending on the conditions, but many plans cover 6-12 sessions after a referral has been provided. 

Practitioners who have obtained credentialling with your insurance plan are considered in network and a plan pays the most coverage in this case. Those who have not gone through this process are considered out of network and insurance coverage is less or not at all in these cases.

Credentialling is a complex process, so not all practitioners are in every network. You may pay more or all of your healthcare costs if your provider is out of your network or does not have a contract with your insurance plan. This can also be referred to as a non-participating provider. Your plan can tell you if a practitioner is in or out of network with them.

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