Frequently Asked Questions

Provided below are answers to some common questions regarding acupuncture, herbal formulas, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in general, as well as regarding my own practice. If you have additional questions, please contact me via the contact form below. You can also reach me at 503-254-8218 or info@weiliacupuncture.com. Thank you!

General Questions about TCM

• How does TCM differ from Western medicine?

Chinese and Western medicine differ fundamentally in their interpretation of illness. TCM interprets health as a multi-faceted balancing feat of the body both within itself and against external factors. Illness manifests from one or more such imbalances, and may be diagnosed through history-taking and physical exam techniques, including tongue observation and pulse palpation. Correcting these imbalances via acupuncture, herbal formulas, lifestyle changes, and other modalities can help you to steadily return to good health.

The language of TCM also differs from that of Western medicine. Imbalances, for instance, may be characterized as Excess or Deficiency, and the external invading pathogens of TCM include six factors that mirror nature: Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp, Dry, and Summerheat. In addition, TCM uses the same terminology, such as the Heart, Lung, Spleen, Stomach, Liver, and Kidney, to refer to the body's energetic organs, while Western medicine only considers the anatomical organs.

Many of the concepts of TCM, however, have analogs within Western medicine, such as imbalances corresponding to over- or under-activity of different organ systems, and external invading factors corresponding to microscopic pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. While Western medicine has developed a rigorous empirical framework for physiology and pathology, there remain many diseases of which Western medicine still has an incomplete understanding as well as only symptomatic treatments that can vary significantly in their efficacy.

In this respect, TCM offers great therapeutic potential, as it still has the capacity to treat diseases by diagnosing dysfunctions at their roots and promoting healing of the body by correcting those imbalances, with the key difference being more tangible treatment goals, in contrast to many standard prescription medications of Western medicine.

• How does TCM resemble Western medicine?

Many of the concepts of TCM have analogs within Western medicine, such as between balance and physiologic homeostasis as well as between imbalance and the over- or under-activity of organ systems. Similarly, external invading factors in TCM have correspondences to microscopic pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. While Western medicine has developed a rigorous empirical framework for physiology and pathology, there remain many diseases of which Western medicine still has an incomplete understanding as well as only symptomatic treatments that can vary significantly in their efficacy.

In this respect, TCM offers great therapeutic potential, as it still has the capacity to treat diseases by diagnosing dysfunctions at their roots and promoting healing of the body by correcting those imbalances, with the key difference being more tangible treatment goals, in contrast to many standard prescription medications of Western medicine.

• What conditions can Chinese medicine treat?

The strength of TCM lies in its benefits for chronic pathologies, with the potential to treat a wide range of non-emergent and non-surgical conditions. The versatility of TCM comes considering the body as a whole, regardless of where the presenting illness localizes to. This interpretion of disease as a holistic collection of imbalances aims to eliminate the root of disease to produce longterm relief. See my list of clinical conditions that I have seen and treated with positive outcomes.

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Treatment Expectations

• What can I expect on my visits?

On your first visit, I will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, your current medications, and your general lifestyle habits, including your normal diet. In addition, I will your pulse and, if appropriate, inspect your tongue to diagnose your current condition and determine the imbalances that need to be addressed.

Afterwards, unless you requested only an herbal consultation, I will begin your acupuncture treatment by having you lie down and placing needles at appropriate points, and I will check back regularly to stimulate the needles. As appropriate, I may position heating lamps near you for indirect moxibustion, perform cupping over appropriate areas of skin, and/or set up an instrument for electro-acupuncture. These service are all covered in your acupuncture visitation fee at no extra cost to you.

I will then leave you to rest, returning intermittently to stimulate your needles. Meanwhile, I will write and fill your herbal formula, which will usually be made by the end of your treatment. Your first session will typically run longer at 60 minutes, while your follow-up sessions will tend to be briefer around 30 minues, and will focus on addressing changes in your condition and adjusting your formula as necessary.

• How many visits do I need? ~ How often should I come?

The number of treatments recommended varies significantly due to the wide range of imbalances recognized in TCM and of their severity. Different patients also respond to treatment at different rates, thus making any prognoses difficult to predict without observing your early response to treatment.

Similarly, the frequency of visits varies between patients, but my recommendation usually falls between twice-per-week visits and biweekly visits.

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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology

• How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture stimulates specific points on channels, aka meridians, along the skin with extremely fine needles. These meridians, which include several hundred points, have been mapped out by traditional texts over millenia of research. The stimulation of these points helps to promote the flow of Qi and Blood, thereby dispelling stagnation, clearing obstruction, and improving nourishment to the internal organs.

• Is acupuncture safe and painless?

Acupuncture is one of the safest therapy available. Like most acupuncturists, I only use sterile, single-use needles. With appropriate technique, acupuncture can cause only minimal discomfort, as the needle is about the same thickness as a strand of hair. Instead, you can expect to feel some pressure or tingling in the needle's vicinity, especially with manual or electrical stimulation of the needle, as this sensation would indicate good flow of Qi.

• How do Chinese herbal medicines work?

Chinese herbology uses the qualities of documented herbs to address specific imbalances. Although TCM has historically included animal, plant, and mineral products, I currently do not use any animal-based herbs in accord with my patients' preference.

My herbal formulas are custom-made for my patients, because the effects of every herb are unique, and I determine the herbs most appropriate for your condition at the time of my assessment or reassessment. While the active chemical ingredients of most herbs have yet to be fully characterized due to their complexity, their therapeutic actions are well documented in both traditional and contemporary literature.

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Other Treatment Modalities

• What will my treatment involve besides acupuncture and herbs?

A healthy diet and lifestyle are crucial components in TCM. Without healthy diet and lifestyle habits, acupuncture and herbal medicines are not as effective in restoring good health in the longterm, because many types of food can exacerbate imbalances within the body, and for instance, cause chronic inflammation or a weakened immune system.

During your treatment, I may also use other modalities such as moxibustion, cupping, and/or electro-acupuncture if they are appropriate for your condition, in order to achieve the best results I can for you. These services are all covered in your visitation fee at no extra cost to you. More information on these modalities are available below.

• What are direct and indirect moxibustion, and how does it work?

Moxibustion involves the application of heat over an area of skin either above an acupuncture point or a region of dysfunctional tissue. The heat helps to stimulate the flow of Qi, as well as to relax or promote healing in the region. Traditionally, moxibustion was practiced by lighting one end of a Moxa stick, which resembles a large cigar and contains specific herbs, and holding it near the skin as the herb-infused heat emitted from its smoldering tip infuses into the local tissue; this is called direct moxibustion. Alternatively, indirect moxibustion uses the heat emitted from specialized electrical heating lamp instead, eliminating the smoke byproduct released by direct moxibustion.

When I perform moxibustion, I usually do not use Moxa sticks due to patient complaints about the smoke released by the procedure. Instead, I use specialized heating lamps, which I have found to achieve similar efficacy for my patients. In some cases, I will use direct moxibustion if I believe it to be more effective for my patient. This service is covered in your visitation fee at no extra cost to you.

• What is cupping, and how does it work?

Cupping involves placing glass cups on regions of dysfunctional tissue, and generating a vacuum within that tugs your skin and tissues partially into the cup. I create this vacuum by pressing an ethanol-soaked cotton ball against the inside of the glass cup, and then lighting it before placing the cup against your skin. The flaming cotton ball dies quickly after burning up the oxygen within the cup, while still remaining stuck onto the glass due to the leftover ethanol.

The force tugging on your tissues feels similar to a strong massage. This procedure helps to not only loosen tight areas of muscle, but also to increase circulation to all tissues in the region, promoting better flow of Qi and Blood to improve healing. This service is covered in your visitation fee at no extra cost to you.

• What is electro-acupuncture, and how does it work?

Electro-acupuncture involves attaching small clamps from an instrument to your acupuncture needles to deliver a gentle stream of electricity into your needles. This steady current of electricity fulfills a similar role to manual needle stimulation by promoting the flow of Qi at those points, but with the upside of doing so constantly. The amount of electricity I use depends on your immediate feedback, which I will ask for as gradually dial up the current, until you feel that I have reached the most comfortable level of needle stimulation. This service is covered in your visitation fee at no extra cost to you.

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