About Acupuncture & East Asian Medicine

Acupuncture 101

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medical system that restores natural function and healing processes. The medicine originated in East Asia over 2,000 years ago at which time distinctions between physical, emotional, and mental states of health were less defined. This traditional perspective which serves as the foundation for ‘mind/body’ medicine, complements conventional medical care. In its modern practice acupuncture offers a rational, personalized, evidence-based system of effective healthcare. In addition to being used by practitioners of Worldwide, well over one million healthcare practitioners use acupuncture to ease the suffering and improve the health and well-being of their patients.

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How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine wires (needles) into specific anatomical places to stimulate the body to restore physiological function. Traditional explanations of acupuncture involve its effect on improving the flow of qi and on balancing Yin and Yang, a paradigm of health and disease that maps very closely to the Western concept of homeostasis. By stimulating specific points on the body with heat, pressure, or very fine needles, acupuncture practitioners are able to help to restore healthy function, thus resolving symptoms and reversing disease. Due to greater utilization of acupuncture over time, research into how acupuncture works in terms of Western physiology has grown. The integration of traditional explanations of acupuncture, based in an ancient culture with modern medical scientific understanding results in a new narrative about how acupuncture work. For example, qi flow corresponds to nerve transmission, connective tissue planes, metabolic components carried in blood such as oxygen, hormones, neurotransmitters and nutrients as well as the functional energy of an organ system, depending on the context in which it is used. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to regulate and improve the function of all of these components.

Anatomically, acupuncture points are synonymous with structures defined as ‘trigger points’ and fascial planes, or well defined organized layers of connective tissues used to guide surgeons in the creation of incisions to minimize tissue damage during operations. In terms of physiology and biochemistry, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate nerves and connective tissue resulting in profound effects on the nervous system including regulation of key areas of the brain. This improved function results in the body producing its own natural chemicals involved in pain relief and the reduction of inflammation as well as releasing neurotransmitters that create a feeling of relaxation and well-being. Advanced techniques such as fMRI brain imaging and proteomics are continuing to add to a deeper understanding of how acupuncture helps the body to heal itself.


Will it hurt?

Acupuncture needles are extremely thin made from silver alloy typically stainless steel. You may feel little or no discomfort as the needles are inserted as the process is typically painless. You may feel different sensations including slight soreness, numbness, warmth, or pressure. These energetic sensations differs from pain. People often comment that the feeling is unfamiliar but pleasant and comforting.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture therapy has been used for thousands of years in China. Acupuncture is the treatment of choice for one-fourth of the world’s population! The needles are FDA approved, individually packaged, pre-sterilized and disposed after a single use.

What should I expect for my first treatment?

After the first treatment has been administered, depending on the aliment being treated, many experiences may occur. Immediate, total or partial relief from pain or other symptoms may be experienced. Some patients experience a sudden burst of energy while others may feel relaxed. Many people experience a calming satisfaction. Small, localized bruises from minor bleeding under the skin are infrequent, but do occur. These are no cause for alarm, and despite the cosmetic inconvenience, they actually provide a kind of bonus treatment. The reabsorption of the blood continues the stimulation of the acupuncture point even without the needle in place.


How long do the treatments take?

In most situations treatments take between 20 and 30 minutes but can last longer in certain scenarios. The length of the treatment depends on the individual conditions of the patient and the skill of the acupuncturist. Be aware that on some days, visits may take longer due to the number of clients being treated.


Are the needles clean?

Acupuncture needles are FDA approved. These needles are pre-sterilized and individually wrapped. After the needles are used, they are disposed.

How many treatments will I need?

Since every person is unique in their own condition, the numbers of treatments will vary. The nature, severity and history of each patient’s problem, as well as the individual himself or herself, are all factors that are involved in how many treatments will be necessary.

Are needles the only equipment involved?

Acupuncturist may use several techniques such as moxibustion, cupping, electric stimulation, and point stimulation to help with the patient’s treatment.

Will it conflict with my other medications?

Acupuncture will not conflict with any of your medications. Acupuncture is used to complement and supplement your physician’s treatments NOT TO REPLACE THEM. You should discuss this issue with your physician and acupuncturist.

Commonly Treated Disorders Helped by Acupuncture and Herbs

As recognized by the World Health Organization.

Respiratory System:

  • Acute Sinusitis
  • Acute Rhinitis
  • Common Cold
  • Acute tonsillitis
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Bronchial Asthma

Disorders of the Eye:

  • Acute conjunctivitis
  • Central Retinitis
  • Myopia (in children)
  • Cataract (without complications)

Neurological and Musculo-skeletal disorders:

  • Headache and Migraine
  • Low Back Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Paresis following stroke
  • “Frozen Shoulder”
  • Nocturnal Enuresis (bedwetting)
  • Facial Palsy (early stage, within 3-6 months)
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Peripheral Neuropathies
  • Cervicobrachial syndrome
  • “Tennis Elbow”
  • Meniere’s Disease

Gastrointestinal Disorders:

  • Constipation
  • Acute and Chronic Gastritis
  • Hiccups
  • Chronic duodenal Ulcer (pain relief)
  • Acute duodenal Ulcer (without complications)
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastric Hyperacidity
  • Acute and Chronic Colitis

Disorders of the Mouth:

  • Toothaches, post extraction pain
  • Acute and Chronic Pharyngitis
  • Gingivitis


Insurance Coverage

A growing number of insurance companies cover acupuncture. However, their coverage varies widely. Some companies put a cap on the number of treatments per year, while others put a cap on the total cost per year. In some cases, insurers will specify what types of medical conditions or acupuncture procedures they will cover. Call your insurer to learn the details of your benefits.

Other options for reducing the cost of treatments include Flexible Spending Plans and Health Savings Accounts, which allow you to use pre-tax dollars for acupuncture and other medical care. Ask your employer whether they have a Flex Plan and find out what you need to do to participate. Health Savings Accounts are available to anyone who is enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan. Contact your health insurance company for more information about setting up a HSA.  The following links provide information on Insurance and HMO’s, Health Savings accounts (HSA), Flex and Wellness plans, as well as medical tax deductions, medicare, V.A. and Federal insurance coverage.


Becoming Certified in Wisconsin


Candidates must show evidence of successful completion of a course of study, the equivalent of at least 2 consecutive years of full-time education and clinical work in Oriental diagnostic and therapeutic theories and practices at a school accredited by the National Accreditation Commission for Schools and Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NACSCAOM) or the NCCAOM: National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Qualified practitioners have generally completed course work in:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Orthopedic Evaluation
  • Neurological Evaluation
  • Biochemistry
  • Chinese Medical Theory
  • Diagnosis and Evaluation
  • Point Location
  • Advanced Needle Techniques

Typical curriculum is over 3000 hours of in-class and clinical training combined. including:

Oriental Medical Theory 546 hours
Treatment Technique and Theory 378 hours
Western Biomedicine 721 hours
Personal Development 259 hours
Clinical Training 1032 hours
Herbal Medicine 413 hours



  • Successful completion of the NCCAOM’s national examination in acupuncture. http://www.nccaom.org/applicants/exam-content
  • Successful completion of the Clean Needle Technique Course and corresponding examination offered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM).


Other Providers:

Sometimes, other medical practitioners may legally perform acupuncture and oriental medicine techniques. These practitioners are not held to the same standards of hours or training as formally certified acupuncturists. Patients are encouraged to ask providers questions such as:

  • Where did they receive their training?
  • How many hours of training did they complete?
  • How long have they been practicing?
  • What is their success rate?

The Wisconsin Society of Acupuncturists (WISCA) does not support the practice of dry needling or trigger point needling by physical therapists or medical professionals who are not certified to practice acupuncture under the strict requirements WI Statute 451. WISCA is in agreement with the CCOAM and AAAOM position on trigger point dry needling.

For more information click on the links below: