Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about acupuncture and herbal medicine. Using the links below, you can click to jump to the main categories.

Acupuncture | Practitioner Training | Choosing a Practitioner | About MAA


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the method of treatment based on influencing the body by inserting needles in the specific points of human body, called acupoints. 

Click here for a brief history of acupuncture 

Is acupuncture effective for my condition?

Because Chinese medicine is a complete system with a comprehensive theory and way of understanding the body, an acupuncturist can offer help for most conditions.   That doesn't mean that everyone who tries acupuncture attains a cure.  No form of medicine can offer that guarantee nor should any practitioner suggest it.  There are, of course, many variables that will determine whether or not you will get relief for your condition.  The best way to find out is to try it.

How many treatments will I require?

Each patient is unique and responds to acupuncture differently, so the number and frequency of treatments will vary from patient to patient. The number of treatments needed to address a specific health concern depends upon the nature of your complaint as well as its duration and severity. You may need only a single treatment for an acute, minor condition.  For a chronic problem, ten or more sessions might be required.  The effect of acupuncture is cumulative, so you should see changes as you go through a course of treatments.

Since acupuncture addresses the health of the whole body, there are many people that regularly schedule acupuncture treatments as a preventive measure to maintain good health.

Can I have acupuncture in conjunction with other therapies?

Yes, usually.  Many people have successfully had acupuncture and treatments by chiropractors, physical therapists, psychotherapists, as well as with western medications. This will vary though, so check with your acupuncturist.

Is acupuncture safe?

The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health have both evaluated the safety of acupuncture and find it to have a lower rate of side effects and complications than any prescription medications or surgical procedures.  When performed by a well-trained professional, acupuncture and related techniques have proven to be extremely safe. Needles are single-use, pre-sterilized and disposable to eliminate the risk of disease transmission. Licensed Acupuncturists are certified in nationally recognized Clean Needle Technique protocols to ensure that needles are kept sterile.

What does acupuncture feel like?

Acupuncture needles are smooth, metallic, solid, and hair-thin. People experience acupuncture differently, so when the needles are inserted most feel only a slight sensation or nothing at all. Once the needles are in place, you may feel a sensation of heaviness, warmth, or tingling at and around the site of the needle, or in other parts of the body.  Some people are energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed. Improper needle placement, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness and pain during treatment.This is why it is important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner.

How does acupuncture work?

Studies have documented acupuncture's effects, but they have not been able to fully explain how acupuncture works within the framework of the Western system of medicine that is commonly practiced in the United States. It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones thus affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person's blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.

What if I am healthy? Can acupuncture help prevent future problems or enhance well being?

Acupuncture is powerful preventative medicine. Many people report higher energy levels, greater focus, and ability to perform at peak levels in their work and play, by scheduling regular weekly or monthly treatments to stay in top shape.

How widely is acupuncture used in the United States?

In the past two decades, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States. The report from a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 stated that acupuncture is being "widely" practiced--by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners--for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey--the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date--an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

Will it be covered by my insurance?

A variety of insurance companies in Minnesota cover acupuncture.  However, you should check with your insurer before you start treatment to see whether acupuncture will be covered for your condition and, if so, to what extent. Some insurance plans require pre-authorization for acupuncture.  Many people have successfully used Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts for their acupuncture treatments.

Practitioner Training

How are the practitioners trained?

A practitioner must complete a minimum of three years of graduate study at a nationally accredited school for acupuncture and Chinese medicine. This training includes a required number of hours in the classroom and in clinics treating patients with supervision.

In Minnesota, a practitioner must also pass national certification board exams, a Clean Needle Technique exam, and then submit documentation to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice to be designated as a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.).  To maintain the license, a practitioner must complete continuing education about acupuncture, herbal medicine, first aid, and ethics.

Frequently asked Clean Needle technique questions:

There are many traditions in this medicine, and so the background, style and specific training can vary from one practitioner to another.

Choosing a Practitioner

How should I choose a practitioner?

As with any health care practitioner, a personal rapport will be important.  Because you can't know whether it is a good fit until you meet the person, you might choose someone based on the special focus of his or her practice.  You might also choose based on proximity to your work or home.  In any case, it is important to remember that the training of the licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) involves understanding the theory and diagnosis of a different system of medicine. Unless a chiropractor or medical doctor has a degree in Chinese medicine, they have not been trained in this type of thinking.  Their education in acupuncture in Minnesota requires a 200-hour course. This compares to the 2000 course hours required for a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.).

About Minnesota Acupuncture Association (MAA)

What is MAA's purpose?

It is Minnesota's only organization for practitioners of oriental medicine.  Its mission is:

  • To advance the profession of Acupuncture and herbal medicine within the state of Minnesota by supporting our members through continuing education, legislative activities, and as a link to national developments and research within our profession.
  • To promote ethical and professional standards of our practitioners.
  • To educate the public as to the capabilities of acupuncture and herbal medicine and provide information to help them find licensed qualified practitioners.

Who makes up the membership of MAA?

MAA has approximately 275 members.  Most are licensed acupuncturists; the remaining members include students, institutions, and members of the public.

Acupuncture Regulation

Some fast facts about regulation:

  1. Most states require national board certification for TCM practitioners. Ironically, most states allow conventional medical doctors and chiropractors to practice acupuncture with little or no formal training.
  2. Practitioners must complete at least three years full-time schooling before they can become eligible for the national board certification. 
  3. According to the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine , all but a few states have regulations in place concerning the practice of acupuncture. This usually includes licensing requirements for non-MD practitioners and specifications on scope of practice for MDs and other health professionals.
  4. Most of these states require national board certification as a prerequisite for state certification or licensure.

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