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What is Acupuncture?

     Practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years, acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In TCM, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited, or active principle. According to TCM, health is achieved by maintaining the body in a "balanced state"; disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of “qi” (vital energy) along pathways known as meridians. Qi can be unblocked, according to TCM, by using acupuncture at certain points on the body that connect with these meridians. Sources vary on the number of meridians, with numbers ranging from 14 to 20. One commonly cited source describes meridians as 14 main channels "connecting the body in a weblike interconnecting matrix" of at least 2,000 acupuncture points.  As well, acupuncture is known to increase endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, and increase blood circulation. This, in turn, helps injured tissues and organs to heal and remain pain-free, a further preventive benefit of this treatment modality.  

     Clinical research continues to prove its validity and fuels it growth and acceptance here in the U.S.

Why Acupuncture?

     Acupuncture is a time-proven natural modality for both the treatment and prevention of unwanted health conditions, thereby increasing quality of life on many levels.  Acupuncture offers a comprehensive approach for individuals both as a primary means of well being, as well as for those who have been unsuccessful treating their conditions through other means.   Conventional doctors of many disciplines are referring their patients for acupuncture as they are recognizing this ancient medicine as being safe and also very effective.  It is a means of strengthening and healing the body, which can be weakened by trauma and modern-day stress, by strengthening your vital energy (Qi) so that your body can work towards healing itself.  This holistic approach eliminates the underlying imbalances which cause illness and pain.  Importantly to many individuals, it is free of side effects common with pharmaceutical medicines.  

What to Expect

     During your first office visit, Dr. Elias may ask you about your medical history and lifestyle, as well as some specific questions that are particular to Chinese medicine. She will also examine your tongue and feel your pulses which correspond to the Chinese organ systems, in order to determine a proper course of treatment.  

     People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel minimal to no pain as the sterilized, hair-thin needles are inserted. There can be no sensation at all with a treatment, but it is more likely that there will be a slight tingling or similar sensation that is expressed by the qi in the body. Some people feel energized by a treatment, while others feel relaxed. The number and placement of acupuncture needles varies as to the individual patient’s condition and needs.

      Side effects that can occur are bruising, minor bleeding, and soreness at the site of needle insertion.  While these are rare, even less common side effects include dizziness and lightheadedness.

     Each treatment session may last roughly 20 minutes after the needles are placed, with total treatment time usually lasting one hour.  Treatment may take place over a period of several weeks or more. The number of treatments depends on the nature of the problem and its severity and history.  An acute condition will require fewer treatments than a chronic one that has been in place for years.  Patients are routinely able to resume normal daily activities upon leaving the office.  In addition to acupuncture, a treatment may include massage, cupping (glass cups causing a suction on the skin in order to move qi and blood), and moxibustion to promote warmth. 



Common Questions

What sorts of diagnostic conditions can Acupuncture be helpful for?

      Acupuncture can be used to treat a certain condition, or it can be used to prevent disease, maintain health, provide relaxation and stress relief, and increase energy.

     According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture has clearly been shown to be effective in clinical trials for the following list of 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

Dysmenorrhoea, primary

Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)

Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)


Hypertension, essential

Hypotension, primary

Induction of labour

Knee pain


Low back pain

Malposition of fetus, correction of

Morning sickness

Nausea and vomiting

Neck pain

Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)

Periarthritis of shoulder

Postoperative pain

Renal colic

Rheumatoid arthritis




Tennis elbow

For more information on its benefits in other conditions, please click here

Does it hurt?

     The experience can vary from treatment to treatment even among the same individual, but in general, acupuncture should be painless.  With insertion of the needles, it is possible to feel a slight sensation, or nothing at all.  Once the needles are in, there will usually be signs that the qi has arrived which can be a slight tingling, a dull ache, a sensation of heat or cold, or any number of sensations that people experience as the qi.  This qi sensation can be subtle or stronger for some people.  If there is discomfort that persists, be sure to let Dr. Elias know so that it can be adjusted. Overall, by its nature, acupuncture has a very calming effect while the person is on the table.  The vast majority of individuals feel an increase in sense of well-being during a treatment, and many fall asleep during a treatment.

Will acupuncture interfere with my medication?

     Many people who seek acupuncture are taking medications, so in general it is not a problem.  However, when someone is undergoing acupuncture, the medication may work more efficiently since the body is going to have less blockages and obstacles that it is dealing with.  Be sure to see your conventional doctor to monitor your dosages if your medications are dosage sensitive. Also, it is never a good idea to stop taking medications without your doctor’s consent. 

Can Acupuncture help me, as a cancer patient?

Yes – read this article below:

Acupuncture in Cancer Treatment

     by Eugene Mak, MD (Board Certified Oncologist and MARF Board Member)

     A frequently asked question by patients undergoing cancer treatment is, "Can acupuncture help me?"

     The issue then becomes: is there a place for acupuncture in the vast field of cancer with its diverse treatment modalities?

     "Vast" since cancer is not one disease but over 300 different malignancies, each with its own unique histology, patho-physiology, and clinical behavior. 'Diverse" because of the different chemotherapeutic classes of agents, hormonal agents, types of High-energy particle beam generators, and various delivery systems for radiation treatment. "Diverse" also because it encompasses various types of surgical procedures, nutritional support, and the body-mind holistic approach.

     Timely diagnosis and early surgery offer the most favorable possibility of a cure for solid tumors. The germinal cancers and Hodgkin's lymphoma, along with some hematologic malignancies such as childhood leukemia, are the few exceptions. These are treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation singly or in combination. Some of the latter are the most predictably curable malignancies with or without surgery.

     If the diagnosis is late, surgery unsuccessful, or should the tumor recur after surgery, then the chance of a cure, with rare exceptions, is considered lost This class of patients, along with those not amenable to surgical approaches, are treated palliatively. Palliative therapies also consist of chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and radiation therapy and/or palliative surgery.

     The role of acupuncture in the curative group is in its adjunctive use in anesthesia, in post-operative pain control, and in aiding and hastening recovery from the side effects of the various therapies. Acupuncture is effective for control of pain, of local swelling post-operatively, for shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling and for minimizing use of medications and their attendant side effects. Energetic acupuncture, an approach consisting of the use of needles with electricity and moxibustion (a form of local heating with herbs imparts a sense of well being and accelerates patients' recovery. In conjunction with nutritional support, its use is routinely employed in some cancer institutions.

     The dreaded nausea and vomiting which commonly occurs in some patients undergoing chemotherapy and inevitably, with the use of certain classes of agents, can often be worse than the disease itself. Most oncologists have experienced the patients who start vomiting at the thought of their next clinic visit. At the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, a well-controlled study completed over two Years ago, the authors of the published paper reported significant reduction of nausea and vomiting when pre-treated with. It is now routinely administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control or nausea and emesis. Such treatments are relatively simple and easily executed in an outpatient setting. Its effectiveness helps in minimizing the use of standard, expensive multi-drug anti-nausea regimens with their attendant side effects, given along with the chemotherapeutic agents.

     That acupuncture is a powerful tool for general pain control is widely known. . Less known is its success use in some cancer-related pain and in reducing narcotic use and thereby minimizing the side effects confusion, disturbed mentation, behavioral changes, nausea and severe constipation.

     Needling a variety of trigger and painful points, percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and osteo-puncture, along with whole body energetic acupuncture support, .are approaches available to the acupuncturists. In the acupuncture paradigm, any chronic disease process depletes the energy level in the organism. Such depletion can be ameliorated, at least temporarily, by tonification, a process of imparting energy into the system. This is deemed necessary for more durable, successful pain control. It can also add to the patients' sense of well being and decrease the malaise associated with any chronic disease, especially cancer.

     Nutritional support as an aid in boosting immune response in cancer patients, along with minimizing the immune and white blood cell suppression that occurs with most chemotherapeutic agents, has been receiving greater attention and funding for research.. Kenneth Conklin, M.D., Ph.D., an anesthesiologist at UCLA working with the Oncology Department, reports gratifying results utilizing nutrition and supplements combined with energetic acupuncture.

     Energetic acupuncture repletes energy level to the organism as a whole, reestablishes homeostasis by re-balancing energy distribution and un-blocking energy flow. This systems approach to deal with system wide patho-physiology can be complemented by distinct meridian acupuncture, which directs healing energy to specific organ pathology and is a routine approach in treating diseased organs such as liver, pancreas kidney, including those ravaged by cancers.

     While the degree of beneficial results from acupuncture treatment is dependent on various clinical factors such as presenting symptoms, clinical staging, timing of the encounter in the course of the illness, areas of involvement, the answer to the opening question "can acupuncture help me?" is, in all probability, that it can help in the care of the cancer patient.

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