Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe? Doesn’t it hurt?
The extensive training required for licensing and modern sterile techniques mean that risks are minuscule. Side effects are rare and/or minor, and discomfort, if any, is slight and transient. The disposable needles, used once and discarded, are almost hair-thin (36-44 gauge), small enough to fit inside the needle of a typical syringe.
Will insurance cover it?
As for private insurance, it depends on the company and policy. Many insurance companies (Tufts, HNE, BC/BS, Harvard Pilgrim, Cigna) now have “discount networks”, in which participating practitioners offer reduced rates.
Please note that due to low rates of reimbursement and the high volume of associated paperwork, I can no longer accept private insurance, or Workers' Compensation Insurance. Medicare/Medicaid covers acupuncture in some states, but does not cover acupuncture in Massachusetts. I can not accept MassHealth or Commonwealth Care.
What is it like?
A selection of points is formulated after a diagnostic interview and examination of pulses, point sensitivities, etc. The tiny needles usually remain in place for about 20 minutes, and are sometimes warmed or stimulated with mild electrical pulses. Many patients find acupuncture deeply relaxing - some doze off while being treated - and most find that their energy, sleep, sense of well-being, etc. improve afterward.
How long does it take?
Individual treatments vary in length from a few minutes to an hour or so. Effects from a single treatment may take a few hours or days to fully develop. Many problems require a “course of treatments” (3-15), but should at least begin to respond within a few (4-6) treatments. Some chronic problems (e.g.: MS, stroke rehab, etc.) may require an open- ended approach, but for most conditions, an indefinitely long treatment plan is not warranted.
What does Acupuncture training involve?
Acupuncturists are required to have 2 years of undergraduate science courses (anatomy, physiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, etc.) before entering acupuncture school. Formal classes last 3 - 5 years, followed by a period of several hundred hours of "assisting" a licensed practitioner. Finally, practitioners must pass a national licensing exam. Then the real learning begins.....
Why did I become an acupuncturist?
I was in graduate school for Chemistry, where I was becoming increasingly sure I didn't want to be a laboratory researcher. I had a Japanese woman martial arts instructor who recognized my unhappiness, and asked what I really wanted to do - what really made me happy? I told her I wanted to work with people, I liked working with my hands, I was interested in Eastern philosophy and martial arts, and I had a science background. Without hesitating, she said, "You should be an acupuncturist." This was in 1980. I replied, "An acuwhat?" I thought about it for almost a year, at which point I left the grad school and went to Boston, where I attended the New England School of Acupuncture, graduating in 1985.