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Frequently Asked Questions
Acupuncture, Herbs & Traditional Chinese Medicine


More information about our acupuncturist, Curtis Baumgartner, L.Ac.


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of treating a disease or relieving pain by inserting one or more metal needles at very specific points throughout the body. The term acupuncture describes a group of techniques and procedures that involve stimulating these points. American acupuncturists often incorporate techniques from traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian and other medicine systems. These techniques include but are not limited to: needling, various kinds of massage, acupressure, scraping (gua sha), essential oil application, cupping and lancing.

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What does acupuncture feel like? Does it hurt?

People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel no or minimal pain as the needles are inserted. The different acupuncture points vary in sensitivity from patient to patient and even from day to day. There are a variety of techniques that are selected from according to the needs of the patient. Some techniques require strong stimulation while others are extremely mild. Acupuncture needles are metallic, solid, and hair-thin. Many acupuncture needles can fit inside of one hypodermic syringe (the kind of needle blood samples are drawn with.) It does not at all feel like getting an injection or taking a blood sample.

During the insertion of the needle there is usually little or no pain. Should you experience any discomfort, be sure to inform the acupuncturist and the needles will be adjusted. 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 licensed acupuncturist.

After insertion, the needles will be manipulated in order to activate the body's energy system. This activation, known as "the arrival of qi" can be experienced in a variety of ways. It has been described as a dull ache, swelling, pinching, tingle, twitch, grabbing, numb or just plain odd feeling. These sensations can travel along the meridians too, but dissipate quickly and the patient sinks into a deep relaxation, or falls asleep entirely. During the relaxation period, a person can experience a variety of states like: a deep calm, a floating feeling or a sinking feeling, a meditative state, lose track of time, fingers or toes might twitch like when one is falling asleep, or emotions might arise. Some people are energized by a treatment, while others feel relaxed. The most common feeling is a clear, calm state of being.

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Is acupuncture safe? Are the needles safe?

Acupuncture is a drug-free, minimally invasive approach to health and well-being. Because of this, you may avoid the risks of drugs which may cause side effects and dependency. Acupuncture is considered safe and effective for infants, children, men, women and those in their golden years.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used and that they are labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only. Our acupuncturist uses sterile, disposable, single-use needles. They have never been used before and they will never be used again. All acupuncture needles are manufactured, individually packaged and shipped in sterilized containers in compliance with the law. Our acupuncturist has passed a National Clean Needle Training Course in order to insure proper handling and use of all needles used in treatment.

Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA in light of the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used. To put it another way. driving through Los Angeles traffic in order to get to our office is thousands of times more dangerous than the actual procedure.

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Is there anyone who shouldn't get acupuncture?

There are a few medical conditions which are not suitable for acupuncture. With some of these conditions, a note from your primary care condition specifically stating it is permissible to receive acupuncture may suffice.
  • Bleeding diathesis (hemophilia or other blood disorders)
  • Epilepsy
  • People unable to give informed consent (such as minors without guardians)
  • Intoxicated people (alcohol or other drugs)
  • Psychiatric instability
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Can I receive acupuncture if I am pregnant?

Yes. However, there are certain acupuncture points that are contraindicated during pregnancy. It is important to notify the acupuncturist if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.

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What are the side-effects of acupuncture?

Many people consider the most common side-effects of acupuncture to be the best part: relaxation, a feeling of peace, euphoria and general well-being are the most commonly experienced "side-effects." While these are mostly pleasant sensations, they may interfere with the operation of heavy machinery or extreme precision for a few minutes after the treatment. It's best not to rush into performing neurosurgery or flying an airplane immediately after receiving acupuncture.

On very rare occasions, people feel faint or nauseous during the treatment. If this happens, mention it to the acupuncturist who will remove the needles and have you lie down for a few minutes to settle down.

Occasionally, there may be slight bruising around the site of needling. The bruises tend to be smaller than a nickel and disappear with a few days. There may also be a drop or two of blood at certain sites when the needle is removed though this does not occur often.

Finally, there is the healing process itself. As your body becomes healthier and stronger, blood circulation and the body's ability to push out stored toxins improves. Sometimes during the detoxification and healing process you may feel achy, irritable, and not sleep well. Let the acupuncturist know so that he can address your situation.

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What conditions can acupuncture help?

According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture may be helpful in the following conditions:
  • digestive disorders such as: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hiccough, ulcer pain, food allergies, colitis, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hyperacidity & indigestion.

  • emotional difficulties such as: anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, nervousness & neurosis.

  • eye-ear-nose-throat conditions such as: cataracts, poor vision, toothache, gingivitis & tinnitus.

  • reproductive & genitourinary imbalances such as:bladder dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, infertility, menopausal symptoms, premenstrual syndrome, painful or irregular menstruation, morning sickness, induction of labor, malposition of fetus.

  • musculoskeletal conditions such as: arthritis, back pain, neck pain, muscle pain, sciatica, muscle weakness, muscle cramping, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, jaw pain, dental pain, "tennis elbow", "frozen shoulder" and shoulder pain, knee pain & whiplash.

  • neurological conditions such as: headaches, migraines, Parkinson's disease, stroke, post-operative pain, neurogenic bladder dysfunction, facial pain and paralysis including Bell's Palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, shingles, peripheral neuropathies, fibromyalgia & pareses following stroke.

  • respiratory disorders such as: asthma, bronchitis, common cold, sore throat, sinusitis, rhinitis, tonsillitis & smoking cessation.

  • and other conditions such as: addiction disorders including nicotine, cocaine, alcohol, overeating and opiates, blood pressure regulation, poor circulation, edema, eczema, chronic fatigue, tinnitus, post-operative recovery, immune system improvement & athletic enhancement.
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How does acupuncture work from the standpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

Chinese medical theory posits the circulation of a vital life energy or "qi" throughout the body along pathways or channels known as meridians. These meridians are similar but not identical to the nervous and blood circulatory systems. When the flow of this qi is smooth, even and unimpeded, health results on all levels: physically, mentally and emotionally. An imbalance or blockage of this flow leads to all forms of ailments, disease and illness.

The balance of life is conceived of as the interplay between two forces: yin and yang. Yin is the cold, slow and passive principle. Yang is the hot, fast and active principle. Acupuncture aims to restore the free, easy and smooth flow between yin and yang.

The 12 primary meridians and 8 secondary meridians are where most of the acupuncture points are placed. The stimulation, sedation or activation of these acupoints through needling and other techniques strengthens, unblocks and balances the energetic flow of qi. Acupuncture stimulates the qi to flow in the meridians that form an interconnected web throughout the body.

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How does acupuncture work from the standpoint of western medicine?

Preclinical 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 and, 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.

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How old is acupuncture?

Many believe the practice of acupuncture is well over 3,000 years old. The first formal record of acupuncture was compiled between 300 BC and 100 BC. However, that compilation is so extensive and complete it is obvious that acupuncture had already been practiced for a very long time even at that point in time.

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How much is acupuncture used in the United States?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world but only gained public attention in the United States in 1971, when New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in China used needles to ease his pain after surgery. 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 used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

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What is the relationship between acupuncture and conventional medical care?

While acupuncture is concerned with the whole person and addresses itself to many levels of functioning, it is also a particular form of treatment with its own limitations. It needs to be used in conjunction with health-promoting attitudes and behaviors. Our acupuncturist, Curtis Baumgartner, happily works in conjunction with many different healthcare providers including traditional western medical doctors.

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Can acupuncture and TCM be combined with other treatments?

As a general rule, acupuncture compliments other treatments (including chiropractic, massage, detoxification, physical therapy, etc.) It is important that you inform other practitioners, including your primary care physician, that you are receiving acupuncture or taking Chinese herbs. It is also important that you inform your acupuncturist of other treatments you are having or medications you are taking (including herbs, supplements and homeopathic medicines.)

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What is Sports Acupuncture?

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic medical system that is particularly effective for the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, making it an ideal treatment for recreational and professional athletes. Acupuncture releases tension in the muscles and connective tissue so that the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems are able to function more effectively. Numerous sports figures, including Carl Lewis, Kimiko Date, Jim McMahon, Shaquille O'Neal, Misty May, John Salley and Charles Barkley have used acupuncture to enhance training and performance, accelerate healing and manage pain.

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What is Comprehensive Acupuncture?

An acupuncturist has several tools to work with when treating a patient. For example, electro-acupuncture, massage, gua sha (scraping), various cupping techniques, infrared heat, herbal oils or patches. Comprehensive Acupuncture utilizes and combines several of these techniques together to get the most positive result as possible for the patient per treatment. There is an old acupuncture saying that essentially says, "If you move the qi, then you will move the blood. Conversely, if you move the blood, then you will move the qi". Comprehensive Acupuncture combines therapies in order to move qi and blood for maximum results.

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How much will acupuncture cost? Will it be covered by my insurance?

The cost of the initial treatment is $150. Follow-up appointments are generally $80. Many insurance companies & health plans do cover acupuncture and we do accept many kinds of insurance. Just give us a call at (310)360-1199 and we'll look into what your particular coverage is.

Call (310)360-1199 with questions or to request an appointment.


What should I expect during my first visit?

During your first office visit, you will fill out forms that give the acupuncturist information about the factors that are contributing to your health or illness. You will be asked many questions about your health condition, lifestyle, and behavior. A more complete picture of your particular situation and behaviors allows for a more customized treatment and better care. Inform the acupuncturist about all treatments or medications you are taking and all medical conditions you have. The acupuncturist may examine your pulses, your tongue and will usually palpate (press) along the meridians throughout the body or abdomen to look for places of tenderness or other kinds of blockage. To set up your first appointment, call us today at (310)360-1199 or send us an email.

Call (310)360-1199 with questions or to request an appointment.


How long does an acupuncture treatment take?

An initial visit typically lasts for 90 minutes. Each treatment after that lasts for about 60 minutes. We try to stay on time because your time is as valuable as ours.

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How many acupuncture points are used during a treatment?

This is a very difficult question as the acupuncturist will often use different techniques and protocols depending upon many factors. Each treatment is specialized to the particular situation and the uniqueness of the individual patient. A treatment may use anywhere between 2 and 20 points, though 10 is average.

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Where do the needles go?

This depends upon many different factors including the condition being addressed, the techniques being employed and imbalances of the individual patient. Although acupoints are located all over the body the most commonly used points are placed from your elbows to your fingers, from your knees to your toes and many different points on the back.

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Does acupuncture always help?

No healing method is 100% effective. At Optimal Health we experience a high rate of success with our acupuncture patients.

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What type of response can I expect? How quickly can I expect to feel better?

Each person responds differently but many people experience a sense of peace and tranquility that can last for days as their bodies come to a deeper balance. Your response can be immediate or delayed, dramatic or slow and subtle. The only way to tell is to watch for differences. With pain conditions, look for any diminished effect regarding the intensity. With functional disorders, such as constipation or allergies, the desired effect may take a bit more time.

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How many treatments will I need? Can I have too much acupuncture?

In China, acupuncture is often given to patients every day. Here in the United States this is often not practical even though it tends to produce the best results. Remember that problems that have been around for a long time usually take more treatments to resolve than ones that have come about recently. Acupuncture treatments tend to produce a cumulative effect and results continue to build and grow over time. During the initial stages of recovery from an acute or traumatic condition, acupuncture can be recommended up to three times per week. This can be gradually reduced to once a week or once every other week while recovery continues. Many patients come in for a "tune-up" once or twice a month in order to maintain and promote good health.

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I heard that acupuncture only works as a placebo. What if I don't believe in acupuncture?

The idea that acupuncture only works as a placebo is one of the biggest misconceptions about acupuncture. You are not required to believe in acupuncture for it to work. Studies have shown acupuncture to be very effective in treating a number of conditions in humans, as well as animals such as horses, dogs and cats. Animals are incapable of actually "believing" in acupuncture, yet it still works very well for them. Testing for an acupuncture placebo in humans is much more challenging. However, there have been studies conducted at major universities such as the University of Vermont, that have concluded that acupuncture acts as more than just a placebo.

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Is this a cure or just a temporary block?

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are meant to uproot the imbalances that are the foundations of disease. This is why it usually takes a few visits to get the desired results.

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If it works will I always have to continue treatments?

No. As our patients realize results from the treatments, they begin to space out the treatments more and more until maximum results are achieved. If the symptoms do return at a later date, a subsequent treatment may help restore the previous results.

After the obvious condition is addressed, many of our patients choose to receive acupuncture for stress relief, prevention or a monthly "tune-up."

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What does a session involve other than acupuncture?

Our acupuncturist has extensive formal and informal training not only in acupuncture, but in many different branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms of holistic medicine. In that regard, he will often come up with a individualized protocol for handling the particulars of your situation. These protocols may involve: acupuncture in conjunction with electrical stimulation, , cupping techniques, moxibustion, herbal, nutritional and supplemental therapy, gentle and restorative physical exercises, meditation and stress relief techniques, remedial massage or perhaps referral to other alternative practitioners.

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How are practitioners trained in the U.S.?

Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac.) in the state of California receive 2000 - 3000 hours of training exclusively in this field over 3 to 4 years and undergo an extensive clinical internship with hands-on treatment of patients. Our acupuncturist, Curtis Baumgartner, is licensed, Board Certified by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and has been awarded a Diplomate in Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.) Acupuncturists are required to receive continuing education to maintain Board Certification status.

Most medical doctors, osteopaths and chiropractors who use acupuncture as an adjunct to their primary practice are Certified rather than Licensed. Certified acupuncturists need only about 200 hours of training in acupuncture and are not required to take the standard competency exam. Their preparation in Oriental Medical principles and diagnostic procedures is therefore minimal. As a result, they typically limit themselves to using acupuncture for the treatment of pain, whereas Licensed Acupuncturists treat pain along with a broad range of health issues including chronic disease, internal medicine, rehabilitation, and prevention based on Oriental Medical theory.

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What about Chinese herbs?

Herbs are an essential part of Chinese medicine and were an extensive part of training. Often, the Optimal Health practitioners will suggest certain herbal formulas and nutritional supplements to facilitate the results of treatment and promote sustained positive results.

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What happens during an examination and herbal consultation?

In an exam / consultation, the acupuncturist learns your medical history and assesses your face, body, build, shape, abdomen, back, the color and shape of your tongue, and the quality of your pulses. Some acupuncturists test for weakness along the meridians and in the muscles.

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How do the herbs work? Are they safe?

Well, that is a question that volumes and volumes have been written about. But in short, the principles of Chinese medicine regarding yin and yang, excess and deficiency, blockage and flow, qi and blood also apply to Chinese herbalism. There is vast and extensive data about the use of Chinese herbs that has accumulated over thousands of years. These plants have been helping sick people become well for a very long time and their uses and side effects are well-known and well-documented. These plants are commonly prescribed in all hospitals in China in conjunction with western medicine practice.

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Can I take Chinese herbs when I am on medication?

It depends on the medication you are taking. Some medications have many and well-known contraindications. Most of the time there are no such complications. However, this is evaluated on a case by case basis.

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How are herbs different from western medicine?

Chinese herbal formulas tend to be much gentler and safer than western pharmaceuticals. Herbs work to relieve symptoms and uproot the causes of ill health. As the body shifts and adjusts in response to the course of treatment, herbal protocols are modified to stay in tune with the state of the patient. When the body is brought to a deeper state of balance, the herbs will no longer be needed.

Get on the path to your Optimal Health and call (310)360-1199 to schedule an appointment, today!



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