John Mini's Acupuncture FAQS
Does acupuncture hurt?
This is the most common question people who have never had acupuncture ask. I wish I could give you a straightforward yes or no answer, but it's just not that simple.
The truth is that there are a great variety of sensations you may experience when you're getting acupuncture. These sensations range from feeling a tiny pinprick, to feeling nothing at all, to feeling like your bones are getting crushed into powder right inside your body.
Yet very little, if any, of the sensation that you will experience comes from the physical penetration of the needle. The real feeling comes from the qi.
What most people really want to know is if the acupuncture needle is going to feel like a hypodermic needle. Most of us have had shocking experiences with hypodermic needles in medical situations in the past. We don't want to repeat those experiences, especially voluntarily!
The needles I use are the finest gauge needles manufactured anywhere in the world. They're so thin that some people can't even see them. These extremely thin needles are much thinner than what most other acupuncturists use. It takes a very high level of skill to insert them at all. I like to use these needles because they are flexible, relatively painless and allow for a superior level of sensitivity while I'm working on my patients.
The insertion of acupuncture needles must be performed with microscopic precision. Without this precision, there's simply no way to obtain the sensation of qi accurately. That's the name of the game.
I think there's something much more interesting going on than the sensation of the needle itself. It's the feeling of the qi.
This is the experience of nearly everyone I treat:
- Often times they feel nothing where I'm inserting the needle, but they feel a sensation in a completely different area of the body.
-At other times, they may feel as if their whole body is melting, disappearing, floating or very heavy.
-They may see lights dancing around, smell exotic smells, recall forgotten memories, and all kinds of other things.
This is all part of the amazing world of qi that happens when you get acupuncture. Your healing is an adventure. Why wouldn't it be? The universe is an interesting place. You're a part of it.
Do you use disposable needles?
This is another common question. It's a very important one. You'd be amazed how many people ask it within seconds after I've put in the first needle!
The only valuable time to know the answer to this question is before you get acupuncture. Please ask first!
Yes, I use disposable needles. Each needle I use comes wrapped in its own sterile package. I use it only once. I immediately discard needles after I use them.
There are many medical professionals who still use old methods of sterilization with their tools. I think this is crazy. Why? Because they assume that we already know everything that's out there that can hurt us. Well, we don't. How many diseases were we unaware of 50 years ago that we could have avoided by using better sterilization techniques, or simply by using disposable equipment? Too many.
I assume as a matter of course that we'll discover new disease entities in the future. New illnesses are also evolving in response to our current sterilization techniques. It's happening every day. This is a very serious issue that faces modern medicine today. It's almost impossible to sterilize anymore because diseases have become so resistant. That's why I don't take any chances. I use completely disposable equipment so there will be no chance whatsoever of infection.
How does acupuncture work?
The mechanisms of acupuncture are complex. They defy description when we try to analyze them according to the Western medical model. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Western medicine hasn't been around for that long, and it's based on a different set of suppositions than Chinese medicine is. How could one system translate into the other? They describe different paradigms.
Acupuncture can be described more accurately using the concepts of modern physics, but even these concepts fall short of really describing how acupuncture works in a comprehensive way.
Besides, the world of physics only scales to our individual lives at a very small level. It's unclear if any of these principles could apply to us in a practical way, even if they do present appealing metaphors for what we would like to believe.
I’ve found that the most accurate way to describe the workings of acupuncture come from the ancient Chinese medical classics themselves. These masterpieces of medical insight offer us many profound opportunities to learn about the substance of life.
I've learned after many years of studying indigenous medicines that each system of medicine makes sense in its own world. Each one is complete within the context of its own culture and time.
In my experience, severe distortions and misinterpretations can arise when we try to define one system in terms of another system. This is the direction that research has taken into the field of Chinese medicine. There are many incorrect cultural biases that underlie most of the so-called research into these areas.
One of these assumptions is that if we can "explain" the effects of an indigenous treatment, then we have "proved" that it is "real." This is not the case. Researchers too often assume that their own viewpoint is rooted in a superior and therefore true position. This is also often not the case.
The problem is that we never know what our assumptions are until we go beyond them.
I wish researchers were more scientific. It would be great if they could let go of what they think they know. Then they could simply observe what they're experiencing. They could accept the system they're studying under it's own terms and laws. Then they would learn a lot more. They would be true scientists.
The approach that I've just described has been the method I've used, to the best of my abilities, in my studies over the years. I believe this attitude has helped me to learn many things. Those things go completely unnoticed to someone who approaches indigenous medicine systems without a basis of respect, humility, innocence and openness.
What can you expect when you get acupuncture?
When you come to my office for an appointment, first we'll discuss what's going on with you right now. Then we'll go over your medical history and what is current in your life.
Then I'll perform a number of traditional diagnostic tests. This can include looking at your tongue and taking your pulses. All this information allows me to determine your diagnosis and treatment. Then I will most likely administer to you acupuncture, medical qi gong or both.
You may have any of a number of interesting sensations and experiences during your acupuncture session. These may include:
- unusual electrical sensations running all over your body
- feeling like you're floating in the air
- emotional insights
- seeing colors and/or vivid visions
- Many people fall into a profoundly restful sleep by the time I've inserted one or two needles. This sleep is often characterized by extraordinary dreams that spontaneously answer many of their significant life questions.
By the time your session is through, your qi will have shifted into flowing in a new pattern. This new flow is more reflective of a healthy you.
Most people leave my office with their condition improved.
Each person has his or her own ways of healing. Most healing takes place in spiraling waves of progress, partial regressions and further waves of progress. This is the Yin and Yang of medicine and healing.
Often, but not always, I'll send you home with a Chinese herbal formula either to cook or in a convenient powdered form. Your formula will help to stabilize and reinforce the beneficial effects of your acupuncture treatment.
Why would you choose acupuncture over some other kind of treatment or therapy?
I've found that acupuncture is a perfect complement to Western medical treatments. This is because acupuncture addresses many problems that Western medicine has few, if any, solutions for.
If other therapies haven't worked for you, there is a very good chance that acupuncture will.
I think it's also important to emphasize that acupuncture is very safe. You have nothing to lose from trying it. Because of its safety and effectiveness, I believe acupuncture is a superior choice of treatment for most ailments.
Acupuncture addresses illness at a very different level than most other forms of medicine. I've come to know acupuncture as a kind of rehabilitative therapy. It teaches your body how to make and keep itself well.
What kinds of problems can you treat using acupuncture?
The World Health Organization recommends using acupuncture to treat ear, nose and throat disorders, respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, eye disorders, nervous system and muscular disorders.
I would add that in my experience acupuncture is very effective for treating chronic illness, reproductive disorders (especially infertility), all kinds of pain and allergies.
I have also found that my treatments are very successful in helping people who have illnesses that nobody else has been able to diagnose, treat or help.
How many treatments will it take?
Without knowing you personally, there's no way to make a statement regarding how many sessions it will take for you to get well. After I've worked with you one or two times I can get a better idea of how long it may take for you to heal. This estimate assumes that your healing will take a natural and uninterrupted progression.
I want to emphasize that I'm not one of those alternative health care practitioners who tries to get you on some kind of wacky long-term program. I won't shuck you into coming in many times per week or push you to buy lots of supplements. My goal is to bring you back to health as quickly, completely and economically as possible so you can get on with your life.
Can acupuncture help with allergies?
Yes. I've found that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very helpful in treating all varieties of allergies. This is very useful in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most allergen-plagued regions of the Earth.
Allergies occur for many different reasons. It's critical to treat the root of an allergy and not just the symptoms that happen when an allergic attack is happening.
In my experience I've found that if you're allergic to something now it does not mean you will be allergic to it in the future. This is especially true if you treat the root cause properly.
Can acupuncture help with infertility issues?
Yes. Because of the high demand for solutions to infertility in our society, I have developed this area as a specialty.
I didn't originally intend to specialize in this subject. But great numbers of people who face infertility issues today are searching far and wide for solutions. Some of them come to me for treatment because nothing else has worked for them, or because they're blown away by the titanic costs of Western infertility treatments.
I'm happy to say that I've worked with these people to produce some very fine "Acupuncture Babies." Many of them are now old enough to come in for treatments themselves.
The ancient Taoists developed Chinese medicine to promote longevity and happiness. They achieved the foundation of this practice through learning how to cultivate sexual energy and potency. We can still benefit from their wise science today.
Can I help you stop smoking or other addictions?
Technically, the answer is yes. However on a practical level, the answer is no.
I've treated many people to help them quit smoking and stop other addictions. Some people even consider me to be the world authority in treating the short and long-term side effects of marijuana. But my current stance on addictions is that I will only treat people for addictions who I'm already working with for other reasons.
Acupuncture is very effective at treating addictions. Some acupuncturists specialize in this area. Out of personal preference, I do not specialize in treating addictions. You'll be better served by going to someone who does.
Can I treat your children?
Yes. I treat many children. However, I never give them acupuncture unless they specifically ask for it. In my experience, it's a rare child who asks to get stuck with needles. But it does happen.
Why don't I give children acupuncture? Often they don't need it. Their little systems are delicate. They're also very flexible. All you need to do show them the right direction to go toward health and they usually get better without a fuss.
Instead of giving children acupuncture, I do medical qi gong with them. I also use a number of other tools that I've found to be very effective and fun for kids to work with.
Medical qi gong can take a number of forms. Often I work with kids directly using my own qi. I also teach them to do exercises on their own.
I also train you as their parent how to work on your child and what to watch for as they progress.
We all have a lot of fun when kids come in. The main issue soon becomes how can we get the kids to leave when the session is over!
Can you use insurance to pay for your treatments?
Not directly. Most insurance plans say they cover acupuncture. What I've found is that they usually do whatever they can to avoid or delay payment for as long as possible. Working with these companies is by design time consuming and non-productive for a medical practitioner.
Insurance companies are much more courteous and helpful to their plan members than they are to practitioners. They often pay exactly as they're supposed to when the plan member presents documentation. So what I do is have you pay me, then I give you a super-bill that you can then present to your insurance company for reimbursement. This keeps the relationship I will have with you free from the horrors of insurance companies and focused instead where it should be; on healing.
Can I treat chronic pain and especially headaches?
My experience is that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective for treating all kinds of pain.
Contrary to popular belief, acupuncture does not treat pain by creating numbness. This is most dramatically illustrated in those patients who come to me complaining of numbness. When I treat them, their sense of feeling returns. Does numbness plus numbness equal no numbness? No way.
It's paradoxical that although acupuncture is so effective at treating pain, I don't treat pain directly. I treat the underlying cause. The pain then goes away automatically. Often, but not always, this effect is immediate. My patients routinely leave feeling much better than when they arrived.
John Mini, M.S.C.M./ L.Ac.