Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do you take insurance?

2. What problems can be treated by acupuncture?

3. Are there different styles of acupuncture?

4. Is acupuncture safe?

5. What are the needles like?

6. What does acupuncture feel like?

7. How many treatments will I need?

8. Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

9. What is the difference between Western folk herbalism and Chinese herbal medicine?

10. Are the herbs all plant materials?

11. How are Chinese herbs taken?

12. Are there side effects to the herbs?

13. Do the herbs come from China and are they safe?

14. Can children and pregnant women take Chinese herbs?

15. Can I take my Western medications at the same time as the Chinese herbs?

16. Can I have acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments while undergoing Western medical treatment?

17. What can I expect during a treatment session?


1. Do you take insurance?

I currently accept medical insurance, as well as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims. I am a preferred provider for many health insurance companies, including Aetna, CIGNA, United HealthCare, Group Health Options, Premera, and Lifewise, as well as dozens of smaller companies. Please call me if you have questions regarding your coverage, or contact your insurance company and ask if I am an in-network provider.

For those patients whose insurance covers “out of network” practitioners, I can bill the company for you, or provide a receipt that you can give to your insurance company for reimbursement. Please contact your insurance for their guidelines.

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2. What problems can be treated by acupuncture?

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture’s effectiveness for over 40 disorders. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders
    • tooth aches
    • ear aches
    • sinusitis
    • rhinitis
    • laryngitis
    • allergies
  • Respiratory Disorders
    • colds and flus
    • bronchitis
    • asthma
    • emphysema
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
    • food allergies
    • nausea
    • indigestion
    • acid reflux
    • diarrhea
    • constipation
    • ulcers
    • colitis
  • Circulatory Disorders
    • hypertension
    • high cholesterol
    • arteriosclerosis
    • angina pectoris
  • Urogenital Disorders
    • cystitis
    • incontinence
    • prostatitis
    • prostatic hypertrophy
    • urinary tract infections
    • sexual dysfunction
    • low libido
  • Gynecological Disorders
    • menstrual irregularities
    • painful menstruation
    • endometriosis
    • PMS
    • infertility
    • menopausal syndrome
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders
    • tennis elbow
    • frozen shoulder
    • TMJ
    • sciatica
    • back pain
    • arthritis
    • carpal tunnel syndrome
    • fibromyalgia
  • Neurological and Psycho emotional Disorders
    • depression
    • anxiety
    • insomnia
    • headaches
    • migraines
    • trigeminal neuralgia
    • intercostal neuralgia
    • post
    • stroke paralysis
    • dizziness
    • tinnitus
  • Addictions
    • alcohol
    • nicotine
    • drugs
  • Dermatological disorders

In addition, acupuncture has been used throughout Asia and the United States to treat hundreds of other problems.

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3. Are there different styles of acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated in China but has spread to Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Europe, and the Americas. In these different countries, different styles have been developed. Some practitioners use one style, and some integrate different styles into one treatment.

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4. Is acupuncture safe?

When acupuncture is performed by a trained and licensed professional, it is an extremely safe form of medicine. All licensed acupuncturists today use individually packaged, sterile, disposable needles. Each needle is used only one time and then discarded.

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5. What are the needles like?

Acupuncture needles are nothing like syringe-style needles. They are super-fine, often as thin as a human hair, and solid. They are sterile and never re-used. There are different sizes of needles for use on different parts of the body.

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6. What does acupuncture feel like?

Acupuncture is virtually painless. In some cases you may not feel the needles. In other cases you might feel a small pinch when the needle is inserted. Once the needle is in, some times you might feel sensations like tingling, warmth, heaviness, or numbness. These feelings are the sensation of qi as it moves in the body, and are completely normal. Most people find acupuncture to be very relaxing, both during and after the treatment. Many people fall asleep during the treatment.

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7. How many treatments will I need?

This depends on the nature of your complaint, as well as its severity and duration. You might need only one treatment for an acute condition. Chronic problems may take a series of treatments to resolve. Some degenerative conditions might require longer term maintenance care. To speed recovery your acupuncturist might treat you a few times a week at first, and then taper off treatments to every other week or once a month. Your acupuncturist may also give you dietary and lifestyle advice, as well as prescribing herbs and exercises if needed.

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8. Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

No, you do not need to believe in acupuncture to benefit from treatment. Acupuncture is effective on infants and animals. In China it is often given to comatose patients. It is natural to feel skeptical at first, but this will not affect the outcome of the treatments.

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9. What is the difference between Western folk herbalism and Chinese herbal medicine?

Western herbalism focuses on symptoms and diseases like headache, sore throat, etc. Chinese herbal medicine is practiced as part of TCM, and is based on an individual’s unique pattern diagnosis, as well as their disease diagnosis. This means that TCM patients receive individualized herbal prescriptions called formulas. These formulas can remain the same through treatment, or they can change with each treatment as the disease changes and resolves. Chinese herbal medicine also focuses on a patient’s underlying constitutional makeup. Western herbalism often uses single herbs or a group of herbs for the same disease. TCM formulas are composed of 4-16 herbs, each added to address a specific symptom as well as to focus on the main disease pattern.

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10. Are the herbs all plant materials?

Although it is called Chinese herbal medicine, TCM practitioners use animal, vegetable, and mineral ingredients. A majority of the substances are from plants and can include leaves, flowers, stems, twigs, barks, roots, tubers, and rhizomes. If you do not want animal products in your formula, your practitioner can substitute plant materials instead.

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11. How are Chinese herbs taken?

Chinese herbs are given in many different forms. Most commonly the herbs are taken as a decoction. This means that whole dried herbs are given to the patient and they boil them with water for a set amount of time. The resulting liquid is drunk much like tea. Another method is to take whole herbs and grind them into a powder which is mixed with boiling water and drunk also like tea. Herbs can also be taken in granular form, which is also a powder, but unlike ground herbs this powder can be dissolved in any liquid and then drunk. There are also pill and tablet herbal formulas. Not all Chinese herbs are taken internally—they can be made into poultices, ointments, oils and lotions—and used externally.

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12. Are there side effects to the herbs?

No, not if the formula has been correctly chosen and written for the patient. Most of the substances in the Chinese herbal pharmacy have very low toxicity, even when compared with over-the-counter Western drugs. When the Chinese herbs are prescribed in accordance with the patient’s TCM diagnosis, there are virtually no side effects. If the patient experiences any discomfort while taking the herbs, they should tell their practitioner, who will modify the formula as needed.

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13. Do the herbs come from China and are they safe?

Most of the herbs are grown in China or Taiwan, and are manufactured in China, Taiwan, and Japan. To ensure safety, the FDA monitors imported herbal products. In addition, the herbs that I prescribe all come through an American distributor who monitors the quality and composition of the products. I use granular herbs that are processed in Japan and Taiwan, and are considered the safest form of herbs. If you would like more information, I can give you details on the growing and manufacturing processes. Not all pharmacies use herbs that are safe, so be sure to know and trust your practitioner or herbal pharmacy.

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14. Can children and pregnant women take Chinese herbs?

Yes, if prescribed by a certified and licensed TCM practitioner. The doses are lower for children. If you are pregnant or become pregnant while being treated with Chinese medicine, it is important to tell your practitioner so they can change your formula to reflect the change in your body.

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15. Can I take my Western medications at the same time as the Chinese herbs?

For the most part you can continue your Western medications while taking Chinese herbs. It is crucial that your practitioner know about all of the medications (prescription and over-the-counter) that you are on, so that they change the herbal prescription if necessary.

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16. Can I have acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments while undergoing Western medical treatment?

Absolutely. TCM treatments can be complimentary to your Western treatments. Chinese medicine is often used to alleviate the side effects of Western medicine, as well as to augment the treatment benefits. Please inform your practitioner of the other treatments that you are undergoing.

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17. What can I expect during a treatment session?

Acupuncture sessions begin with a comprehensive interview and physical examination. During the first visit your practitioner will ask you about your medical history as well as your current health condition. The interview process is shorter during follow up visits and focuses on changes since the previous treatment, as well as feedback about the treatment. The physical exam consists of three main parts. The practitioner will feel your pulse, look at your tongue, and palpate your abdomen. If necessary, the practitioner will also use orthopedic tests to evaluate your muscular-skeletal condition or injury. After a thorough assessment, the acupuncture treatment will begin. Anywhere between 2 and 20 needles are used at a time. The needles are left in for up to 40 minutes, during which time patients relax or nap. During this time the practitioner makes the herbal formula for the patient to take home.

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Andrea Russell, L.Ac.
A Traditional Chinese Acupunture Figure



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