What is the theory behind acupuncture and moxibustion?


The use of acupuncture in managing acute and chronic pain and its use in place of, or in conjunction with, chemical anesthetics in surgery is becoming commonly known in the United States. But the ancient Chinese medical practices of acupuncture and moxibustion have been used for over 4,000 years, not only for pain management but also in the prevention and treatment of a broad range of diseases and for maintenance of general health and enhancement of stamina.

Chinese medicine delineates 14 meridians in the human body, called the conceptual channels, and numerous associated collateral branches. These meridians and their branches constitute a network that interconnects all the tissues and organs of the body. Twelve of the 14 meridians are associated with 12 specific organs, and the meridians can be classified as yin or yang in nature.

A key idea in Chinese medicine is that of qi (pronounced chi). This invisible force manifests in the human body as an energy flow, which circulates to all parts of the body through the meridians and supports the body’s viral activities. According to the theory of Chinese Medicine, the equilibrium of bodily functions is maintained through a balance of yin and yang, two life forces with opposing natures (yang being positive and active, yin being passive and receptive). Any imbalance between these two forces in the human body causes an obstruction of qi flow in the meridians and, whenever the qi flow is interrupted, a pain or illness  results. The chief aim of Chinese Medicine is to restore the balance between yin and yang in the body, thus restoring the smooth flow of qi in the meridians. 

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into acupuncture points in order to manipulate qi. Moxibustion is the use of a burning herb, called moxa, to stimulate acupuncture points.

There are 361 acupuncture points distributed along the 14 meridians and all these points can be used to treat disorders of the related organs. Disorders generated from or associated with a specific meridian have characteristic manifestations. After diagnosing an illness and determining the meridians involved, the doctor selects appropriate acupuncture points to form an acupuncture prescription. Determining the correct combination of points is very important, and manipulation of the needles to achieve the desired effects requires a studied skill.


Is acupuncture painful?


No. The patient usually feels a sensation similar to a mosquito bite when the very fine needle (about as thick as a human hair) is inserted into the skin at rapid speed. Some complex feelings such as soreness, distention or numbness will be generated at the acupuncture point when the needle is manipulated. This indicates that the patient is responding to the treatment.


Are the needles safe to use?


Yes. Acupuncture needles are sterile and disposable.


How does Chinese herbal medicine work?


Of the several thousand Chinese herbs that are classified and described in detail in the Chinese medical literature, about 600 are commonly used clinically. Derived mainly from plants and minerals, Chinese medicinal herbs are classified by their natures (cold, cool, warm and hot) and flavors (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty). Different “natures” and “flavors” corresponds to different physical and chemical features of the herbs. For example, most of the sour herbs contain organic acids and have an astringent effect, while most of the herbs with a cold nature can be used to treat febrile disease (bacterial and viral infections). Different herbs “have a preference for” different meridians. Huang-Qing, Ma-Huang and Sha-Shen, for example, “prefer” to enter the lung meridian and are often used to treat respiratory problems such as asthma and cough.

In Chinese medicine, unlike in Western medicine, herbs are rarely used individually. They are almost always combined in a formula in order to achieve synergistic effects as well as to cancel out any adverse effects of other herbs in the combination. One formula or prescription is usually composed of about 10 different herbs.


What are the side effects of Chinese medicine?


Acupuncture and some other Chinese medicine techniques are relatively natural therapies with minimal side effects. Chinese herbs are usually used in a formula so the potential side effects of one individual herb can be cancelled out by other herbs in the formula. Occasionally, an herbal formula is found to disturb the gastrointestinal tract of initial users but this disturbance can be avoided by taking the herbs after a meal. Patients can generally receive Chinese medicine treatments for a lifetime without worrying about side effects. Nor is there any tolerance or addiction to Chinese medicine.


How many treatments are needed?


For many acute problems, several treatments will improve or cure the illness. For chronic diseases, it will take longer time for the treatment to show effects. Frequency of treatment also varies, depending on the nature and length of the illness, from two treatments per week to one treatment per month. The patient’s general health and individual differences among patients can also affect the length and frequency of treatment. The effects of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are usually long-lasting because Chinese medicine aims at getting beyond the symptoms to the root-cause of an illness and restoring the balance of the body as well as mobilizing the body’s own potential to overcome illness.


What kinds of disorders benefit from Chinese medicine treatments?


Pain syndromes; disorders of the nerves, muscles and joints; many disorders of the internal organs and many gynecological complaints benefit from Chinese medicine. Below is a list of some of the symptoms and illnesses for which Chinese medicine has shown very good results.

Pain Syndromes: head, neck, shoulder, back, limbs, migraine
Nerve/Muscle/joint: paralysis (facial, trunk or limbs), soft tissue injuries, arthritis, Gout, mono- or polyneuritis and neuropathy, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome

Cardiovascular: cholesterol control, hypertension, palpitation

Respiratory: cold, asthma, chronic cough, sinusitis, rhinitis

Gastrointestinal: gastritis, peptic ulcers, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, hepatitis, hepatocirrhosis (early stages)

Endocrine and Gynecological: certain thyroid disorders, diabetes, weight reduction, menstrual disorders, PMS, menopausal symptoms, endometriosis, infertility

Skin: allergic reactions, hives, eczema, shingles

Addictions: alcohol, smoking, drugs

Stress-related and Others: insomnia, dizziness, depression/ anxiety, memory loss, chronic fatigue, impotence and premature ejaculation, excessive sweating/night sweating, eating disorders

Malignancy: synergistic treatments for patients currently receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy

Certain Immunological Disorders

You can refer to the WHO (World Health Organization) list of diseases and conditions for which acupuncture has been shown effects. See here and here.


What kinds of medical insurances are you accepting for acupuncture treatment?

We accept Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Cigna, Aetna, United Health Care, Health New England, Tufts commercial plans, Harvard Pilgrim, Humana, VA insurance, Optum Health, Allways Health, TriWest and no-fault insurance. Please note that these insurance companies offer some insurance plans which cover acupuncture and other plans which do not cover acupuncture. So please contact your insurance plan for acupuncture coverage.

When you contact your plan, ask the following questions: a) if your plan covers acupuncture service and if yes, how many treatments it will cover in one calendar year? b) What illnesses and clinic conditions does the plan cover for acupuncture treatment, such as pain and substance abuse (including cigarette smoking cessation and alcohol cessation), etc.? c) If there is any deduction or co-payment you have to make? d) If the acupuncture treatment needs a pre-authorization from the plan before you can be treated and/or if you need a physician’s referral to get acupuncture service? Your can also provider us your name, birth date and insurance ID number so we  can check the eligibility for you.

For federal employees, their medical insurances usually cover acupuncture.
Many commercial insurance plans also cover acupuncture. Please check your plan directly.

Before you make appointment with us, please send the photos of your insurance card, front side and back side, to 617-959-3764 via texting, so we can check your eligibility and benefit for you also.

More insurances will cover acupuncture and we will update the information periodically.