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Don F Gates
Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
   

Grand Acupuncture Center
3931 Grand Ave, 2nd Floor
Oakland  CA 94610
510-428-9430

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What is acupuncture? Does it hurt?
Acupuncture consists of the insertion of hair-thin, sterile, disposable needles through the skin in points along the body's meridians. Acupuncture needles are solid (as opposed to the hollow-bore needles used for injections), made of stainless steel, and extremely flexible. Their tiny diameter and pine-needle shape allow them to be inserted quickly and painlessly just a few millimeters (deeper in fleshier areas). The needles can then be stimulated manually or by the application of heat or electrical impulses to further activate a person's Qi.

What can acupuncture treat?
A better question might be "What can't acupuncture treat?" TCM treatment focuses on the well being of the entire person, not simply on the physical complaints and symptoms, and as such can be used either as a primary or a complementary treatment for virtually any medical condition known. A main difference between the treatment approaches of TCM and western (allopathic) medicine is that the TCM practitioner views disease as stemming from an imbalance affecting the whole of the body rather than a separate, distinct pathogen to be cut out, irradiated, or bombarded with chemicals that oftentimes carry serious side effects. This "holistic" approach allows the TCM practitioner to treat both the "branch" (the physical manifestations of the disease) while also addressing "root" of the disorder (the imbalance that gave rise to the disease in the first place), simultaneously working to treat the disease and prevent its recurrence.

Among the disorders we commonly treat are colds and flus, headaches and migraines, anxiety and depression, PMS and menstrual disorders, digestive disturbances, urinary difficulty, fertility problems, immune disorders, and all sorts of bodily aches and pains, including carpal-tunnel syndrome, stiff neck, chronic and acute back pain, arthritis and joint problems, sciatica, muscle strain, sprained ankle, and so on.

The Western Take on Acupuncture
The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a list of thirty-plus conditions that lend themselves to treatment by acupuncture. Likewise, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has touted the "efficacy of acupuncture in (treating) adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in post-operative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma for which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful."

Do I need to be sick to try acupuncture?
Far from it. In fact, the Chinese have an ancient proverb that states "Treating an illness once symptoms arise is like digging a well when you're thirsty." The beauty of TCM is that its fundamental goal is to bring the body back to a state of balance—homeostasis—and who among us wouldn't benefit from a rebalancing?

It's a widely recognized fact that stress is the root cause of many, if not most, of our illnesses, and acupuncture is a wonderful tool to combat stress. Many of my patients come in for weekly or monthly "tune-ups" even when they're not feeling particularly out of sorts. Combined with a moderate lifestyle, a wholesome diet, regular exercise, and a positive outlook, TCM treatments can help keep you healthy, hardy, and spry despite the chaotic influences of the modern world.

How long will my treatment take?
It varies with each patient. Many acute conditions, such as catching a cold or spraining an ankle, tend to respond well and quickly to prompt treatment, while chronic or longer-term disorders (PMS, depression, eczema) may take longer to resolve. Over the course of treatment, however, you should see an overall improvement in your health while your chief complaint is addressed.

Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is extremely safe. Serious side effects are very rare—less than one incident per 10,000 treatments. The most common side effect of acupuncture, which itself is not terribly common, is minor bruising at the insertion site. And we can treat that too.

To minimize the risk of infection, only sterile, single-use needles are used in our clinic.

Is there anything else a practitioner needs to know?
Apart from the usual medical details, it is important that you tell me:

  • If you are pregnant or become pregnant over the course of your treatment;
  • if you have ever experienced a seizure or have fainted;
  • if you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implant;
  • if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking anticoagulants;
  • if you have damaged heart valves or any other particular risk of infection.