Here are some things to consider before deciding if acupuncture is the right treatment for you.

Acupuncture works by stimulating physiological and peripheral responses via the nervous system. It may also stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The pain relieving (or analgesic) effects can be explained by the release of opoid peptides. Other effects include changes in secretion of neurotransmitters, neurohormones, blood flow and immune functions.

Josh Paynter L.Ac., of Hudson, New York, discussed the details of his profession with APN.

APN: What conditions is acupuncture ideal for?

Paynter: People come to us for all kinds of things [including pain], endocrinological, fertility, digestive and emotional/psychological issues. Acupuncture has vast utilization. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) is actually compiling a list of conditions acupuncture is scientifically proven to effectively treat. This list will be made available to insurance companies and hospitals.

APN: Is there anyone who should not have acupuncture?

Paynter: The only people truly at risk are those with bleeding disorders. It can be safely practiced on the elderly, the dying and young children. An issue in all types of medicine is the honesty of the medical professional in deciding whether they can actually help the patient. It is unethical, for example, to treat someone for cancer solely with acupuncture. But using acupuncture in addition to chemo is a different story.

APN: Is acupuncture safe/sanitary?

Paynter: Yes. We use sterile, disposable needles. We undergo specific training and take the proper precautions. Acupuncture is governed by the same procedure as administering shots.

APN: In your experience, how do other medical professionals view your work as an acupuncturist?

Paynter: I feel highly accepted by other medical professionals. I’ve taught at a med school and worked at three hospitals. I don’t know if that’s how everyone feels, but for me it has been a very integrated experience. It is often an issue of payment [at hospitals], not whether they want us there. I know some doctors are resistant, but even if someone is studying another type of medicine there are always classes on acupuncture and Chinese medicine available.

APN: Is acupuncture covered by insurance. How much does it cost?

Paynter: It is covered by some insurance companies, more and more as time goes on. The problem is they don’t know the going rate. For out of pocket cost, I charge $80 a session but know of some that charge as low as $40 or as high as $300-$500 (in the city). It depends on who you’re seeing. I feel like there is a reasonable, fair price, but there is such a huge range that I couldn’t tell you what it is.

APN: Is acupuncture painful?

Paynter: It can be. The pain is not from injury but from the sensation. It is still a needle, so it will feel like a needle. You may not feel pain per se, but you will feel something and it can be uncomfortable.

APN: What are some of your new patients’ biggest concerns about acupuncture?

Paynter: Needle phobia is the big one. They are worried about what it feels like. Most people that come in already know a lot about it. Twenty years ago it was hard to find someone who had acupuncture, but now it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t. The mystery is no longer there. It is not a “witch doctor” scenario. They come in expecting professionalism.

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