Frequently Asked Questions

What follows are some of the questions we hear asked most frequently about traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). If you have a question that has not been answered here, please feel free to contact us here at the clinic.


Q: What is Chinese medicine and acupuncture?

A: With a history of more than 5,000 years, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the oldest documented medical system in the world. Taken at its most basic level, the Chinese theorize that the body has an energy force running throughout it, energy they call “Qi” (roughly pronounced “Chee”). The Qi consists of all essential life activities, which include the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of life. A person’s health is influenced by the balance and flow of Qi in the body, and a TCM doctor will look at how that Qi is “working.” If the flow of Qi is insufficient, unbalanced, or interrupted, the body becomes unbalanced, and illness may occur. TCM can restore the balance.

Q: What conditions can you treat?

A: Traditional Chinese medicine has been used as primary care in China for thousands of years, on countless millions of people, to treat anything and everything that a clinician might see That said, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has determined that acupuncture is effective in treating over 40 different disease categories. The World Health Organization has created its own list as well, which may be explored by clicking here.

If you have further questions about a condition for which you would like to try Chinese medicine, please contact us here at the clinic.

Q: What techniques do you use?

A: At Lamorinda Healing Arts, we use several traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) modalities, often in combination, to achieve your health objectives. The most common of these may include:

-Acupuncture. Hair-thin, disposable, single-use, sterile needles are inserted on points along specific lines of energy flow called “meridians” or “channels.” For thousands of years, the Chinese have used acupuncture to stimulate or reduce the energy (or “Qi”) of these points in order to bring a person back to healthy equilibrium.

-Herbal Medicine & Topical Liniments. Herbal medicine is one of the major pillars of TCM. The Chinese established a comprehensive materia medica of herbal medicine over 2,000 years ago, delineating thousands of herbs, their preparation, combinations, and appropriate application. Chinese herbs and formulas work from the blood level, and as such may be ingested or applied topically. Herbs rarely cause any unwanted side-effects, and may be used to enhance a treatment by reducing pain, inflammation, improving immunity, reducing symptoms, and addressing the root cause of an issue directly. Herb-drug interactions are rare and herbal medications used at our clinic come from reputable, known sources.

-Dietary Therapy. You really are what you eat, and Chinese medicine takes food very seriously, having categorized most foods into classes of temperature, taste, and effect, such as warming, cooling, moving, stagnating, bitter, sweet, etc. The balance of food energies and tastes reflect the same philosophy and attention to detail paid to the energies of the body and herbal medicines. As such, particular dietary combinations and prohibitions may be matched to your diagnosis based on each food’s unique qualities.

-Moxibustion. This form of heat therapy comfortably warms the points and channels. Moxibustion is used for a large number of issues and is especially effective for pain conditions that worsen with cold, such as arthritis. It most often involves use of a dried herb called Artemisia Vulgaris (Ai Ye in Mandarin). The heat enters the channels and influences the flow of Qi and blood.

-Cupping. Cupping involves the use of small glass or plastic cups placed over specific points of the body. The air is sucked out of the cups, and the technique stimulates circulation within the superficial muscle layers, encouraging the release of local pain or toxins. Cups are generally left in place anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour, and the suction effect may leave a harmless red mark on the skin for several days.

-Chinese Massage / Tui Na. Tui Na uses a variety of massage techniques to encourage the healthy flow of Qi and blood. In China, medical doctors treat all kinds of orthopedic issues with Tui Na, helping to relieve muscle pain, inflammation, and reducing the time an injury may take to heal.

Q: How do modern medicine and Chinese medicine compare?

A: Where western medicine zeroes in on a specific agent causing a disease in isolation from the rest of the body and its functions (and often treats mostly the symptoms), Chinese medicine aims to treat disease from a holistic or “whole person” perspective, treating each symptom at its root, and looking for a “pattern of disharmony” in the body. A person’s diet, lifestyle, work, family relationships, emotions, internal and external environment all affect one’s health and sense of well-being. Chinese medicine seeks to understand how the energy dynamics of each person lead to health or disharmony.

Q: What if I’m afraid of needles?

A: Though a lot of people are afraid of needles, acupuncture needles are different and should not be feared. Where Western medical procedures use relatively large, hollow needles, acupuncturists use extremely fine, filiform (non-hollow) needles that are inserted without pain. You are far more likely to experience a tickling or “electrical” sensation in the treatment area than a conventional western needle “prick.” Further, all needles are sterile, disposable (used only once), and completely safe.

Q: What disorders can Chinese medicine treat?

A: Being the oldest and most widely used medical system in history has allowed Chinese medicine a very wide scope of treatments for a very wide variety of ailments. In America today, the most common ailments currently being treated include: orthopedic conditions of all kinds; headaches; allergic reactions; pain relief; issues related to women’s health; recovery from stroke and paraplegia; strengthening the body during and after long-term illnesses and traumas; issues related to sleep; and much more. There have been clinical trials in the U.S. in the use of acupuncture in treating anxiety disorders and depression. Likewise, very high success rates have been found in treatment of addiction to various substances and behaviors.

Q: What happens during a treatment?

A: During a typical first visit, a practitioner will take a detailed health history, fully investigate your chief complaint(s), and perform acupuncture. All of this may take up to an hour and a half, and is necessary to create an individualized treatment plan that takes into account your physical, emotional, and nutritional condition, while focusing on your main concerns. You will be given different treatment options depending upon your specific condition (such as massage, use of topical or internal herbal medicines, and different acupuncture techniques). Once acupuncture points have been stimulated, you will simply relax for anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Most people who have experienced acupuncture love it, and find that treatments are a welcome opportunity to relax for a while.

Q: How should I prepare for treatment and what should I expect?

A: To prepare for treatment, please be sure you have eaten something within the hour or two before your appointment time. Abstain for vigorous physical exercise, drugs, and alcohol on the day of treatment, and be sure to wear comfortable clothing. If you are coming in to have a specific area treated, such as your shoulder or hip, be sure to wear clothing that allows access to those areas. For internal medical issues, such as digestive or gynecological concerns, most points require access below the elbows and knees only.

Q: What is a normal course of treatment?

A: The number of treatments needed depends upon the nature of the disorder and how long the patient has had the condition. A good practitioner should be able to determine the course of treatment at the first appointment.

Q: What kind of training do you need in order to practice?

A: California-licensed acupuncturists have some of the most rigorous standards of licensure in the United States. Whereas most states license acupuncture and Chinese medicine through a national accreditation board, California acupuncturists are licensed by a division of the California Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Medical Quality Assurance. In order to sit for the board exam, the minimum state board training requirements are the completion of a four-year post-bachelor’s degree including a pre-med education which includes anatomy, physiology, and classes in the hard sciences. 3000 plus hours of classroom instruction at a state-accredited school and 1200+ hours of clinical residency make up the coursework. Within this degree are studies in internal medicine, pathology, and pharmacology. Once licensed, California acupuncturists are required to complete 50 hours of continuing education every two years.

Q: How much does it cost, and how do I pay for it?

A: At Lamorinda Healing Arts, our fee varies depends on practitioners. We charge $150 – $225 for your first visit, and $100 per treatment thereafter, and may charge an additional fee to cover additional naturopathic consults or any herbal medicine/supplements you may require. Acupuncture is already a permanent part of the Worker’s Compensation system in California, and most insurance companies will cover a certain amount of treatment. If you would like to try acupuncture and are not sure if you are covered, call the customer service number on your insurance card to find out. If you are covered, be sure to ask your insurance company what the maximum number of treatments are per year, how much (percentage or total) per treatment they will cover, and whether or not you have a deductible or co-payment. While we do not bill insurance directly, we will be happy to provide your insurance company with whatever documentation they may require in order to reimburse you for your treatments.


Most Common Conditions

  • 78% Various Pain & Orthopedic

  • 61% Gastrointestinal

  • 59% Genitourinary & Gynecological 

  • 46% Emotional & Psychological 

  • 39% Ear, Nose, & Throat, Allergies 

  • 35% Immune & Autoimmune

  • 32% Other


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