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acupuncture and shonshin

Information from National Institutes of Health:

Below are a few frequently asked questions about Acupuncture and Shonishin.


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world. Originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture began to become better known in the United States in 1971, when New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in China used needles to ease his pain after surgery. The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.


How widely is acupuncture used in the United States?

In the past two decades, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States. The report from a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 stated that acupuncture is being “widely” practiced–by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners–for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

What does acupuncture feel like?

Acupuncture needles are metallic, solid, and hair-thin. People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel no or minimal pain when the needles are inserted. Some people are energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed. Improper needle placement, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness and pain during treatment. This is why it is important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner.

Is acupuncture safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only. Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA in light of the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used. Still, complications have resulted from inadequate sterilization of needles and from improper delivery of treatments. Practitioners should use a new set of disposable needles taken from a sealed package for each patient and should swab treatment sites with alcohol or another disinfectant before inserting needles. When not delivered properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections and punctured organs.


Does acupuncture work?

According to the National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement on Acupuncture, there have been many studies on acupuncture’s potential usefulness, but results have been mixed because of complexities with study design and size, as well as difficulties with choosing and using placebos or sham acupuncture. However, promising results have emerged, showing efficacy of acupuncture, for example, in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative 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–in which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. An NCCAM-funded study recently showed that acupuncture provides pain relief, improves function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee, and serves as an effective complement to standard care. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful. Editorial comments by Dr. Pakhi Chaudhuri: A few additions to the above list: acute/chronic injuries, gastrointestinal issues including constipation, encopresis, urinary issues including enuresis, menstrual irregularities, trigeminal neuralgia (not a pediatric issue).

How might acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is one of the key components of the system of traditional Chinese medicine. A whole medical system that originated in China. It is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of qi and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang. Practices such as herbs, meditation, massage, and acupuncture seek to aid healing by restoring the yin-yang balance and the flow of qi. (Traditional Chinese Medicine). It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians and that there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body that connect with them.

Preclinical studies have documented acupuncture’s effects, but they have not been able to fully explain how acupuncture works within the framework of the Western system of medicine that is commonly practiced in the United States. It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing bio chemical’s such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and, thus, affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person’s blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.


What is Shonishin?

Shonishin is a Japanese form of “acupuncture” (though there is no puncturing of the skin) that is specifically designed for the treatment of infants and young children. Shonishin involves the use of light touch diagnosis and non-insertive therapy. Shonishin utilizes small instruments that are rubbed over the meridians or used to stimulate specific acupuncture points. It can be used in older children and adults if they would prefer to not use inserted needles

Will insurance companies cover acupuncture and Shonishin?

There is no insurance company that will cover Shonishin and because of this it will be offered on a sliding scale, ranging from $5 to $45 that you will be asked to pay at the time of service.

A few insurance companies will not cover acupuncture at all, but many state that they will cover it under certain circumstances based on the diagnosis and the patient’s plan. This will have to be figured out on a case by case basis. If you are interested in utilizing acupuncture for your child (when it is determined to be an appropriate therapeutic modality), we will request that you research whether acupuncture will be covered under your plan and if there are any restrictions prior to the visit or during the visit. We are happy to provide you with diagnosis codes and acupuncture codes so that you can investigate this. If your insurance company does cover part or all of the cost for acupuncture you will be required to pay a copay at that visit. If your insurance does not cover acupuncture at all you will be required to pay a same day amount at the visit.