Dr. Lana Farson, D.A.C.M., M.S., L.Ac., Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine


What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a traditional Asian medical technique developed to balance energy in the body. The stimulation of acupuncture points encourages a healthy redistribution of energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”). The unrestricted and balanced flow of Qi brings health to the body, mind and spirit. Any blockage or lack of Qi, starves the body of nourishment and energy, resulting in pain and illness. Acupuncture treats such imbalances by the insertion of extremely thin, sterile and solid needles at certain energy points along pathways in the body. These pathways, also called meridians or channels, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues and organs.


A Western explanation of Acupuncture
One scientific theory says acupuncture stimulates the hypothalamus, the message center of the brain, to release the body’s natural chemicals to aid in the treatment of disease. These chemicals trigger the release of hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating systems, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. For example, in the case of pain, acupuncture can release endorphins to block messages of pain from the brain.


Does Acupuncture Work?
Yes, it does! An increasing number of Western doctors and scientists agree that acupuncture works. The World Health Organization formally proclaimed that acupuncture is an effective medical treatment. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorsed acupuncture, stating: “There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.” Acupuncture has been around for over 3000 years and its longevity is testament to the fact that it works.


There are many ways that Acupuncturists diagnose problems in the body. Often we get information by asking questions, feeling the many pulse positions on the wrist, looking at the tongue, and palpating along channels of the body. Feel free to inquire about your particular diagnosis and treatment plan. Please keep in mind that a complete understanding of Eastern Medicine requires many years of study and practice, which can be difficult to explain during the relatively short time span of a typical appointment. If you seek more information, I’m glad to recommend some excellent books on the subject:

Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold
The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuk, OMD
Healing With Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford




A Sampling of Treatments

Moxibustion, a type of Asian incense, is a warming technique that comes from burning mugwort, a dried medicinal herb. The slow-burning of the herb releases aromatic essential oils that penetrate the skin to increase circulation and warm the body. Moxibustion can be done in many different ways. One popular way to do this technique is pictured here and uses a moxa stick. The herb is compressed and rolled into what looks like a cigar, then the moxa stick is burned close to the skin. The warmth wafts over certain channels in the body to bring about balance and healing.


Medicine Cups
The application of medicine cups, or cupping, is a technique that treats problems of the body by using suction on the skin surface. A vacuum is created in small glass cups to pull inner congestion from the body out to the surface. The cups can be placed on the muscles of one area or can be moved around with the help of a soothing oil, across different muscle groups. When effective, the skin will appear red after the cup is removed. This technique is great for muscular pains and aches. Stubborn pain can be treated more effectively by combining cupping with other techniques like acupuncture, moxa, gua sha, or plum-blossom hammer. Cupping is also commonly used to treat lung issues.


'Gua Sha' Rubbing
‘Gua Sha’ is an Asian technique of rubbing the skin to promote the flow of energy (Qi) and increase blood circulation. ‘Gua Sha’ treats muscle tension, pain and blockages in the organs. ‘Gua’ means “to rub” or “to scrape”, which is done on the skin with a tool to stimulate the epidermis and the underlying tissues. ‘Sha’ means “sand”, and refers to the red dots that can surface during the gua sha rubbing. If red “sha” appears, it means there is stagnation in the area that is blocking the correct flow of energy. The red marks indicate the body is now bringing blood flow to the area, leading to more balance and health. The red skin does not hurt and the marks go away within a day or two.


Seeds and Magnets
A special type of round seed and tiny magnetic balls can be used to stimulate certain acu-points on the body. These seeds and magnets can be taped to the body, which you can press to stimulate the healing affects of that particular point. In this way, needles are not needed and the points can be stimulated daily to continue the treatments after you’ve left your appointment. This technique is often used on the ear.



Before and After Treatment

Have a little food in your stomach when you arrive for treatment.
It’s best not to receive acupuncture on an empty stomach. However, do not eat a heavy meal before or after the session. Also, refrain from using drugs or alcohol for at least several hours before a treatment.

When you brush your teeth, please do not brush your tongue.
The color and texture of the tongue coating are important diagnostic clues in Oriental Medicine. Inspecting the tongue is an ancient version of looking at a CAT scan, since it is a map of the internal state of the organs in the body. Please avoid brushing your tongue for 24-48 hours before a visit. If you habitually brush your tongue due to bad breath, this should be discussed as it may be a sign of stomach imbalance, which can be treated through herbs and acupuncture.

Relax before and after treatment.
To maximize the treatment effect, avoid vigorous exercise for several hours before and after treatment. In order to avoid not depleting oneself, do not take a hot shower, bath or jacuzzi, or engage in sexual activity for an hour before or after treatment

In the hours after a treatment…
…your body is still going through a physiological rebalancing process. Some patients feel a sense of euphoria after receiving acupuncture. If you feel a little “spacy”, sit quietly for a few minutes until you feel normal. Sipping some warm water or tea may help.


Got More Questions? You may find the answers in the Frequently Asked Questions.