Needles are GOOD for you? The Inside Scoop on My Acupuncture Experience


copyright Michelle Graves
photo credit Michelle Graves

I come from a family of Doctors. My dad is a doctor. His brothers are doctors. My grandfather was a doctor. His father was a doctor. His fathers father was a doctor. My mother was a nurse. Her sister is a nurse. My mothers father was a doctor. My little brother is in medical school to become a doctor. The list continues on… they are all inspiring and passionate about helping others through Western Medicine. 

I grew up a Kaiser kid (thank you dad!) and was lucky to have good health. Regular check-ins, shots, and appointments, I feel blessed to have had the resources to be and stay healthy. After moving to San Francisco,  I was the age where I was no longer under my parents benefits and to pay for my own healthcare (tear). With so many health options I began to explore the Eastern side of things.  Chinese medicine, acupuncture needles, and strange-smelling herbs are completely unlike the medicine that I grew up experiencing.  But I was curious to try it and see for myself if it really did live up to it’s reputation as being “life changing”.

I started acupuncture treatments hoping for help with hormone balance, a nagging yoga hamstring injury, relaxation, and general wellbeing. Through the process I developed an incredibly beneficial and nurturing relationship with my acupuncturist, Michelle Graves. She always has my best interest at heart when treating me and over the course of our work together, she’s provided me various resources and made recommendations for teas, books, supplements, and a myriad of natural health related products, some of which I’ve adopted into my daily routine. I have found acupuncture to offer a more holistic and preventative perspective to health care. It’s medicine and lifestyle treatment that really does have powerful, potent results. 

Photo Credit InTouchSF
Photo Credit InTouchSF

Are you curious about acupuncture? You’re not the only one. If you’re one of the many people who are considering trying acupuncture, here are a few things you should know:

Acupuncture 101. 

What is acupuncture? Acupuncture is a medical therapy developed over 2000 years ago in Asia. Acupuncture stimulates specific points beneath the skin by the insertion of acupuncture needles. This process restores the balance of the body’s energy, also knows as “Qi” (pronounced chi). Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Moxibustion are some of the essential elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

How does acupuncture work?  This is a simple question with a VERY complicated answer.  The ‘Chinese medicine’ view of acupuncture is that the body is comprised of meridians, or energy channels, that run all over your body.  Each meridian impacts different organs and body parts.  The lung meridian, for example, runs down your arms and has a divergent channel that goes to the lungs.  The acupuncturist uses very thin needles to manipulate points along the meridian; one of the goals of these manipulations is to remove blocked energy, or qi, and promote healing.  Think of the meridian as a garden hose that waters a flowerbed.  If there’s a kink, the hose won’t be able to water the flower.  The ‘Western medicine’ view of acupuncture is that the needles increase blood circulation, activate the release of certain hormones, neurotransmitters and produces an immune response to speed healing.

Photo credit InTouchSF
Photo credit InTouchSF

Does it Hurt? NO. Most people who have never had acupuncture do not realize how thin acupuncture needles are. They do not bear any resemblance to needles that are used for injections or to draw blood. Acupuncture needles come in varying lengths and thinnesses, and some are as fine as a hair. They bend when you touch them. (Click here to see an acupuncture needle up close.) When needles are inserted into acupuncture points, they often produce a feeling of heaviness, like a dull ache. This is an unfamiliar sensation for most people who have never had acupuncture before, but it does not hurt. If you have a fear of needles, let your acupuncturist know. Most acupuncturists stock several needle sizes and will be more than happy to use the thinnest variety at your request.

Is it safe? Acupuncture therapy has been used for thousands of years in China. Acupuncture is the treatment of choice for one-fourth of the world’s population! The needles are FDA approved, individually packaged, pre-sterilized and disposed after a single use.

What can acupuncture treat and how often do you need treatments?  A well-trained acupuncturist (see below) can help almost any condition.  Acupuncture can relieve pain conditions, headaches, digestive issues, fertility problems, insomnia, and more.  More acute conditions (like a pulled muscle) might only need a few treatments, but more serious conditions might require one – two treatments a week for several months, plus maintenance treatments.   Because acupuncture is natural medicine, it takes longer.  If you can couple your acupuncture treatments with an effective herbal formula or supplement regimen, it will be much faster. For example, I got great relief from my overstretched yoga hamstring injury from bi-weekly treatments over 6 months that targeted ligament healing. 

How much will it cost me? Typical acupuncture appointments run from $60-120 per session. But now that it’s become such a widespread treatment for many health issues, some insurance companies are now covering some or all acupuncture. Check with your health insurance to see if they cover acupuncture. If not, check out community acupuncture clinics. Community acupuncture is a nationwide movement to create access to acupuncture by removing the barrier of cost from healing. It is practiced in a group, rather than one-on-one, setting. The treatments are primarily on the front of the body and mainly on distal points (legs, arms, hands, feet, ears, etc.). Community-style clinics run on a sliding scale in order to make them more affordable, and so that people can get the amount of treatment they need. Typical prices for community acupuncture range from $10-25 per treatment. 

Treatment Room at Michelle Graves Acupuncture practice in San Francisco

How do you choose an acupuncturist?  The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and a website called AcuFinder are amazing resources to find your perfect practitioner. You want to find a practitioner that is both state AND nationally board certified under NCCAOM.  It’s essential you do your due diligence to find a credible provider. I think the best way really is word of mouth. I went through several acupuncturists before finding my perfect fit with Michelle. Im SO grateful for her and am a patient for life now 🙂

Now that I know more about Chinese medicine and have seen it successfully work with me and my friends, I’m a huge fan.  It’s a gentle, holistic, and effective approach to healthcare.  And that’s not saying there’s something wrong with Western medicine – I think the best healthcare includes BOTH holistic and Western treatments.  Theres a time and a place for everything, and Id like to continue to work with both my doctor and my acupuncturist in living a healthy, happy life.  

Have you tried acupuncture or another holistic medicine treatment?  Leave your comments below. And if you are in San Francisco, check out the following talented Acupuncturist providers for the highest quality care:

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Yours in health,


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