What is TCM?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a system of healing developed in China more than two thousand years ago.  TCM incorporates different healing therapies including: acupuncture, tui na massage, qi gong exercises, diet therapy, moxibustion, cupping, Gua Sha and Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese medicine is a complex form of medicine based on the Daoist belief that everything in the Universe is interconnected.  This theory of interconnectedness also applies to the body’s systems as well as the mind.  According to this idea the body is viewed as an energetic system; if there is a pathology in one part of the body it will affect other parts of the body.  Traditional Chinese Medicine helps to harmonize these systems to keep the mind and body functioning as a whole system, maintaining health.    

Numerous studies have shown that TCM is very effective for a variety of conditions, among them, chronic pain.  In October of 2012, Jama Internal Medicine published an extensive Meta Analysis research study.  The study accessed data from 29 of 31 eligible Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), with a total of 17,922 patients analyzed.   The results stated, “In the primary analysis, including all eligible RCTs, acupuncture was superior to both sham and no-acupuncture control for each pain condition.” Click here to find out more about the study: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357513.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is becoming ever more popular in the United States in large part because it is an effective and affordable system of medicine with minimal side effects. Click the link to see the extensive list, compiled by The World Health Organization (WHO), of conditions that have been proven to be effectively treated by acupuncture. http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2004/oct/10amaro.html.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the placing of very small single-use sterile needles into acupuncture points throughout the body to alleviate pain and treat various health conditions.  Acupuncture is based on a theory that vital energy called qi (pronounced “chee”) flows throughout the body along pathways called meridians or channels.  These channels are like rivers flowing through the body to nourish the tissues.  An obstruction in the channel, can cause disease to occur.  The needles are used to stimulate acupuncture points to unblock the channel and reestablish a regular flow throughout the channel.  When qi is flowing properly throughout the body it allows for the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances. 

Although modern science is not exactly sure how acupuncture works, overwhelming scientific research tells us that it does work.  Many theories, however, have advanced to explain how it might work.  A common scientific belief is that when a needle is inserted into the body, the nervous system as well as other systems such as the endocrine system are accessed and regulated1.  This regulation allows for the release of naturally occurring chemicals, such as opioids and enkephalins that modulate pain by interrupting the pain signals. 

Another hypothesis of how acupuncture works is that it can improve blood circulation and stimulate a cascade of chemicals which support the body’s natural healing abilities, bolstering the immune system1.  Research has suggested that acupuncture can inhibit biochemical pathways responsible for inflammation in the body2.   On a structural level, acupuncture reduces muscle tension and spasm, and can improve imbalances in posture by stimulating muscle motor points.   

Research suggests that acupuncture can also help with emotional disorders by facilitating the release of chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins, promoting physical and emotional well-being, alleviating anxiety, depression, or other stress disorders1.  Chinese medicine is a complete medical system focused on prevention and can treat a wide variety of maladies.


1.  Katie: what is acupuncture. New York, NY; 2013. Available at: http://yinovacenter.com/blog/archives/videos/katie-acupuncture/.
2. Health CMI. Acupuncture Anti-Inflammatory Effect Revealed. http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1352-acupuncture-anti-inflammatory-effect-revealed.  Accessed August, 12, 2014

Does it hurt?

For most people acupuncture is painless, relaxing, and rejuvenating.  People experience the needling sensation in different ways.  There are also different styles of needling that vary from gentle to more aggressive.  I aim to have a very gentle needling technique.  The insertion can be compared to a mosquito bite, once the needle is inserted the sensation dissipates immediately.  After the needle is inserted I adjust the needle to connect with your body’s energy.  Most patients may experience a mild dull ache, a slight tingling sensation, or a warm feeling.  My goal is for you to be totally calm and relaxed during your treatment so that you may have an effective healing experience.

What are the needles like?

Acupuncture needles are the as thin as a hair.  They are single use, sterile, filiform needles that are discarded into a biohazard waste container after use.  They are not hollow and do not draw blood.  

How many treatments will I need to achieve results?

The number of treatments needed depends on the nature of the condition being treated.  Each individual and each situation is unique. Generally, acute conditions resolve within 4-6 treatments while chronic or complicated conditions may take 10-12 treatments to resolve or be maintained.  I encourage people to come for regular visits as a preventative health measure to maintain wellbeing and manage stress.  

Do you use Chinese herbs?

Yes.  I often prescribe Chinese herbal formulas as an adjunctive therapy to your acupuncture treatment.  Chinese herbs are especially useful in treating complex conditions.  I am trained and licensed as an Acupuncturist and Practitioner of Oriental Medicine which includes extensive education in Chinese herbology. 

How are Chinese herbs different from Western herbs?

Generally Western herbology uses single herbs, whereas Chinese herbology employs the use of formulas.  Formulas are several single herbs decocted to work synergistically with one another for maximum effect.  I prescribe formulas based on classical Chinese texts and fine-tune them to treat your individual complaint.   

Can I take Chinese herbs if I am taking medication?

Tui Na

Tui Na

It depends on if there are any herb-drug interactions with the medications you are taking.  I will evaluate your medications to ensure it is safe and determine if Chinese herbs are right for you and your condition(s).  Chinese formulas tend to be more gentle than Western medications, working not only on relieving symptoms but also on addressing the root of the condition.  

What is Tui Na?

Tui Na is a form of Asian bodywork used in China for centuries that combines elements of massage, acupressure and other forms of body manipulation.  Tui Na works by applying pressure to acupoints, meridians and muscles to remove blockages that prevent the free flow of qi.  By removing blockages and restoring balanced qi flow within the body, health and vitality are improved.  



What is cupping therapy?

Cupping therapy is an ancient practice in which local suction is created on the skin to increase blood flow to the tissue in order to promote healing. Suction creates raised redness (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis) but it does not hurt like a bruise caused by trauma.  

Gua Sha

Gua Sha

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is a Traditional Chinese Medical treatment that is used to break up tissue adhesions in local areas and stimulates blood flow and healing. Massage oil is applied to the skin of the area to be treated.   A smooth-edged instrument is used to apply short or long strokes on the skin, typically in the area of pain.  This stroking motion creates raised redness (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis).

What is electro-acupuncture?

Electro-acupuncture is the application of a mild pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles using small clips as a means of stimulating the acupoints. Common indications for the use of electro-acupuncture are muscle spasms, and neurological issues, but its effects are not limited to those conditions.  Electro-acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of disorders.  

Will my insurance cover acupuncture?

Some insurance companies do cover acupuncture.  You can check with your carrier to see if yours does. Life Acupuncture is now billing insurance if your carrier is Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana, Allegiance, Pacific Source or Cigna, and your policy covers acupuncture. Until coverage is guaranteed, payment is due at the time of your visit. Please note that we cannot bill out-of-state insurance at this time.