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About Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that has been practiced more than 5,000 years. Acupuncture improves the body by promoting natural healing through stimulation of precise points on the body.


Dr. Kachina Smith is an acupuncture consultant and intuitive in the DC metro area. Below are her answers to common questions about treatment.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the stimulation of precise points on the body to encourage the body's natural healing processes. Stimulation of the points is performed with needles, pressure, and/or heat. Using these methods, acupuncture encourages the body’s vital energy, or "qi" (pronounced chee), to release blockages along the pathways of points called "meridians". In Chinese medical terms, illness and disease are viewed as disharmony. These treatments work to restore natural harmonic flow and balance. When your energy flow is improved, your body begins to do the work of building a stronger and healthier you.

Acupuncture treatment can include needle treatment, electro-acupuncture therapy (also called e-stim), moxibustion (pictured above), cupping, gua sha, tui na massage, Chinese nutritional counseling and lifestyle recommendations. For all types of treatment, there are indications and contraindications for patients. Your practitioner assesses these requirements prior to each treatment for your safety and benefit.

What does acupuncture treat?

Although it seems over simplified, it is true that "Yes, acupuncture can help with that." You do not have to have any present illness to benefit from acupuncture. You are unique and every treatment is carefully crafted for you to meet your individual needs whether it is physical, mental or emotional. Acupuncture is highly useful and often successful at treating symptoms from most conditions. These conditions can range from back pain to stress management to symptoms related to chemotherapy. There are conditions and/or medications that can slow or impede traditional progress and healing with acupuncture. Your practitioner should address these at the first assessment.

It is Dr. Chi's opinion that acupuncture is not to be used exclusively of Western medicine and is an excellent complement to it. Acupuncture is especially worth trying for those who looking for a way to manage a broad range of acute and chronic conditions

What can you tell me about the other aspects of treatment?

Electro-Acupuncture Therapy

For some conditions more stimulation is needed such as neurological and severe chronic pain. Electro-acupuncture therapy involves the same selection of specific points and applying a mild electrical current via electrodes attached to the needles for a average period of 20 to 30 minutes. For this type of treatment, there are specific contraindications that your acupuncturist will review during your intake and determine if you are a good candidate for this in addition to other acupuncture techniques.




Moxibustion is the application of the dried herb Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris), or "Moxa", to an acupuncture point or area of concern to provide warmth and encourage healing when indicated best for treatment. Moxa can be rolled into a cone shape and applied directly to the skin with a thin layer of balm, ginger, or aconite beneath for protection and lit with incense.
Moxa can also be used in a rolled stick form and while burning, is held and/or circulated above the point or area of the skin for treatment. The moxa cone or stick is removed before the sensation of heat becomes intense or causes any burns.


Cupping is one of the oldest forms of Chinese medicine. Cupping is the application of a cup, most often glass or plastic, to the skin and a vacuum is created to release any stagnation within the body that needs to be released. Stagnation is a term used in Chinese medicine for any "stuck" energy that is impeding healthy flow of vital energy or qi (pronounced chee). This type of treatment is especially useful for detoxification, boosting the immune system, and addressing pain and circulatory issues caused by injury. 


Cups are left in place for a few minutes or used with oil for a massage-like treatment. It is considered safe and effective. Sometimes bruising can occur from cupping but it is rare that bruising lingers for more than a few days.

There are contraindications to cupping that must be reviewed and discussed prior to your visit to determine if you are a good candidate for treatment.


Gua Sha


Gua sha (pronounced gwah-sah) is a body treatment that involves using a small flat or curved tool that is applied in a scraping motion with light to firm pressure across the skin to release stagnation under the dermis and in the superficial layers of muscle like cupping. Small petechiae (little dotted bruises and markings) may form on the surface of the skin as a response to treatment and these markings dissipate within a few days.

Facial gua sha is a gentler process used to tone, sculpt, and enhance circulation the face as well as detox the lymph network below the skin. No markings are left behind. With repeated treatment, facial gua sha reduces signs of aging, dullness, sagging, and swelling. Contraindications must be considered before treatment.

For face gua sha treatments, Dr. Chi practices both the TOMA AcuGlow technique and the Cecily Braden Gua Sha Facial Fusion Technique.

Chinese Nutritional Counseling
Food is also an important part of the Chinese medicine paradigm. Each food has what is called an "energetic" quality that has a function it performs on the body. Food colors, shapes, and cooking methods are influential. Some of these actions can be to help to build your energy, release excess heat, improve circulation, and etc. As an adjunct to treatment, Chinese dietary recommendations will help boost the effects of your treatments and overall health. 

Is it safe?

Acupuncture treatments are planned and performed with the patient's well-being and best experience in mind.  Single-use, disposable, and sterile stainless steel needles are used for treatment. These needles are about the thickness of one to two human hairs. Needles are disposed of according to national medical and acupuncture safety guidelines known as "Clean Needle Technique." It is required both nationally and in the state of Maryland to receive training and certification from the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM).

Does it hurt?

Your comfort is of the utmost importance. Sensations from the acupuncture needles can vary from painless to a brief pinch during insertion of the needle. This experience can also vary depending on the location of the body an acupuncture point is being stimulated. After needle insertion, pain dissipates quickly. If not, the needle will be adjusted or removed until comfortable.

Does it work? Will I notice anything?

Each person experiences acupuncture differently and many people find relief from symptoms. You may feel changes right after treatment or over a period of time. There are factors that influence how effective your treatments are. Some factors are: frequency of visits, complying with your practitioner's recommendations, and self-care. At the beginning of treatment, it is important to be consistent with your first series of visits because the momentum of your treatments takes time to build. Treatment varies according to how your body is responding. 
Most important, taking care of yourself anchors your improvement. Follow-up treatments are scheduled to continue and maintain your success. Talk more with your practitioner about your individualized care.

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