Frequently Asked Questions


Tell Me About Acupuncture

Q: What is acupuncture?

A: Acupuncture is one of the therapies included in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is used extensively by one quarter of the world’s population and it has been used for over 3000 years. Its popularity is now growing rapidly in the Western world. This ancient art of healing involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points of the body. Acupuncture along with herbal treatments, nutrition, and exercise, works with the natural vital energies of the body to promote its ability to heal itself.

Q: How widely is acupuncture used in the United States?

A: In the past few decades, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States. Acupuncture is practiced by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners for relief or prevention of pain and for various health conditions. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey–the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine use by American adults to date–an estimated 8.2 million US adults have used acupuncture.

Acupuncture questions faq

Q: What are the principles of acupuncture or how does it work?

A: It is believed that there is an ethereal substance called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”). Qi is inhaled through the lungs at birth and then circulates through specific channels called “meridians”. When Qi gets deficient, polluted, out of balance or stagnated, a person feels unwell. Acupuncture helps restore the balance of Qi by clearing blocked meridians, strengthening deficient organs and calming hyperactive organs.

Q: Is acupuncture safe?

A: Yes. Relatively few complications from acupuncture have been reported to the FDA in light of the millions of people treated each year. Acupuncturists are trained in exact location, angle, and depth of insertion of acupuncture needle to avoid any injuries.

Q: Are there any side effects to acupuncture?

A: One of the great advantages of acupuncture is that it has no unpleasant side effects and does not interfere with any medical treatments you may already be receiving. Occasionally, patients may get a small local bruise or feel light-headed for a few moments.

Q: Is acupuncture painful?

A: People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel no or minimal pain when the needles are inserted. The needles are metallic, solid, and as thin as a human hair. Some people are energized by their treatment, while others feel relaxed.

Q: What criteria should one use in choosing an acupuncturist?

A: First of all, you need to see someone you feel an affinity with, who listens to you and makes you feel comfortable. Feeling you can trust someone is very personal and important. Take the time to seek out the right practitioner. It’s an important relationship.

Ask where the practitioner/acupuncturist trained, how long the training was, how long he or she has been in practice, and what experience the practitioner has had in treating your specific ailment. Ensure that your practitioner is state licensed:

Acupuncture is a licensed and regulated healthcare profession. For over 12 years, the Medical Board of North Carolina has been licensing acupuncturists. At present, one is allowed to practice only after successfully completing four years of training at an approved college of Oriental Medicine, and passing a rigorous written and practical exam given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The title “Licensed Acupuncturist” or “L.Ac.” means that these criteria have been met. Always look for a copy of the license, which should be clearly displayed in the practitioner’s office. In states that do not currently require licensing, patients should ask their practitioner if they are certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Acupuncturists who have passed this exam are entitled to add Dipl Ac. (Diplomate of Acupuncture) after their name.

Is Acupuncture Right For Me?

Q: How is Oriental medicine compatible with Western medicine?

A: Both Western and Oriental Medicine have their respective strengths and weaknesses, that is why in modern China, the two systems are used together. When appropriately combined, the patient is well served. Oriental medicine can work to complement the benefits of western medicine.

In addition, Oriental medicine can often reduce unpleasant side effects associated with prescription medicines. Licensed acupuncturists are also trained to recognize symptoms that indicate a need for a medical doctor or a specialist. A patient’s road to health is vastly shortened to the extent that she or he participates in their recovery.

We give our patients as much knowledge as we can about their condition in terms of Chinese medical philosophy. Individual herbal remedies are often prescribed as an important part of the treatment. We discuss the contribution of diet and other lifestyle choices to the patient’s condition, and support efforts towards gradual changes that will improve the patient’s health.

Q: What conditions can acupuncture treat?

A: In parts of the Far East, acupuncturists are so popular that they outnumber medical doctors. Acupuncture has been used to prevent illness, maintain wellness, relieve pain and as an anesthetic. The World Health Organization has determined that acupuncture is an effective therapy for over 200 clinical conditions. For a list of the conditions we commonly treat, visit our Conditions Treated page.

Acupuncture also reduces stress and anxiety, and helps patients enter a deep state of relaxation, which enhances the healing process. Herbal medicine can increase the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatment and is often the primary treatment for chronic internal medical disorders.

Q: Will acupuncture interfere with my medication?

A: The short answer is no. You may find, however, that your medication is working more efficiently since acupuncture has a tendency to remove blockages and balance the energetic pathways. If your medication is dosage sensitive, make sure you consult with your doctor to monitor your dosages. Western pharmaceuticals are potent. In many cases you need to reduce dosages gradually to avoid unpleasant reactions. But remember, that it is never a good idea to alter dosages or stop taking medication without your doctor’s guidance.

Q: Can I receive acupuncture if I am pregnant?

A: Yes. Acupuncture can actually be a great benefit to pregnant women, but it does require adjustments to the way treatments are performed. Because there are some pressure points that are contraindicated during pregnancy, it is important to inform Doctor Robert if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.

Q: Do you treat children?

A: Yes, Acupuncture Associates in Wilmington is a family practice. Children typically respond much more quickly to acupuncture than adults. For young children, acupressure, Tui Na (massage), or laser acupuncture is most often used. We have experience treating children as young as 18 months of age.

Q: Can I continue with other care I have been receiving?

A: Yes. Acupuncture will not interfere with other healthcare modalities. In fact, it may enhance other therapies such as; massage, chiropractic care, physical therapy and fertility care. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are frequently used to reduce the side effects of cancer treatments and complications of HIV/AIDS medicines.

Q: Will I need herbs too?

A: A Chinese herbal formula may be recommended as a benefit to your treatment plan. The use of herbs may enhance the healing process as a daily treatment. Please refer to our Herbs Page for more information on this subject.

Q: Can acupuncture prevent me from getting sick?

A: Acupuncture is wonderful for general well-being, stress-reduction and boosting immunity. Acupuncture and herbs can help strengthen you again. Some people, once their problem has resolved, come seasonally to prevent allergy flare-ups, for example.

Tell Me About The Needles

Q: Do the needles hurt when they are inserted?

A: This is the most common question asked about acupuncture because many people associate needles with pain. Acupuncture needles are very thin – almost like a strand of hair. They bear no resemblance to the needles used when receiving an injection (they are solid, not hollow like the needles used by doctors in surgery). The end of an acupuncture needle is smooth and rounded. Acupuncture needles are designed to not cut the skin. Instead, when an acupuncture needle is inserted, the round edge pushes the tissue aside without cutting it. It’s as if these ultra-thin needles can glide through the spaces between the individual cells of the body.

Even our most apprehensive patients discover that the treatment is virtually painless because acupuncture needles are extremely thin and flexible — approximately 16 acupuncture needles together equal the thickness of a pin.

After insertion, the practitioner will bring the needle to the appropriate depth. They are inserted very superficially, using a gentle technique. You will then feel a very unique sensation that varies according to the individual.

Often people describe their sensations as warming, heavy, numb or tingling. This sensation usually dissipates quickly. Be comfortable and relax while the needles are in place. The more you can relax during an acupuncture treatment, the better the results. Some people even fall asleep during the treatment.

A licensed acupuncturist has had thorough training on the safe implementation of needles. They can be quickly adjusted in the unlikely event of you feeling uncomfortable during the needle insertion process. (Please do not hesitate to tell us if you feel uncomfortable.) Most often, when patients first feel the sensation of needles, their fears dissolve. Doctor Robert has a very gentle technique.

In addition, Doctor Robert tailors each session to meet the specific needs and sensitivities of the patient. Blankets, eye pillows, and music can be used to add to your comfort. It also might help if instead of thinking of them as needles, you view them as healing filaments. They are simply tools to help you move through the process of healing and balance.

Chinese Medicine

Q: Are the needles sterile or are they reused?

A: Acupuncture needles are FDA approved as medical devices; they are non-toxic, individually wrapped, totally sterile, and disposed of after one use. Both Doctor Robert and his staff follow a strict professional protocol to ensure the safety of all patients. Sterile, single-use needles are opened only when they are ready to be used. Treatments sites are swabbed with alcohol before insertion. Afterwards, each needle is disposed of in a medical waste container.

Q: Where are the needles placed on my body?

A: This depends on the condition being treated. Usually, the needles are placed on the extremities from your elbows down to your hands, and from your knees down to your feet. Other common areas include the abdomen, back, and ears.

Tell Me What to Expect and How to Prepare

Q: What can I expect during my first visit?

A: During your initial visit or consultation, Robert will talk to you at length about your health condition, lifestyle, and behavior. He will want to obtain a complete picture of your medical history, treatment needs, and behaviors that may contribute to your condition. Combining all of this information will help him to place your concerns in a holistic context, at which point he will determine an appropriate treatment plan for you. This may include acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine.

The initial visit usually lasts 2 hours depending on your needs and the condition you want treated. Call 910.798.8181 to receive a new patient welcome package including the intake forms, or download the forms by clicking here to save time and prevent you from having to complete them in the office during your first visit.

Q: How long is a treatment?

A: After your first visit, subsequent treatments are typically about an hour; they can be as short as 30 minutes depending on your condition.

Q: How often and how many treatments will I need?

A: There is no set formula—the number of treatments will depend on the nature of the complaint, its severity, and how long it has been present. Your treatment course will be determined during the consultation and reassessed periodically. Many conditions may be alleviated rapidly. Some chronic conditions will be relieved only with slow, steady progress.

Initially, treatments are done frequently: perhaps 1-3 times per week or bi-weekly. Once your condition has been controlled and you are symptom-free, the treatments become less frequent.

Our treatment philosophy is to support you in achieving your own health goals as quickly as possible. Since we believe that our bodies can heal themselves if given the chance, we do not believe in creating a co-dependant relationship with patients where treatments are unnecessarily prolonged.

Chinese and Western medicine compliment each other and can be integrated to offer optimal health care. In cases where medical circumstances can be dealt with more effectively by Western medicine, your acupuncturist will recommend that you contact a physician.

Q: What should I do to prepare for my appointment?

  • Eat a light meal an hour or two before your appointment. You want your body to have energy to work with.
  • Wear loose fitting clothes that can be easily rolled above your elbows and knees.
  • Bring a list of medications you are taking.
  • Do not engage in strenuous activity, drink alcohol, smoke excessively, or ingest heavy meals before or after your treatment. This will allow the body to adjust to the effects of the acupuncture.
  • If this is your first visit, we will mail a packet of forms that you should complete and bring with you to your initial appointment.
  • To respect other patients sensitivities, we ask that you refrain from wearing perfume or lotions.

Q: Is there anything I need to do while receiving acupuncture?

A: Yes: RELAX! And, if you have any questions, ask them so that you can get the most benefit possible from the treatment.

Q: What will I feel after the treatment?

A: People often feel rejuvenated and relaxed with an alleviation of their symptoms. Other bodily functions that weren’t part of your chief complaint may also improve. For example, you might find that you are sleeping better, your anxiety is reduced, your digestion is improved, or that your stress level is lowered. Returning to work after a treatment is not a problem.

Scheduling Appointments and Paying for Treatments

Q: What are your hours?

A:  Office visits are by appointment only. Wednesday is typically for first time patients and can last between two and four hours. The first time slot for a follow up appointment is 9am and the last appointment is at 4pm.

Q: How do I get to Acupuncture Associates?

A: Acupuncture Associates is located in Wilmington, NC. Click here for a map.

Q: Is acupuncture covered by my insurance?

A: Acupuncture is one of the complementary/alternative medicine therapies commonly covered by insurance. However, you should check with your insurer before you start treatment to see whether acupuncture will be covered for your condition and, if so, to what extent. Some insurance plans require preauthorization for acupuncture.
Acupuncture Associates in Wilmington, NC requires payment from you at the time of treatment. We do not bill your insurance carrier or collect from them.

Q: Is acupuncture tax deductible?

A: Yes, acupuncture is tax deductible. Please ask your tax professional for more information.

Q: How much will acupuncture cost?

A: Your first office visit will be $165 and will last about two hours. Additional visits will be a flat $115 per office visit and will last about 50 minutes.

Q: What forms of payment do you accept?

A: We accept Visa, MasterCard, cash and personal checks.

Q: What is your cancellation policy?

A: Our business is appointment-based, therefore we kindly request that should you need to change or cancel an appointment that you notify our office 48 hours prior to your appointment. By doing so, you allow us the opportunity to schedule another patient during your time. Any appointments (new or subsequent) cancelled within the 48 hours, prevents us from scheduling another patient and will result in a cancellation charge of the normal office fee.

What If I Still Have Questions?

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us by phone at 910.798.8181 or email us at We welcome your questions and are happy to discuss your specific conditions and how acupuncture and herbal therapies can help.