Acupuncture frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my insurance cover acupuncture treatments?

Insurance coverage for acupuncture treatment varies from policy to policy. With the increasing demand for acupuncture, insurance benefits for acupuncture are becoming more common. We are in network with most major insurance companies, and If your insurance policy has acupuncture coverage, we will help you get your treatments covered by submitting claims to your insurance directly. We would be happy to call your insurance to check your benefits for you, but you may wish to contact your insurance company ahead of time to find out what your policy's coverage is for acupuncture. Some questions to ask might include:
  • Will my policy cover acupuncture?
  • If so, how many visits are covered per calender year?
  • What is the copayment or coinsurance, if any?
  • Do I have a deductible? If so, how much of it has been met?
  • What are my acupuncture benefits for in network versus out of network providers?
  • Does acupuncture coverage only apply for certain conditions? If so, what conditions?
Some major insurance companies that we are in network with and often include acupuncture coverage in their policies are:
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • United Healthcare
  • Aetna

What if my insurance does not cover acupuncture?

If you have an HSA account, you can use it to pay for treatments. We are happy to provide itemized receipts for HSA purposes.

For those not able to use insurance or HSA, we do offer affordable rates for payment at time of service. We accept all major credit cards and cash as forms of payment. Additionally, we do offer package discounts. Please email ang@acubalancechicago.com or call us to inquire about out of pocket rates and package discounts.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a system of healthcare aimed at naturally promoting health and alleviating sickness through the stimulation of very specific anatomical points, known as acupuncture points, throughout the body. These points generally lie along meridians, or energy channels, that run through and along the surface of the body. It is believed that pain and sickness occur when these channels become blocked, and that these blockages can be removed through the stimulation of acupuncture points. In modern day acupuncture, this stimulation is achieved by superficially inserting sterile, super thin, disposable needles into these points. This may be done with or without the addition of gentle manipulation, heat, or electricity to further stimulate the points and break up the obstructions.

Although acupuncture may seem mysterious to some, it is a time tested therapy that was first developed in China thousands of years ago and is still very much a main method of healthcare there and in many other parts of the world today. It is one of the most proven and well-known forms of alternative therapies, and many studies have been conducted demonstrating the safety and efficacy of acupuncture.

How does acupuncture work?

According to classical theory, acupuncture works by removing the obstructions in the energy channels, or meridians, in the body. Like rivers of energy, these meridians flow along regular pathways to irrigate and nourish the body's organs and tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these rivers is like a dam that backs up the natural flow of energy, causing an imbalance that manifests as sickness and pain. By inserting needles and stimulating acupuncture points, an acupuncturist removes these dams and restores the natural balance and smooth flow of energy throughout the body.

In contrast to the classical theory, modern science proposes that needling acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release biochemicals, such as endorphins, immune system cells, and neurotransmitters, in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. In addition to killing pain, these chemicals can influence the internal regulating system of the body and affect involuntary bodily functions such as blood flow, immune reactions, body temperature, and digestion. By stimulating the nervous system and influencing these these bodily functions, acupuncture can help the body heal itself naturally.

Is it safe?

When administered by a licensed practitioner, acupuncture is a very safe form of therapy. Licensed acupuncturists in Illinois are trained and certified in Clean Needle Technique, which requires the adherence to strict safety guidelines, such as the use of sterile, disposable needles, to minimize the risk of infection.

What can acupuncture treat?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture has been proven effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions, ranging from pain problems, to addictions, to emotional disorders.

To view a list of conditions we commonly treat, please see our Conditions Treated page.

Does acupuncture hurt?

For most people, acupuncture causes minimal to no pain. The needles used during acupuncture are very fine and are nothing like the hypodermic needles used to give injections at a doctor's office. A patient may feel a slight prick similar to a mosquito bite when the needle is first inserted. At times, a tingling, dull ache, or warm sensation may be experienced at the point where the needle is inserted. This is a desired affect and should not be uncomfortable. Often, during an acupuncture treatment, a patient feels so relaxed that he or she will fall asleep.

What can I expect during my acupuncture visit?

During a typical first visit, your acupuncturist will take a detailed health history, fully investigate your chief complaint, perform a physical exam, which includes looking at your tongue and examining your pulse, and determine a differential diagnosis for you. From this, a treatment plan is designed and administered. This plan may include acupuncture as well as adjunctive techniques, such as cupping, bodywork, electro stimulation, gua sha, or heat therapy, if necessary. This may take 60 to 75 minutes but is necessary to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique health condition while focusing on your main concern. Treatments during subsequent visits will be adapted to your progress and will generally last about 50 minutes.

How many treatments will I need and how often will I need them?

The number of treatments needed varies from person to person. Some people experience significant improvement after one or two treatments, while others may take weeks or months to achieve lasting results. Chronic conditions generally take longer to resolve than acute ones, and the longer a patient has had a condition, the longer it usually takes to resolve. Other factors that influence the number of treatments needed include the severity of the problem and the patient's lifestyle, overall health, and constitution.

Your acupuncturist should be able to give you an idea of how many treatments will be needed after he or she becomes familiar with your unique situation and needs. He or she may suggest one or two treatments per week during the initial phases of treatment, and then less frequent treatments as the condition improves.

What is the difference between getting acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) or from another type of practitioner, such as medical doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist?

In the state of Illinois, licensed acupuncturists are required to complete a minimum of 3 academic years of study, which includes well over 1000 hours of classroom time as well as over 600 hours of hands-on clinic time treating patients. In addition, in order to become licensed, candidates must pass a rigorous national board examination given by the National Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). In contrast, other practitioners, such as chiropractors, medical doctors, and physical therapists can practice acupuncture or "dry needling" with as little as 100 hours or even less of training. Licensed acupuncturists use acupuncture and its underlying theories as their main therapy, enabling them to utilize their expertise to effectively and safely treat even complicated cases. Their extensive training allows them to take advantage of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine's broad range of applications as well as go more in depth in treating individual cases, helping them to attain optimal results.