Acupuncture is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical techniques on Earth. It is historically documented as a medical system from China from more than 2,500 years ago. Although, the osteoporosis ridden Ice Man discovered from 5,000 years ago in Northern Europe had tattoos on specific points for back pain. This tells us that acupuncture was possibly used universally and long before recorded history. It began with the discovery that stimulating specific areas on the body affects wellbeing. Acupuncture has evolved into a scientifically studied, world-renowned system of holistic medicine that helps to restore and maintain health while improving quality of life.

According to a survey conducted by HCD Research and The Louis Finkelstein Institute, acupuncture has now become the complementary medicine most widely recommended by physicians in the U.S. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reviewed scientific literature about acupuncture and concluded it to be an effective, minimally invasive, and reasonable treatment for the relief of a wide variety of conditions. The NIH panel concluded, “One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted procedures for the same condition.”

Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal. It is self regulatory medicine. There are a variety of ways in which acupuncture works to achieve health:

  • Endorphin Release: Acupuncture has been proven to trigger the brain to release chemicals called opiates, similar to pain-relieving medications, but all natural and with no side effects.
  • Improved Circulation: Acupuncture stimulates the dilation of blood vessels in local areas, improving circulation and speeding recovery.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Pain can often originate in inflamed tissues. Acupuncture decreases inflammation by reducing levels of cortisol, an inflammatory hormone, and by stimulating immune system cells.
  • Regulation of Brain / Body Relationship: Studies show that acupuncture regulates areas of the brain linked to heart rate, breath, hormone output, emotion and relaxation response, safely balancing these functions through the nervous system.
  • Acupuncture’s Effects On Brain Activity Noted: One of the main stumbling blocks to greater acceptance for acupuncture in the West was the lack of understanding of how it works. This began to change with the publication of a seminal report by researchers at the Harvard Medical School. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how acupuncture affects brain activity in normal subjects. Thirteen healthy volunteers (ages 27 to 52) were involved in the study. They were seated in the MRI scanner and after relaxing had a single acupuncture point needle inserted (LI 4 or Hegu – located on the hand between the thumb and forefinger). Needle manipulation caused a pronounced calming of activity in the deep structures of the brain (e.g., amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, etc.) accompanied by increased signal intensity in a key sensory region of the brains cortex. Researchers concluded, “Modulation of this neural network could constitute the initiating steps by which acupuncture regulates multiple physiological systems and achieves diverse therapeutic effect.’ Source: Human Brain Mapping, 2000.
The initial visit consists of a comprehensive health history intake and evaluation followed by acupuncture. The broad ripple location is set up as a private clinic so there is more face time with the practitioner. The downtown location is set up a community clinic so there is less time to talk with the practitioner. A course of acupuncture is typically 4-12 sessions, once or twice a week depending on the severity and the condition being treated. Benefits are often felt immediately after the first treatment. Treatment is continued until the symptoms recede for longer periods of time. Then treatment is spread out until you no longer need to come back. Many people choose to come back monthly or seasonally for wellness maintenance. This is the typical timetable for natural healing and which demonstrates how acupuncture helps the body to heal itself, not simply cover up symptoms. It is important to understand the need for commitment to a course of treatments to feel the effects of acupuncture to the fullest potential.
Acupuncture needles are FDA approved, as thin as a human hair, sterile, and disposable. We use medical grade stainless steel needles. They are solid, not-hollow, so there is nothing inside transported. Most insertions are found to be completely painless. Sometimes there is a very mild sensation that only lasts a brief moment. We at Indy Acupuncture are very responsive to patient’s sensitivities, so if there is discomfort we will change the needle placement immediately. Many patients are surprised to find treatments to be very pleasurable, often inducing sleep or a deep state of relaxation unique to the experience of acupuncture.

Many U.S. insurers do provide some acupuncture coverage, but what conditions they cover will vary. Almost all insurance companies in the more progressive states cover acupuncture. Here in Indiana we are lagging behind in the 15-20% of companies covering. Insurance companies save a huge amount of money if they cover acupuncture since the cost of acupuncture is so much less over time than expensive surgeries and ongoing drug costs. It is just a matter of time for us in Indiana before all are covered. Call you provider to find out if your condition or health issue is covered.

Indy Acupuncture does not process insurance claims in house.  Our clinics are pay at the time services are rendered. We provide patients with appropriate health insurance codes and necessary information on their bills (superbills) so they can send it in to their insurance provider and get reimbursed directly.

The most important questions to ask your insurance company:

  • Does my policy include acupuncture coverage?
  • Does my policy allow me to choose my own acupuncturist?
  • For which conditions does my policy cover?
  • Is there a limit to how many treatments my policy covers per year?

If your insurance company does not cover acupuncture, or does not cover your specific condition, check to see if acupuncture is an optional addition to your policy. Ask to speak with a supervisor or someone who has more authority to make amendments or an addendum to your policy. Even if they turn you down it is important for them to know the demand is there.

When you send in your claim to your insurance company it is important that you ask for a PERSONALIZED REVIEW. This means that a human being and not a machine will look at the billing for you. This will prevent your claim from being stuck in processing. In the event this happens we will simply send you any paperwork your insurance sends to us and remind you to tell your insurance company to have a personalized review. Some companies may ask you to fill out their particular form with the information that is on the superbill. We can help you with this step if needed.

It is also helpful to remember that we accept Flex Accounts and most Health Savings Accounts (HSA). Most of these accounts cover acupuncture and are tax-free. It is also very important to realize that paying for acupuncture treatment is a way of saving money on your health in the long run. A few weeks of acupuncture to reduce a health problem may save you a double-digit thousand dollar surgery and a lifetime of expensive medication.

There are 3 categories of health care professional that can perform acupuncture. The specialists are called Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac), who attend accredited graduate level US colleges studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and earning Master of Science degrees (MSTOM). They then pass National Certification exams (NCCAOM). Their training includes over 3000 hours of in-class and clinical training specializing in acupuncture. State medical boards grant licensure. Some of the top TCM graduate schools in the US have recently added doctoral programs (DOM or DAOM) which focus on research and translation. MD’s and Chiropractors may also practice acupuncture but typically from introductory courses offering only 200 hours of training or less. Therefore it is our recommendation that NCCAOM certified (National Certification Committee for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) practitioners be utilized whenever possible due to their extensive training and specialization in acupuncture techniques and depth of knowledge. Seeing a specialist in any health field makes sense and is a wise philosophy in the field of medicine.

Pain reduction has been one of the most widely cited benefits of acupuncture in scientific studies beginning with the discovery that endorphins are naturally released in the brain during acupuncture, with no side effects or concern or addiction to medications for patients. Here are a few studies about acupuncture and pain management.