What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the major components of the system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In the TCM system of medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents cold, slow, or passive aspects of the person, while yang represents hot, excited, or active aspects. Among the major assumptions in TCM are that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a "balanced state"  (homeostasis) and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi (vital energy), along pathways known as meridians. It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians and that there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body that connect them.

What does it feel like?

Acupuncture needles are metallic, sterile, and hair-thin. People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel no or minimal pain as the needles are inserted.  After the first needle is inserted, most people realize there’s really nothing to it! Sometimes you are energized by an acupuncture treatment, while other times you feel deeply relaxed.

Is there any bleeding?

Most of the time there is no bleeding. Occasionally there may be a small amount of bleeding, however, the needles are too fine to damage the tissue enough to create much bleeding. The careful placement of the needles helps to minimize this risk.

How long does it take to feel better?

After a treatment you should feel better immediately, or within the next 72 hours. Treatments that deal with pain are often felt right away, where as internal imbalances will take hold over time. Generally speaking, you will feel better overall, and have an amplified sense of well-being and relaxation after an acupuncture session.  

A course of treatments is 4-12 sessions, either weekly or twice a week depending on the severity. The amount of time it takes to begin to encourage the body to stay in-balance will often depend on how long you have been experiencing the problem. Generally speaking, the longer you have been suffering from any condition, the longer it may take to bring the body back to homeostasis. However, it should only take only one to two sessions to begin to feel the benefits of a treatment, and begin feeling better. Diet, lifestyle, mental and spiritual health as well as patient compliance all play a role in the healing process.

It is important to understand that acupuncture treatments are cumulative. This means that after your first treatment, you should feel some relief, but your body may return to feeling the same as it did before within a few days or weeks. This is why it’s important to continue scheduling treatments that are close enough together that the body does not have a chance to repeat its old pattern. With each treatment, the results should "hold" longer and longer, until we have been able to get the message to your system that it is desirable to be balanced, in homeostasis, and symptom-free. Because your body has been used to being out of balance and in a "rut," so to speak, it requires repeated messages to move out of the rut it has grown accustomed to, and into a place of balanced health. If the rut is deep, it will take longer and more treatments before your body is able to hold onto this new message and pattern.

Does my insurance cover acupuncture?

Most major insurance carriers in Washington State have acupuncture benefits. Insurance plans that accept acupuncture, include but are not limited to: Premera, Regence, Lifewise, Aetna, Asuris, KPC Health, Firstchoice, Group Health, Cigna, and many others. Each plan is different, however, many plans cover a minimum of 12-24 treatments per calendar year.  Red Lotus Health is a preferred provider for almost every insurance company in Washington State and will bill your insurance for you. 

In Hawaii, acupuncture is covered under some insurance plans.  HMSA, HMAA, PIP, Workers Comp, United, Cigna, ASH, and Corvel are the plans that we work with.  Some plans require that you pay for your service up front, then submit your bill for reimbursement. 

Please contact your insurance company prior to your first appointment to find out your acupuncture benefits. 

Your co-pay, if any, will be paid the time of service. Any unpaid amounts will be the responsibility of the patient. 

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

You will probably be surprised to find out the wide variety of conditions that acupuncture can treat. Though the most common reason to visit an acupuncturist is for pain relief, there are hundreds of conditions that a qualified Acupuncturist can treat effectively. The World Health Organization lists 40 conditions, which may effectively be treated by Chinese medical methods. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Infections: Colds and Flu, Bronchitis, Hepatitis
  • Internal: Hypoglycemia, Asthma, High Blood Pressure, Ulcers, Colitis, Indigestion, Hemorrhoids, Diarrhea, Constipation, Diabetes
  • Ears, Eyes, Nose, Throat: Deafness, Ringing in Ears, Earaches, Poor Eyesight, Dizziness, Sinus Infection, Sore Throat, Hay Fever
  • Dermatological: Eczema, Acne, Herpes
  • Musculo-Skeletal + Neurological: Arthritis, Neuralgia, Sciatica, Back Pain, Bursitis, Tendonitis, Stiff Neck, Bell's Palsy, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Headache, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Polio, Sprains
  • Genito-Urinary + Reproductive: Impotence, Infertility, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Vaginitis, Irregular Period, Cramps, Morning Sickness
  • Mental-Emotional: Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Insomnia

Definitions and Theory

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system that was documented in China by the 3rd century B.C. TCM is grounded in the belief that the root cause of illnesses, not their symptoms, must be treated. In modern-day terms, TCM is holistic in its approach; it views a person in their entirety - body, mind, spirit, and emotions - as part of a whole rather than loosely connected pieces to be treated individually.

Among the components of TCM are acupuncture, herbal and nutritional therapy, physical exercises, meditation, and massage.

The theory of Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang is the most fundamental concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and it is the foundation of diagnosis and treatment. The earliest reference to Yin and Yang is in the I Ching (Book of Changes) in approximately in 700 BC. In this work, all phenomena are said to be reduced to Yin-Yang.

The familiar Yin-Yang diagram shows a dynamic state of balance. This is due to the fact that Yin and Yang are never static, but rather in a state of changing balance. The movement represents the continual change in your body, life, earth, and the universe. This movement is easily seen in a single 24-hour day, the seasons in a year, spinning of the earth and rotation of the sun, as well of the movement of the planets and moon - all traveling round and round, curving back in a circular motion that repeats itself at some point in time to infinity.  

When balanced amidst this flow, your body is healthy.  When one of these energies becomes out of balance you begin to see the symptoms, or dis-ease, that results from the imbalance trying to find its way back to center or homeostasis.

For example, when Yang becomes excess or Yin becomes deficient you will see signs of heat or fire such as hot flashes, headaches, tension, restless sleep, heartburn, chronic pain and inflammation, skin eruptions, dryness, and infections. On the other hand, when Yin becomes excess or Yang becomes deficient you will see signs of cold or damp such as bloating, edema, feeling cold, watery stool, sluggishness, feeling heavy, chronic congestion and slow metabolism.

Furthermore, Yin and Yang are opposite yet interdependent energies. In other words Yin and Yang cannot exist without the other; they are never separate. For example, night and day form a Yin-Yang pair. (Night is Yin and day is Yang.) Night looks, and is, very different than day, yet it is impossible to have one without the other. Both create a totality, a complete whole.


Heaven, Sun, Light, Fire, Time, Energy, Activity, Generates, Expansion, Rising, Above, East, South, Male



Earth, Moon, Darkness, Water, Space, Matter, Rest, Grows, Contraction, Descending, Below, West, North, Female

This inseparable and opposite relationship is also reflected in the small dots within each of the two energies (represented by black and white). This symbolizes that there is always some Yin (black) within Yang (white) and vice versa. For example: day is Yang and night is Yin, but morning is Yang within Yang, afternoon is Yang turning to Yin, evening before midnight Yin within Yin, and the time after midnight is Yang within Yin or Yin turning into Yang (sunrise). A single day is seen in the symbol of Yin/Yang, as well as a single year. The darkest (most  Yin) season is Winter and the brightest (most Yang) season is Summer.  Spring is Yin turning to Yang, and Autumn is Yang turning to Yin. No matter where you bisect the diameter of the whole circle, each half will always contain both Yin and Yang. As is in life, nothing is ever simply black or white.

In summary, there is a dynamic flow in the universe, the environment, and in our lives. We are constantly adapting or moving towards homeostasis, automatically and continuously balancing and rebalancing. Think, for a moment, about how life is always changing, moving, and flowing with stresses, challenges, joys, good days, bad days, cold weather, warm weather and so on. This is not a static state of being, and this is the beauty of Yin/Yang as it’s seen in our body.  When in balance, life is easy, things flow, we feel good, our digestion works well, there’s no pain, we sleep well, wake refreshed and feel happy. When we feel badly or unwell, however, this is a signal that our Yin/Yang is out of balance. Life then becomes more difficult and we are continually stressed, tense, and irritable. We are not sleeping, in pain, and suffering in other ways as symptoms of our dis-ease continue to appear and make us uncomfortable in an effort to get our attention. At the most basic and deep level, acupuncture seeks to balance Yin and Yang and help restore your body to homeostasis. 


Pronounced "chee," this is the vital, life-energy that animates your body. Qi flows throughout your body in the meridians and protects it from illness, pain and disease. This is what the yogis refer to as “prana”.  And this is what the needles in acupuncture seek to access, and redirect, in order to help the body rebalance.  


Meridians are pathways throughout the body that are like rivers. Instead of water, these rivers flow with the energy of Qi. And, like a river flows to provide nourishment and life-giving water to animals, plants and people, so does the meridian flow to provide nourishment for our bodies, bringing life-giving Qi to every organ, gland, muscle, tissue and cell of our body. Each meridian flows to a specific organ in our bodies and is thus named after the organ it flows through. All the meridians are balanced, some being Yin and an equal amount being Yang. These are what the yogis refer to as “nadis”. 

The organs and emotions

It is interesting to note that in Traditional Chinese Medicine many of the organs are associated with different emotions. Examples include:

  • Lungs: Grief
  • Spleen: Worry
  • Heart: Joy
  • Kidneys: Fear
  • Liver: Anger

A disproportion of any one emotion can cause an imbalance of the associated organ and its related channels.  Red Lotus Health helps you identify these ‘mental/emotional’ patterns and resolve these internal imbalances through acupuncture, diet, herbs, and lifestyle.