Acupuncture FAQ

Acupuncture FAQ

eque1. What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture, in the narrow sense, refers to the insertion and manipulation of needles into the body, usually at set locations known popularly as “points”.  In the broad sense, it refers to a collection of procedures related to needling. The word itself comes from the latin acus meaning “needle” and pungere meaning “to puncture” and it involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles. These needles are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation. Needles can be placed on sites of local pain or on pre-defined acupuncture points that lie on pathways of Qi known as “meridians” or “channels”.

2. How Does it Work?

The classical Chinese explanation is that acupuncture works by regulating the flow of Qi and Blood through defined pathways called “channels” or “meridians”.  The acupoints are thought to serve as dams and gates controlling the flow of Qi and Blood.  Such manipulations of these points are said to produce effects such as clearing blockages, promoting more flow, and the like.

It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and, thus, affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person’s blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.

3.  What does the World Health Organization have to say?

The World Health Organization has published a manuscript entitled Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials in 2003. In this document, it lists the following as treatable conditions based on analysis of clinical studies.

1. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment:

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Hypertension, essential
Hypotension, primary
Induction of labour
Knee pain
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain
Renal colic
Rheumatoid arthritis
Tennis elbow

2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:

Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
Acne vulgaris
Alcohol dependence and detoxification
Bell’s palsy
Bronchial asthma
Cancer pain
Cardiac neurosis
Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
Competition stress syndrome
Craniocerebral injury, closed
Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
Female infertility
Facial spasm
Female urethral syndrome
Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
Gastrokinetic disturbance
Gouty arthritis
Hepatitis B virus carrier status
Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
Labour pain
Lactation, deficiency
Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
Ménière disease
Neuralgia, post-herpetic
Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
Pain due to endoscopic examination
Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
Postextubation in children
Postoperative convalescence
Premenstrual syndrome
Prostatitis, chronic
Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
Raynaud syndrome, primary
Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Retention of urine, traumatic
Sialism, drug-induced
Sjögren syndrome
Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
Spine pain, acute
Stiff neck
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
Tietze syndrome
Tobacco dependence
Tourette syndrome
Ulcerative colitis, chronic
Vascular dementia
Whooping cough (pertussis)

3. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult:

Choroidopathy, central serous
Colour blindness
Irritable colon syndrome
Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury
Pulmonary heart disease, chronic
Small airway obstruction

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4. What are indications for Acupuncture?

(adapted from

Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat Disorders

  • Sinusitis
  • Sore Throat
  • Hay Fever
  • Earache
  • Nerve Deafness
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Dizziness
  • Poor Eyesight

Circulatory Disorders

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Angina Pectoris
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Anemia

Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Spastic colon
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food Allergies
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis
  • Abdominal Bloating
  • Hemorrhoids

Gynecological / Genitourinary Disorders

  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Irregular, Heavy or Painful Menstruation
  • Endometriosis
  • Menopause
  • Fibroids
  • Chronic Bladder Infection
  • Complications in Pregnancy
  • Morning Sickness
  • Kidney Stones
  • Impotence
  • Infertility in Men and Women
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Respiratory Disorders

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Colds and Flus

Immune Disorders

  • Candida
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Epstein Barr Virus
  • Allergies
  • Lupus
  • MS
  • Hepatitis


  • Smoking Cessation
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol

Emotional and Psychological Disorders

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Stress

Musculoskeletal and Neurological Disorders

  • Arthritis
  • Neuralgia
  • Sciatica
  • Back Pain
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Stiff Neck
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Polio
  • Sprains
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Shingles

Acupuncture Also Treats

  • Chemotherapy/Radiation Side Effects
  • Diabetes
  • Dermatological Disorders
  • Weight Control

5. Does it hurt?

When patients ask this question, they usually refer to pain on insertion.  Usually there is little if any pain on insertion of the needle.

Patients do feel a sensation described as heavy or tingling after the needle is inserted and manipulated.  This is normal and is essential in Chinese Acupuncture.

6.  Is Acupuncture safe?  What about the risks of infectious diseases?

In the hands of a properly trained practitioner, acupuncture is generally safe.  Sterile, single use needles are standard, and are immediately disposed of in accordance with Clean Needle Technique.  If the needles are never shared and used only once, the risk of transmission of diseases such as hepatitis or HIV are practically zero.

7.  Are there contraindications for Acupuncture?

Generally, Acupuncture is discouraged for people who are hungry or who have just had a heavy meal.   Hemophiliacs are also discouraged from undergoing acupuncture.

Patients on blood thinners are not forbidden from undergoing acupuncture.

8. What can I expect in a consultation?

One can expect the acupuncturist to use the four methods of diagnosis.  These are asking questions, looking at the patient including the tongue, listening and smelling, and touching the patient including feeling the pulse.  Afterwards, depending on the assessment, the patient may be asked to undergo acupuncture, be advised on a herbal prescription to take, or both.

9. How long is an Acupuncture session?

A typical acupuncture session length can vary according to the practitioner’s style.  Typically it can last from 30 minutes to an hour.

10. Can children undergo acupuncture?

An informal rule is that a child must be able to accept instruction to keep still.  Children can be treated and have had good success with acupuncture.


Dr. Philip Nino Tan-Gatue

Dr. Philip Nino Tan-Gatue MD, CAc, CMA,is one of the leading experts in Traditional Medicine and Chinese Medicine in the Philippines. Currently, he is a Clinical Associate Professor in the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and is Director of Acupuncture Services at The Medical City. Find Dr. Philip on Google Plus , Facebook, Twitter and on

  • Ramoncito Novilla

    good day doctor. very recently i had experienced a panic attack , i was disoriented,nervous & a lot going in my mind.i was advised by the western doctor to take 2mg of diazepam, then all nervousness & confusion disappeared. he told me to take it every 6 hrs or if symptons persist. i have a very high stress job , which needs my utmost attention. can acupuncture help alleviate my situation?thanks & kindly advise your clinic hours + locations.

    • I understand what you’re going through. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid stress. At any rate, acupuncture can, at the very least, help relieve the physical components of an anxiety attack. At most, it can help you avoid meds for anxiety. You may visit the contact page here

  • April D.

    hi doc,
    last june2 i broke my ankle, had it operated the next day. I am now on my 31st day and i still experience throbbing pain. i always run to alternative medicines when western cures fails me. i also have gerd and been taking omeprzole to ease up my tummy when taking my pain killers. i’m due this july5 for check up and xray in medical city.
    my question is, how soon can i have accupunture treatment?

  • Florentino A. Guanlao III

    Hi Doc,

    I’m going 52 years old this July 28th. 3 weeks ago, i have been found and diagnosed with an ischemic heart disease. Can acupuncture help ?

    Hope to hear from your advice.

    Thank you,

    • Yes I actually just blogged about the benefits of acupuncture for those with ischemic heart disease

  • Liza Sison

    Hello Dr. Tan-Gatue,
    I am diabetic and I prefer not to take insulin. Can you recommend alternative treatment?
    I also have arthritis so I am not able to do exercises.
    I am interested in the treatment of these two major health concerns. What do you recommend?

    • Have you started taking insulin? In TCM once the patient is on insulin the focus shifts to symptom management. Arthritis, we can relieve the pain but the effectiveness will depend on how much damage the joint has taken

  • kahren gambeng

    hi dr. tan-gatue, I am 28yrs old. me and my husband is trying to have a baby for 2 years. i am diagnosed with pcos and my husband had a varicocelectomy last March 2014 because of his billateral varicocele. i just want to ask if accupuncture can help us with our problem in having a baby. thanks!

  • Janna

    Hi Doctor, I have a mild denervation on my left leg. When I stand up for 20 mins or more, I feel pain inside my left leg. My neurologist recommended me to drink nerve vitamins, physical therapy for a month and there wasn’t any changes. WIll acupuncture help me regarding my denervation? Thank you.

    • I have had similar cases that have improved with moxibustion.

      • Janna

        How much does moxibustion costs?

        Thank you doc for the fast reply! 🙂

        • I usually use it in conjunction with needling, so it’s usually part of my usual fee

  • Gina Agustin

    Hi Dr,
    Im a smoker, I really want to quit but it’s so hard, can it be cured with acupuncture, if can, how many sessions?
    And I also have this swollen fingers often, they said its arthritis, it’s painful, actually one of my fingers was already deformed. Can it be cured also by needles?
    And one last is that, I have an endometrium problem. When I menstruate its really heavy days wherein I used diapers, my ob gyne ask me to take pills but im so forgeyful so I dont like pills plus it might affect my kidneys, isn’t it? My ob says im on menopausal stage.Can it be also cured by acupuncture? By the way im 47 now. Pls help..Thanks a lot! God bless!

  • ve

    Is acupuncture induce labor and helps me manage labor pain? I am 38 weeks pregnant.

    • In theory yes, but the question is will the hospital allow acupuncturists to do it

  • edgardo sennido

    Can acupuncture help me regain my sense of hearing,left ear is severe,right ear is profound both due to sensorineural sudden loss of hearing?

  • Edgardo Sennido

    The left ear is sudden,at first I felt dizzy and imbalance for a week then gradually lost my hearing for 1 week,I can hear sounds but cannot understand what you are saying.I want to go in your clinic at Quezon City on August 2,2014 be there between 8.30-930,I’m coming from cabanatuan city.

  • Mary Grace Valiao

    Hi Dr,

    I have a lumbar racidulapathy, I got it last May 14, 2014. I undergo 24 sessions of physical theraphy. I improved a lot, but the pain stil radiate on my left leg until now. They want me to undergo an operation but I don not want. I want to try acupuncture, do you this acupuncture would help me to receover 100%?

    • Hi and thanks for your comment. As much as I would like to guarantee “100%” no true healer can guarantee that. However, acupuncture has been shown to be quite effective most of the time for such radiating pains. The fact that you responded positively to physical therapy is a good sign that your problem is proabably more muscular than anything else, and thus acupuncture can help speed up the process.

  • Mj Gonzales

    May systemic sclerosis po ako with interstitial lung disease… will acupuncture help me in any way? you have clinic hours po bukas (tuesday) from 4 – 5 pm based on your website, pwede po ba walk-in? how many sessions will it take or once lang then mararamdaman na po ang results? thanks po. God bless!

    • I will actually be there early tomorrow mga 3 pm po. I think your problem is autoimmune and therefore acupuncture can help. I can’t say how many sessions because different people react differently. Most people do feel relief sa first session po, maski partial lang.

  • Tim Apacible

    I’ve heard that accupuncture can help improve body’s nutrient absorption. Will it help me gain weight? I’m 30yo ,weigh 45Kgs in good/acceptable health condition and uncompromised immune system. I don’t drink nor smoke.

    If so, how many sessions or should I say, what frequent would I be required to do this for best results? Thanks!

    • Hi Tim, I can’t say for sure about how many sessions or such, because I have yet to take a look at you. I can say that yes, acupuncture can help improve individual organ function, including those of the Spleen and Stomach, which are in charge of digestion in TCM.

  • Angel

    Hi Dr. Philip,

    Good Morning!

    I just want to ask if acupuncture can cure the patient who has a Parkinson’s Disease?

    Yung Boss ko po kasi hindi niya na po ma-control yung shaking sa neck niya po. Concern lang po ako sa kanya.

    Hope to hear from you.

    GOD BLESS po and More Power!

    • Hello angel. Parkinson’s disease is personal to me as my own dad has it. Unfortunately there is no real cure, only symptom management and slowing down of disease progression. You’re very kind to be concerned about your boss.

  • shane

    doc can u help my digestive problem?

  • dave lim

    hi dr philip nino , i have a problem with left side of my body my neck till the upper shoulder feel tight and my left leg keep shaking and will feel numb below my foot causing me losing my balance when walking and when i stand still the left leg feel weak n shake alot but when i was sleeping it will feel normal and when i wake up after 5 mins the problem will slowly come back again this problem is ard 1+ years already last time not so serious coz only shaking but the balance was good now i start to lose my balance when walking but running its ok do u think u can help me with this thanks

  • Anna Mae

    Hi Doc Philip,

    I have psoriasis since i was 7. Do you have treatment for this?

    Hope to get your reply. Thanks!

    Anna Mae

    • Yes, acupuncture can be used to help the body mediate the immune response and thus, hopefully prevent or decrease attacks

  • Ira

    Hi doc,

    I have been diagnosed with IBS. Traditional aids such as pysllium husk, probiotics, and other supplements are not working to somehow regularize my BM. Have you treated a patient with IBS and was there improvement?

    Thank you.

  • sophie

    Hi Doc Philip,

    my mom had a mild stroke on the right brain can acupuncture recover her ??

  • Mary Jane Gulidan

    Hi doc,

    Iam 36 years old and diabetic metformin lang po ang ti ne take ko isa sa problema po di ko na maitaas ang aking mga braso sabi nila frozen shoulders daw po ito una ay sa kanan lang po ngayon nagagaya na po sa kaliwa ito po ba ay rayuma? pwede po ba ako mag pa acupuncture? thanks po

    • “mga braso” – so both arms po?

      • mary jane gulidan

        hi doc philip,

        opo both arms na kasi po nag start na po tong left nananakit na po siya unlike sa right di ko na po masyado naigagalaw
        thanks po

  • jef

    hi doc gud am. im suffering from photophobia and eye pain and irration when using a computer for long (2hrs) and heaviness and tingling in the upper right lip mustache area. i was diagnosed with dry eye but when i use eye drops i feel heaviness and tingling on my nasal pasage. MRI shows negative on tingling and heaviness on my uper lip mustache area and doctors cannot identify the cause and reason for this. can accupuncture help me with this problem i been suffering for almost 2 years now? thank you.

    • interesting. I’ve had cases of tingling and upper lip neuropathy related to autonomic dysfunction but not with dry eye. Wondering if they are related…

  • hi doc, i just wanna ask if you can treat my mom who is having difficulty in sleeping, insomia. shes taking po rivotril and sangiobion and vit. b complex but she will just sleep for 3 hours or less tapos nagigising na po siya at di na po siya nakakatulog ulit..8 months na po ngayon… -thanks doc

  • Marie

    Hi Doc. In 2009 I had PT sessions for my stiff neck due to muscle trauma I had from a massage session. It somehow relieved the pain but I still experience pain in my neck every now and then. But recently the pain is getting stronger. My officemate advised me to take acupuncture session and I am interested to try it. I had a chiropractic session last feb 2014 but I don’t really want to try it again maybe because of the way how it is being performed. Do you think acupuncture can totally cure my neck pain? What’s your clinic hours in the Fort and Medical City? And also if I may ask the fees as well. Thanks so much! Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hi, in medical city I am there mondays and wednesdays at 2 pm. In Fort I am there saturdays

  • Byron Michael C. Omboy

    Hi Doc. I have tried almost everything to manage myofascial pain in my trapezius muscles. At FMAB they told me my options would be Botox Injections and Dry Needling aside from regular PT. I want to give acupuncture another shot. When are you available at PGH FMAB?

  • Hi doc,

    I have TS (tourrettes) a movement disorder. can i be treated with acupuncture? May I also ask if you can email me the cost per session?
    Thank you so much in advance.

  • Tess Casunuran

    Hi Doc. I would like to ask about my Mother’s condition. She’s 81 y/o and her left eyelid drooped. The right eyelid is partially drooped. Can accupuncture help in making her eyelids back to their original position? she finds it very hard to move coz her vision has been affected. hope you can give us advice about her condition. thanks Doc and God bless.

    • Has she been seen by a neurologist? There are many reasons why an eyelid may droop – anything from bell’s palsy to stroke.


    Hi Doc,

    meron po ba kayong schedule for sat and sun sa pgh .
    thank you

  • chris


    I am feeling pain and numbness on both my hands particularly
    in pinky and ring fingers, and also on my wrist. I can also feel some pain at the back of my elbows.

    I have visited two doctors already, they had my neck X-Rayed to check if there are nerves having some problems, but it was negative. So theyonly gave me painkillers!

    I was not satisified with the conventional treatments I am getting so I started checking the internet to check what my condition really is.
    It seems its called ULNAR NERVE ENTRAPMENT.

    Can this be cured by accupuncture?


  • May Anne

    Hi Doc, I am experiencing upper and lower back pain, sometimes with shoulder and neck pain. Can this be treated with acupuncture and how many sessions would it require and how much po? Salamat.

    • It’s probably the most common complant! I can say that yes you can feel immediate positive change but the question is how many times before the pain is gone for good.

  • Lilybeth Cuento

    hi doc! good morning! I just want to ask if it is ok to have acupuncture after suffering from acute myocardial infarction last sept. 11 and acute angina last oct. 7? i’ve had my angiogram with dr. gloria of PGH Cardio and luckily, medicines lang po and no need for angioplasty or by-pass. thank you po. I am really considering acupuncture as I also have migraine.

  • Janine Gandia

    Good day, Doc! I just read an article about acupuncture by Ms. Kara Ballesteros of Good Housekeeping(where I actually got your contact details) she mentioned that acupuncture helps body aches and pain and hormonal problems as well. By the way I’m only 20 yrs. old and I always have dysmennorhea during the first day of my menstruation. Will acupuncture help me relieve those pains? Thank you!

  • David Norman

    Hello Dr. I have PTSD, and frequent problems with anxiety, can acupuncture help?