Frequently Asked Questions

The first few questions and answers are taken from 'Why Did You Put That Needle There?' This book is a great primer for people who are new to acupuncture. 

What is acupuncture?

Let's first define the terms. 'Acupuncture' comes from the Latin 'acus' (point) and 'punctura' (to prick)

From Webster's online dictionary:

Main Entry: acu·punc·ture
Pronunciation: ak-yoo-puhngk-cher
Function: noun
Date: 1684
An originally Chinese practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points especially to cure disease or relieve pain.

This seems as good a quick definition as any. We'll offer up another with a little more detail:

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most common and dependable medical therapies used in the world. It is by nature simple, safe and effective health care. Acupuncture practitioners use thin, sterile disposable needles inserted superficially into specific areas of the body in order to help the body's ability to heal itself. 

Over the three decades or so in which acupuncture has gained popularity in the United States, it has been proven by an increasing body of scientific evidence to be not only exceptionally safe, but statistically effective as well. 

Why would I want to get acupuncture?

People get acupuncture for many different reasons. For our purposes, we'll offer two main answers to this question.

A) Here is a list of conditions the World Health Organization has deemed appropriate for treatment with acupuncture. (skip down to page 23 of this 1979 report)

B) In addition, we'll offer up a list of 'no-brainer' conditions – that is, situations that should absolutely be treated with acupuncture without hesitation:

Athletic sprain/strain, acute back and/or neck strain, temporal mandibular disorder (TMJ), Bell's palsy, headaches (including migraines), palpitations, early stages of cold/flu, asthma, tendinitis, arthritis, insomnia (poor sleep), Raynaud's, anxiety, high levels of stress, addictions, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, hemorrhoids, many gynecological issues (including PMS), herpes zoster (shingles) and pre-/post-surgery for accelerated healing.

Do I have to believe in this for it to work?

Absolutely not. You only have to believe enough to show up a few times in order to give yourself the chance to see positive changes.

Do acupuncturists have to hold to some religious beliefs that I don't know about?

No. Acupuncturists come from as many varied traditions of faith as your local banker, car mechanic or hair dresser. Acupuncture is born of philosophical traditions, not religious. It is given and received many thousands of times every day by Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and atheists among others.

Do the needles hurt?

Not really much at all. However, getting an acupuncture treatment isn't always painless. More than anything a treatment should be a deeply relaxing and sleepy slice of time for you.

Here's what we'd like our patients to know: You may feel a bit of a pinch when the needles are tapped in, but this should ease right away. If you continue to feel a pinching or a burning sensation at the needle site any longer than this, let us know. It means we haven't placed that needle real well. If on the other hand you are feeling a slight ache or heavy feeling near the needle, this is usually a good sign – a clue that the body is reacting in a productive way.
The bottom line is that as long as the feelings around the needled areas don't keep you from closing your eyes and napping for a little while, we say let them be.

Will I have to come get acupuncture forever to keep feeling good?

Likely not, but this also depends on the reason(s) you're getting treated in the first place.

For short-term issues, a handful of acupuncture treatments should do the job. For chronic or long-standing issues, a maintenance schedule of some sort would be in order to keep systems running smoothly and steadily after the initial period of relief and change.
For example, patient Melissa comes in for help with pain and swelling from a new ankle sprain less than 24 hours old. This type of injury responds best with acupuncture treatments two out of three days, which would probably be plenty to help Melissa's body sort out her injury completely.
On the other hand, David gets acupuncture treatments to work toward better management of long-term anxiety and insomnia that he's struggled with for five years. Chances are good he'll start to see clear changes in the pattern and intensity of his symptoms with steady treatments over four weeks or so. After this time, his acupuncturist will likely recommend regular but less frequent treatments for another stretch of time to help make sure the process of change continues moving forward. Once David finds himself in a place where he's consistently happy with his sleep and anxiety levels, we'll know it's time to dial back the frequency of his treatments even further. The aim here is to provide as few acupuncture treatments as possible while maintaining gains made.

Do you sterilize your needles?

When people ask this, we think there may be an assumption that we are re-using needles. This is not the case at all. For the last 15-20 years, acupuncturists have used one-time use, sterilized, disposable needles as the industry standard. So there is no re-using of needles even from one part of the body to another.

Sterile package opened, needle in, needle out and put into a bio-hazard box to dispose of responsibly and that's it.

Why do I feel sleepy once the needles are in?

To be honest, we're not sure. There have been many attempts at explaining why this happens and why acupuncture works in general. Our sense is, the presence of the needles causes our central nervous system to move into a clear pattern of rest (parasympathetic), allowing for our quickest healing and recovery to take place. Not unlike when we sleep at night.

This may explain why acupuncture is so effective at helping people overcome the many troubles associated with high stress levels – a state we can find ourselves in which is characterized by our nervous systems staying in a “fight or flight mode' (sympathetic) for extended periods of time.
Remaining in this state for long periods of time can keep us from recovering in an ideal way, leading to nagging injuries, sleeplessness or illness.
We can tell you, helping people get into a sleepy state is one of the most predictable and best effects acupuncture has to offer.

What are you injecting through the needles to make this work?

Nothing. And we couldn't if we tried. Needles that acupuncturists use are a filiform type, which means they are solid, not hollow like the type of needles 'shots' are given through (hypodermic syringe).

In fact, a standard-sized hypodermic syringe can hold about a dozen average-sized acupuncture needles inside of it. does all this work?

This is really the million-dollar question. The easiest answer we can offer, in bio-medical terms, is that no one has a definitive explanation. There have been many attempts to nail down The One Reason acupuncture works, but to our knowledge no one has got it - yet.

In all likelihood there isn't one factor, but that many reactions going on at once involving different systems - including the central nervous system – that allow acupuncture to have such wide, strong and lasting effects. This can be seen by people predictably being eased out of the “fight or flight” response (sympathetic) into the “rest and recuperate” state (parasympathetic) once needles are placed during a treatment.
If you have been told or have read that there is one factor to account for how acupuncture works, that explanation is probably not the whole picture.
The most commonly referenced studies on the topic of how acupuncture works have been directed and written by Dr. Bruce Pomerantz, an American physician. Through his ongoing studies, he and his colleagues have found that the body produces measurable amounts of endorphins (natural 'pain-killing' chemicals) when receiving acupuncture. For a time, this was thought to be the breakthrough understanding for the mechanism of acupuncture's effect. 
In our opinion however, there are limits to this explanation. For instance, his initial landmark study involved some very aggressive acupuncture needling followed by electricity added to the needles. It was only under these circumstances that the measurable amount of endorphins were identified. This does little to explain how much more subtle needling (like the sort seen in most acupuncture clinics) would initiate changes and cause reduction in pain or improve function, for example.
Dr. Pomerantz seems to acknowledge that his research conducted to this point, offers partial explanations. 

What is Community Acupuncture?

The Short Version

We define Community Acupuncture as the practice of offering acupuncture:
1) in a setting where multiple patients receive treatments at the same time;

2) by financially sustainable and accountable means, whereby community acupuncture clinics depend directly on the support of the people who receive acupuncture in them, rather than on grants, donations, or other funding;

3) within a context of accessibility, which we create by providing consistent hours, by making frequent treatments readily available, by offering affordable services, and by lowering all the barriers to treatment that we possibly can, for as many people as we possibly can, while continuing to be financially self-sustaining.

For The Long Version, read here.

Am I missing out on good acupuncture points while in Community Acupuncture?

You aren't missing out on anything.  No matter what style of acupuncture you receive or with whom, there will be excellent and effective points used, and good points that are not chosen.  No one kind of acupuncture is able to use all of the acupuncture points at once – and nor should they...that would be a heckuva lot of needles!

We think your best bet is to leave the point selections to your acupuncturist, while giving them feedback about how treatments are helping to change patterns of illness or injury for you. 

How can you afford to charge so little?

Because we treat lots of people.  What's most important to a community acupuncturist is simply to give many people the chance to receive treatments. Likewise, the business needs to see many people in order to make ends meet.

Plainly said, we want acupuncture to be readily available as a means to help take care of the health of our neighbors and communities.

Do I have to take my clothes off for treatment?

Absolutely not.  Occasionally, we may need to have access to areas just above the knee or up to the shoulder joint, in which case we'd ask you to wear shorts or a tee shirt. 

But by and large all it takes to get ready for treatment is to roll up pant legs and shirt sleeves, as points on the lower arms and legs are the most commonly used in community clinics.  No need to take any other clothes off.

Do I have to be a member of POCA to get acupuncture at the community clinics listed on this website?

No. Just like most food co-ops allow anyone to shop in them, not just their members, anyone can receive acupuncture at the community clinics listed here.

Becoming a Community/Patient member of POCA allows you to support the community acupuncture movement and to receive other benefits listed here.

I have joined co-ops before and this one doesn’t look like any co-op that I have ever seen. Why do you have four different kinds of members?

POCA is a relatively new kind of cooperative called a multi-stakeholder cooperative.

You can read more about multi-stakeholder co-ops here. The purpose of a multi-stakeholder cooperative is transformational rather than transactional. While many co-ops are designed for the purpose of helping their members get a better deal, multi-stakeholder co-ops are designed for the purpose of building long term economic relationships to benefit everyone involved.

The current state of the acupuncture profession does not really benefit patients, or practitioners, or clinics, or most other entities that have an economic interest in acupuncture, whether that interest is receiving acupuncture that they can afford, or making a living by practicing acupuncture, or supplying acupuncturists with products that they use in their clinics. A multi-stakeholder cooperative can help build a more secure economic foundation for multiple kinds of stakeholders so that everyone gets more of what they need.


What about member patronage and dividends? I thought joining a co-op means buying a share and getting annual dividends?

Not necessarily. POCA is based on memberships, not on shares. POCA is a social business, which means that its goal is to produce dividends that benefit society rather than financial profits. POCA’s dividends are affordable acupuncture treatments, living wage jobs, and stable community clinics.

Becoming a member means making an investment in the community acupuncture movement. The return on your investment is not financial but social.

If my clinic becomes a member of POCA, does that mean POCA owns my clinic?

No. POCA does not own its member clinics anymore than POCA owns its member acupuncturists or member patients. When a clinic joins POCA as a member, its ownership remains the same as it was before; the clinic simply has access to the member benefits listed here.


The requirements for being a POCA clinic are different than the requirements for being a CAN clinic – why did you change them?

When CAN first came into being, very few people really understood how community acupuncture worked. The founders and the first clinics involved in the movement were very concerned with defining community acupuncture and making sure that as many clinics as possible survived. For that reason, the CAN definition of community acupuncture was very specific and did not include clinics that also provided non-community acupuncture, even if they only did so occasionally.

CAN kept a list of clinics that met its criteria that had to be monitored by a CAN Board volunteer known as 'The Hammer'. Several successive Hammers noticed that there were many clinics that provided community acupuncture almost all of the time but were not on the list because they offered a tiny amount of non-community acupuncture. As the movement grew and more acupuncturists understood that the purpose of community acupuncture was not to provide a “loss leader” for non-community acupuncture, but to genuinely make acupuncture available to as many people as possible, it seemed reasonable to change the criteria.

Furthermore, CAN was founded to be an ideological organization for acupuncturists, so ideology was very important; POCA was founded to be an economic organization for multiple stakeholders. As long as a clinic provides affordable acupuncture according to the POCA definition, we don’t really care what else they do.


How do I sign up for my 8 Free CEU's?


  1. Go to and login
  2. Click on your username in the upper right hand corner of the screen.
  3. Click on Your Member Benefits. 
  4. From the benefits page you have several buttons down at the bottom.  If you want to sign up for CEU courses click on the one that says "Sign Up for Your CEU Courses".
  5. You will be presented with a current listing of our CEU courses.  Check the boxes of courses that you would like to take, you may select up to 8 CEUs per membership term.
  6. If you want to browse through brief descriptions of all of the courses click the View course descriptions link.  If you would like to view the description for a particular course, click on the name of the course next to the check boxes.  You may be asked to sign in again, do so using your regular POCA Username and Password.  After looking at the course description(s) return to the previous page and select the courses you would like register for by checking the appropriate check boxes next to the course name.
  7. Once you have selected your courses, click the Enroll me in these CEU Courses button.  You may not manually un-enroll from any courses, if you accidentally enroll in a course you will need to contact POCA tech support to be removed from the course.
  8. After clicking the Enroll me in these CEU Courses button you should be enrolled in your courses.
  9. Now you should head over to the POCA Department of Education, you can get there from the main part of by clicking on the CEU tab at any time.
  10. Once in the Department of Education you will need to login (if you logged in while looking at course descriptions in step 6, you should logout and then log back in).
  11. Once you are logged in you should see a listing of your courses on the main page of the Department of Education.  Find the course that you would like to work on and click on the name to enter the course.
  12. Enjoy your CEUs.

Will there be CEUs offered for POCA Tv?

Currently, POCA offers about 15 courses for CEU credit.  The main content item featured in most of these courses is one or several POCA Tv episodes.  If you have joined POCA or renewed your membership, as Punk or Clinic member since January, 1st  2014 your membership benefits include 8 free online CEUs.  Learn more about our courses, or register for your 8 free CEUs.

I made a video about Community Acupuncture/ POCA, can I post it on POCA Tv?

Yes! We would love to post your video.  First you should upload your video to your own account on vimeo, youtube, or another similar video streaming service.  Then send us a link to your video using the video request form.  We will take a look at it and get it posted in the community video section of POCA Tv.

How many videos will POCA Tv be producing per month?

We are planning to release 4 videos per month.

Who produces POCA Tv Videos?

POCA Tv videos are currently produced by Lisa Rohleder and Wade Phillips. 

Lisa and Wade

Not video professionals, but extremely determined and learning fast