A first time treatment and consultation with Jung lasts for about an hour and a half. The patient will complete a health/medical questionnaire. The practitioner goes over the medical and family history and presenting symptoms. Similarly the pulse is taken and a tongue diagnosis made. "Both of these types of diagnosis tell us a lot about what is going on in all of your systems and where the qi may be out of balance in the body," says Jung.

This is followed with acupuncture treatment and then discussion of the patient's treatment plan.

Is the treatment painful?

Both Wu and Jung agree that acupuncture is not painful.

"I know it is thought to be a painful experience since we use needles but the acupuncture needles are very thin and fine and they are comfortable during the treatment," says Jung. "There is a sensation felt when the needle is inserted and it is a sensation of heaviness and sometimes it feels like a dull sensation as well. Most patients fall asleep during the treatment because acupuncture is such a relaxing experience."

Wu describes the needle insertion as not a pricking pain but instead experienced as pressure or deep ache. "During the treatment, the patient might experience needles tingling or movement within the body, which are excellent signs of the flow being restored to the body," she says. "Most people are relaxed or even energized after a treatment. Often there is a sense of well-being after a treatment because beneficial hormones have been released."

How long is a typical length of treatment?

Acute conditions can resolve after one treatment and chronic conditions can take longer, says Wu. 

"For most ailments, weekly treatments for about six to10 weeks is a general recommendation to start with for a patient," she says. "Although, it really depends on the patient, what their symptoms are, how long they have had the symptoms, the severity of the symptoms."

A typical follow-up treatment is usually about 45 minutes to an hour, says Jung.

What are the costs; does insurance pay for it?

The cost varies depending on the area of Chicago. The downtown area ranges from $90-120 for follow-up visits and in the suburbs the price may range from $70-90, says Jung.

Wu says costs range from certified acupuncturist charges of $120 for new patients and $65-85 for return visits to MD charges of $365 for new patients to $170 for return visits. "The charges vary with the number of other services provided such as herbal or nutritional counseling, prescriptions written and labs ordered, and the expertise of the practitioner," she adds.

Acupuncture is not routinely covered by most insurance plans or if it is will be limited in number of treatments and conditions covered. Medicare does not cover acupuncture but some supplemental insurance plans do. Both Wu and Jung say to check with your individual company to find out if acupuncture is covered.