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How will I feel during the acupuncture session? And Afterwards?

Many people report feeling deeply relaxed and grounded and tranquil both during and after acupuncture treatments. And often, aches and pains that had been present do start to dissolve during the process. People also tell me often that it is their one chance in their week to escape the pressures of daily life for a while and feel complexly ‘Zen’.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture is surprisingly very gentle and usually completely free from discomfort.
People often say to me in surprise after their first needle has been inserted- “That’s it? I didn’t even feel it!”.
We use the thinnest, highest quality needles for the most comfortable therapeutic experience.

Where will the acupuncture needles be inserted?

It really depends. It depends on the condition being treated and the style of acupuncture being administered and the patient’s sensitivity level. If someone is very sensitive to needles, for example, we do our best to choose effective points that are also comfortable. I also use the pulse and tongue to help guide my acupuncture point selection.

What is happening within the body and mind while the needles are in the body?

Your body and mind and all of its systems and processes – the nervous system, the endocrine system, etc- are ‘talking’ to the needles and it is your own innate resources of healing within the body that are effecting the change in the system. The needles are just there to help guide the process. They help instruct your system to return to its optimal, balanced state (which modern medicine refers to as ‘homeostasis’).

Can I get the same effects from therapeutic massage that I get from acupuncture and/or medicinal herbal formulas?

Herbal medicine works in a quite different way from acupuncture and massage, but massage and acupuncture are not so different in some ways. It depends on the particular condition being treated. Both acupuncture and massage can make positive, re-balancing changes to the entire mind-body-spirit system. Acupuncture is thought to be a bit more laser-focused in its approach to specifics in re-balancing the system, whereas massage often is thought to take a more all-encompassing approach.

By Dr. Aaron Cashman, DAOM, LAc 

When I meet people for the first time and they ask me what I do for a living, they often will say something like, “Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine, huh?  I heard those are helpful with infertility”.  And I will tell them that, yes, they are very helpful for increasing the odds for conception and for carrying a pregnancy to term.  Sometimes people will then ask exactly HOW acupuncture and herbal medicinal formulas work to improve these odds.  A full, comprehensive answer to the ‘how it works to help infertility’ question would fill a small book.  So instead, I’ve decided to simplify things here and to describe three of the many ways in which acupuncture and herbal medicine help to make pregnancies more viable.

First, acupuncture can assist in increasing blood flow to the uterus to help create a thicker, healthier endometrial lining, which helps with proper implantation*.  According to Valinda Nwadike, MD, “Endometrial thickness is important in pregnancy. Healthcare experts link the best chances for a healthy, full-term pregnancy to an endometrium that is neither too thin nor too thick. This allows the embryo to implant successfully and receive the nutrition it needs.” **

Second, acupuncture can help to reduce stress and thereby increase the odds of pregnancy.  According to fertility researcher Alice Domar, PhD “Your body is smart, it knows that (periods of stress) aren’t good times to have a baby”.  Dr Domar, who is the director of Mind/Body services at Boston IVF, stated that the medical community once “said I was stupid to believe that the mind had any control over the ovaries…Today (however), researchers widely accept that stress and fertility are connected.”  Also, stress hormones like cortisol can “trip up ovulation” by interrupting the “signaling between the brain and the ovaries”, says Sarah Berga, MD. ***

Third, acupuncture can help to balance hormones, which is also pivotal in conception and carrying to term.  In addition to minimizing stress hormones, other important hormones play major roles in fertility.  Restoring balance to the proper levels of some of these hormones is crucial.  A few important hormones in fertility include estrodial and progesterone, thyroid hormones (like TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).               (For a much more thorough explanation on hormonal balancing through acupuncture and herbal medicine, I highly recommend the book, Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, written by Acupuncturist/Herbalist, Dr Claudia Welch.)

Other ways that acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown to help increase fertility odds:

  • Keeping the fallopian tubes open for fertilization by preventing or reducing spasms
  • Increasing sperm motility and sperm count
  • Overall increase of health and well-being of mother to ensure a smooth pregnancy

Why did I focus this blog post on acupuncture and not herbal medicines?   

In general in the West, acupuncture is typically more widely accepted and therefore has been researched more in clinical studies.  However, in my clinic and in many other EAM (East Asian Medicine) clinics, herbal medicine is just as important as acupuncture for many conditions- sometimes more important.  

In the realm of fertility and conception, acupuncture sometimes has enough of an impact alone that adding herbal medicine or a supplement is not needed.  But more often, patients get better, faster results when both herbs and acupuncture are administered consistently over time.  

According to the AMA’s (American Pregnancy Organization) website, “Clinical observations from the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness suggest that the most effective fertility treatments involve both a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and traditional medicine.  However, conception occasionally occurs when acupuncture and herbal medicines are used without traditional medical interventions. “.

– Dr. Aaron Cashman, DAOM, LAc, is the founder of Mind-Body Acupuncture in Philadelphia, USA (






“(Excellent) Health is a state of complete harmony of body, mind and spirit.”  – B.K.S. Iyengar

“Your body hears everything your mind says.”  – Naomi Judd

I’m an Acupuncturist and get Acupuncture treatments often.

Why do I also get regular Massage Therapy?

First of all, massage feels great.  Massage can feel like floating on a cloud on a breezy, warm, summer day.  All one’s worldly cares vanish into that liminal, dream-like state between being awake and sound asleep.  It can feel, as though through magic, someone (the LMT) finds a very soothing, supportive means of slowly draining my mind-body continuum of all its fears and doubts, frustrations and anxieties.   Massage therapy has a unique ability to allow one’s body-mind-spirit to pour out the world’s stressors that the body accumulates (usually unintentionally/subconsciously) throughout daily life.   

Massage therapy can be miraculous at releasing unwanted mind-body accumulations.  In Ayurveda, there is a word for these accumulations or toxins: ‘Ama’.  ‘Ama’ usually refers to food or drink that was not properly digested and assimilated by the body, but can also refer to mental-emotional toxins or energetic ‘sludge’ that remains in the system until it feels safe and has a chance to allow it to leave the mind-body continuum.  When these accumulations- Amas– stay in the system for long periods of time, they can eventually lead to greater problems or various ‘Amayas’ (disease).  Fortunately, Massage Therapy is excellent at removing these physical and energetic toxins from the body and mind.  

I particularly find that lymphatic drainage massage techniques are excellent at helping the body find an exit door for more mental or psychological-based Amas, whereas I find that myo-fascial or trigger point massage techniques excel at releasing Amas that are bound to the system on a more physical/bodily level.  Of course, mind-body-spirit can never be separated completely.  Still, I find that sometimes I need more of mental-emotional-lymphatic release and other times it feels like I just need work done on my tight I-T band or rhomboid muscles.  

Can’t Acupuncture do all of this?  

Well, yes, but it is different.  First, it feels different.  There is often more of a ‘flow’ feeling with massage where techniques are continuous.  Acupuncture techniques are more sporadic.  Massage, then, excels at unifying or integrating all of the trigger and acupuncture points and tissues at all levels and locals- from head to toe, epidermis down to bone.  

While acupuncture is incredible at quick-focused release, massage works its wonders in a more broad-spectrum way, since it attends to a large majority of the body’s surface area.  In an acupuncture session, however, it can be the case that only a handful of acupuncture points are chosen and thus, only those few areas are touched upon by the practitioner.

In other words, Therapeutic Massage and Acupuncture are like Yin and Yang- inseparable companions, each with their own invaluable strengths and efficacies.

To book a Therapeutic Massage session with Tho Lam, LMT, at Mind-Body Acupuncture, please visit  (Located in the Rittenhouse/Grad Hospital area of Phila)

Tho focuses on Sports Massage, Myo-fascial release, PNF & Lymphatic Drainage techniques.

This article was written on June 16, 2022 by me, Dr. Aaron Cashman, DAOM, Acupuncturist-Herbalist and Founder of Mind-Body Acupuncture.  

And, yes, Tho Lam is the highly-skilled therapist that I personally see almost every week.

Written by guest blogger Andrea Hoshmand, Founder of the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia

If you want to enjoy a stress-free pregnancy as part of a generally healthy lifestyle, there’s plenty of good news. Why? Because there are dozens of easy, innovative ways to relax during pregnancy and make sure your baby gets the best of everything.

It’s no mystery that even a woman who’s in the middle of an otherwise healthy pregnancy can experience unusually high degrees of stress. Of course, a certain amount is natural, but when you let stressful factors pile up, they can lead to all sorts of inconveniences, physical discomfort, and even premature birth.

Women looking to relieve stress during pregnancy often turn to strategies like specific pregnancy diet recommendations from their doctors, physical exercise, prenatal massage, meditation, acupuncture, and more. But, first, it’s important to know about the unique manifestations of discomfort that are common to expectant mothers. They include the following:

  • Backaches
  • Irregular urination
  • Mental concerns about the responsibilities of parenthood
  • Swelling in limbs
  • An intense bout of fatigue that comes and goes
  • An upset stomach
  • Emotional instability due to hormonal level imbalances
  • General anxiety about the health of the child
  • Worrying about the delivery day

Yes, carrying a child comes with plenty of common problems, and not all of them are physical. Of course, there’s probably never been such a thing as a stress-free pregnancy because all women undergo their own unique combination of difficulties.

Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to relax during pregnancy and relieve stress during pregnancy, no matter your level of anxiety or physical unease. The trick is to begin early and do regular pregnancy exercises if you are able. Likewise, if your doctor recommends a pregnancy diet, give it a go and see how well it works to bring a bit of calmness to your life.

A General Rule?

If there’s a bit of advice that applies to everyone, it’s probably this: leading a healthy lifestyle usually leads to a healthy pregnancy. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes, so be sure to add activities like a prenatal massage during pregnancy as a way to bolster your overall healthy lifestyle during the days leading up to delivery.

Tactics That Work

What can you do to decrease stress, acquire long-term relaxation, and boost your overall level of well-being during pregnancy? The great news is that there are lots of ways for women of all ages, shapes, sizes, fitness levels, and physical abilities to take control and introduce calming activities into their lives.

It’s not about becoming an exercise fanatic or devout meditation enthusiast. But, at least during pregnancy, there are several approaches that can deliver reliable, effective results in terms of stress reduction.


Here are some approaches you can try. Don’t feel the need to do them all. Instead, experiment with the ones that attract your attention first, and then maybe delve into one or two that you don’t know anything about or have never tried before.

  • Be smart: Don’t drink alcohol to excess, stop smoking if you currently smoke, only take drugs that your doctor prescribes to you, eat at least three well-balanced meals each day.

    Adjust your schedule to allow for more sleep than whatever your normal amount is, attempt to do some light exercise every day if you feel up to it, and maintain an attitude that taking care of yourself will pay major dividends in the long-run because it’s true.
  • Monitor your personal reaction to stress: We all deal with stress in different ways. But, be careful to avoid the most common pitfalls of reacting in counterproductive ways.

    What does that mean? Common unwise ways of dealing with stress include consumption of junk food, sleeping too much (compared to your regular sleep habits) as a way of not dealing with issues that need your attention, becoming anti-social to the point that you avoid interacting with others, skipping one or more meals because you’re “too nervous” to eat, drinking more than a minimal amount of alcohol, and smoking.
  • Build personal time into your daily schedule: Make it a point to give yourself enough time each day to do relaxing activities. Consider a short, daily yoga or stretching routine. Learn how to do basic relaxing meditation if you don’t already know. Get a weekly massage if your doctor approves.

    Practice deep-breathing sessions for a few minutes several times per day. Set time aside to listen to music that you find calming. Spend time reading one or two books by favorite authors. And don’t forget to plan some outside activities to add a bit of fun to your weekly routine.

Onward, in a Positive Frame of Mind

There’s no reason to let the very human side of pregnancy get you down, because healthy choices exist. Remember, billions of women have gone through the very same process, even if they didn’t all respond to it in the exact same way.

Keep a positive attitude and realize that there are numerous tried-and-true tactics for beating stress and keeping it at minimal levels. You can, with a little persistence and patience, turn your body into a relaxed, calm temple of restfulness during one of its major transformations.


Health and Wellness assessment of Philadelphia acupuncture clinics by author Pamela Toy – read post here.

One of my favorite yoga teachers often like to tell her classes that we practice yoga not just to feel more comfortable and at ease in our bodies, but in our minds as well.  Yoga, she would say, makes us stronger and more flexible on both a physical level as well as a mental one.  And when the mind and body are both strong and at ease, it becomes easier to cultivate a nourishing spiritual life.  This is why many yoga traditions emphasize the idea that the mind-body practice of asanas (physical movements of the body along with intentional breathing), is traditionally thought of as preparation for deeper states of well-being found through sitting meditation or ‘raja yoga’.

She liked to tell us that “the issues are in the tissues”.  Although I’m not sure if she was the originator of this quote, it was a statement that I’ve always held close to my heart.  As a practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine, it is crystal clear to me just how inextricable and interwoven the mind-body connection is for healing and optimal wellness.  

Acupuncture and herbal medicinal formulas are the primary modalities that I’ve been trained to use to promote balance of the body’s physiological, biochemical and energetic systems.  But these aren’t the only pathways towards optimal mind-body balance.  

Massage therapy is a powerful modality that I’ve also turned to frequently over the years to help me maintain and improve health. Personally, I often look to massage therapy when I feel my shoulder’s rotator cuff starting to feel restricted and in need of greater mobility.  Or when I have physical aches and pains.  Or when I feel in need of a ‘reset’- physically or mentally- and just want to feel more comfortable in my body and mind.  

To highlight the many therapeutic benefits of massage therapy, I’ve created my own list here.  11 Important benefits of Massage Therapy:

  1. Stress and Anxiety relief
  2. Better sleep
  3. Pain reduction (especially Chronic Pain)
  4. Range of Motion and Mobility enhancement
  5. Toxin release 
  6. Immune system benefits
  7. Energy increase (reduces fatigue)
  8. Workout-related recovery
  9. Circulation and Lymph improvement 
  10. Post-surgical recovery (helps expedite the healing process after surgery)
  11. That radiant ‘Glow’ (after a massage)

Special thanks to The Cleveland Clinic, Penn Medicine and the Mayo Clinic for some helpful reminders about the many benefits of massage therapy.  See links below to learn more about additional benefits of massage therapy not included in the list above.

Dr. Aaron Cashman
Dr. Aaron Cashman
Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist
(DAOM, L.OM., M.S., DiplOM, CYT)