How does acupuncture work?

Energy (Chi or Qi “chee”) runs through the body along pathways called meridians. Each meridian is connected to an organ and is named after that organ: the Lung meridian, Heart meridian, etc. Each meridian has points where qi tends to collect at varying intensities … a bit like towns and cities (points) on a highway (meridian). When qi gets blocked (like a traffic jam), there will be pain or other problems. When qi is insufficient (like a deserted town), the system is weak and tired. The practitioner identifies which pathways have imbalances through any number of means:


Q & A – a detailed interview asking about your symptoms, sleep, energy levels, bowel movements, libido, body temperature, etc., provides essential information.


pulse - each organ meridian has a position on the wrists, and will have different qualities, like taut as a guitar string, or slippery like a bead rolling under one’s fingers, etc., with each quality having a meaning.


tongue - different areas of the tongue correspond to different organs. One also interprets the color, shape, and coating of the tongue.


abdomen - different areas of the stomach correspond to various organs, with qualities such as pain, heat, cold, tightness, sponginess, etc., that inform the diagnosis.


meridians – points along the meridians may feel tender, lumpy, weak, etc., indicating if and where there may be blockages.


complexion – skin coloring (dark circles under the eyes, red cheeks, etc.) also provides diagnostic information.


Based on the data collected, including labs, health history, etc., a strategy is developed that involves selecting which meridians, and which points, will be used. While all acupuncture needles are extremely thin, some are ever-so-slightly thinner than others. So the gauge of the needle, the angle, and technique are also part of the strategy. Sometimes the order matters, but not always.


How do Chinese herbs work?

Chinese Herbs are an excellent adjunct to Acupuncture, or can be used alone for those who are afraid of needles. Where acupuncture stimulates the body’s healing potential with each treatment, Chinese herbs can extend and build on those beneficial effects throughout the time in between appointments.


How do I take Chinese herbs?

Chinese Herbs come in many different forms, depending on what is most convenient and effective: pills, custom powders stirred into a tea, or custom brewed herbs. They are used for a wide range of health disorders, and can be combined with most prescription drugs when necessary. Generally, Chinese herbs are taken away from food.


How are Chinese herbs prescribed?

Expertise - The study of Chinese Herbs is highly rigorous and complex. Abigail Surasky, L.Ac. has been committed to the ongoing study of this system for over 25 years, and brings a clear depth of knowledge to her work when it comes to prescribing the right herb combinations for the right situations..






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Including information on how acupuncture works, the benefit of Chinese herbs, nutritional and lifestyle coaching, lab testing information and options, and other specialties offered by Abigail.  

Nutritional and Lifestyle Consulting

According to the wisdom of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and herbs are the modalities of choice for treating an illness, but for health maintenance and prevention, one of the most effective strategies for staying healthy is to eat well, as well as get adequate exercise and rest.


But how does one know where to start with so many diet and exercise regimens out there? And who has the time to research and then implement them?

Chinese Medicine discourages a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, based on careful analysis of your symptoms and constitution, you will be guided towards the most sensible and compatible dietary and lifestyle choices for you.


Abigail Surasky, L.Ac., has worked with hundreds and hundreds of clients to help them make the most realistic and supportive changes to their diet and lifestyle. She firmly believes this is the way to empower people to take control of their health and make informed choices for life.


Lab testing

Not everyone needs lab testing, but when recommended, we use specialty labs in the following situations: if conventional labs turn up inconclusive results, when more sensitive testing is needed, or when we need objective measures for progress. Lab testing can be used for infertility, digestive problems, low energy, or disorders that no one has been able to diagnose.

Lab results can sometimes reveal information that tells us exactly how and where to target treatment in order to facilitate the healing process. Combining the wisdom of ancient Chinese medicine with the advanced technology of modern techniques is what defines cutting edge Integrative Medicine. Abigail Surasky, L.Ac., has access to some of the top specialty labs in the country that can be used if and when needed.


Treating children

I have treated many children, including my own, of course. And it is one of the great delights of my practice to see how much kids LOVE acupuncture! I usually do not administer acupuncture until they are a little older.


Japanese Massage Techniques

For infants and toddlers, I use a technique from Japan called Sho-Ni-Shin that uses different textured instruments to rub the skin along the meridians and move the qi, as well as a specific massage technique. Parents can learn the basics of these technique using simple objects at home, like a spoon, fork, comb, or butter knife, to treat the child for immune issues, asthma, allergies, digestive problems, and many other health problems. Children enjoy this therapy very much.



As children get older, when they’re ready, we use acupuncture (just a few points). Parents are often amazed to see how deeply relaxed their active child becomes during the treatment, and how much they want to come back for more. Even children experience stress, anxiety, pain, etc., and acupuncture can be wonderful for all of these, teaching their developing nervous systems healthier ways of coping.


Chinese Herbs/Homeopathy

Administering Chinese herbs to children is a good thing, but can be more of a challenge. My children grew up on Chinese herbs, so they are used to the taste and love it. This is rare! I often recommend homeopathy first, especially for common health complaints, as compliance is much better (they get to take fun little sugar pills!!). It’s actually quite effective, especially for skin disorders.


Luckily, there are many wonderful pediatric homeopaths in the Bay Area, such as:

Christine Ciavarella, PA at Hahnemann Clinic at El Cerrito Plaza, 510-524-3117

Iris Hagen Ratowsky in Berkeley, 510-548-1403

Lori Nairne, R.N. in San Francisco, 415-751-1261


Usually I reserve Chinese herbs for more serious or complex health problems, like kidney disease, asthma that does not respond to homeopathy, bone marrow disorders, endocrine disorders, etc.



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