Acupuncture & Therapeutics

What is Acupuncture?
   Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM is a holistic medicine that carefully considers the whole person (body, mind, diet, environment, lifestyle, and exercise) so the treatment not only focuses on the symptoms but also and more importantly, the cause (the root). Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice using extremely fine needles at acupuncture points to enhance the flow of Qi, and to promote and strive to achieve health, wellness, and balance to the body and mind.
   Approximately 365 acupuncture points on the human body connect with pathways, called meridians.   These meridians conduct energy or Qi flow between the surface of the body and internal organs.
The sensation that is expected from acupuncture is not painful, like with vaccinations or having blood drawn because acupuncture needles are smooth and rounded at the tip. The sensations felt can be tingling, warmth, distension, heaviness, or lightness. The sensation can also be local or it may radiate. Many people find acupuncture very relaxing and often fall asleep.

Things to know when choosing an Acupuncturist.
   The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturist of British Columbia (CTCMA) regulates the practice of TCM and Acupuncture in the province, and operates under the Health Professions Act. A valid registration or professional license is issued only when all requirements are met. All practitioners are required to pass Licensing Board Exams (written and practical), to complete a safety course, including clean needle technique (requiring the use of single use, sterile disposable needles) and acupuncture point safety.
   Today, as acupuncture continues to become more popular, more medical practitioners are studying acupuncture and employing it in their practice. However, the amount of training in both theory and practice varies. Some examples are MDs and Physiotherapists trained in IMS (50 hours) or under the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute (285 hours) and Naturopathic physicians trained in basic TCM within their ND schooling (250 hours). A Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.) has 3 years (1900 hours) of in depth training in TCM medical theory, diagnosis, acupuncture point location and needling techniques. By seeing a CTCMA Registered professional, you can be assured that they have the most comprehensive training of any medical profession and will be able to offer you an effective and holistic treatment specific to you.

What does Acupuncture treat?
   Though best known in western cultures for treating various types of pain, TCM and acupuncture treat a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses.
   TCM and acupuncture have been proven particularly effective in treating but are not limited to: sports injuries, headaches and migraines, insomnia, gynecological disorders, digestive disorders, stress, depression, anxiety and panic disorders, chronic fatigue, respiratory disorders, asthma, allergies and immune system disorders, postoperative pain, arthritis pain, muscular pain and weakness, low back pain, sciatica, menstrual pain, dental pain, and addictions.
   TCM and acupuncture can also be used maintain optimal health in the absence of illness and as well, maintain balance as we transition from season to season.

Does your company Health Care Benefits Program cover acupuncture?
   Just like for visits to the Dentist and Chiropractor, a majority of extended health insurance plans in the Lower Mainland and British Columbia cover employees for Acupuncture. Some examples of Employer Coverage are 10 visits per annum or anywhere between $500-900 per year. As we approach the end of each year, take advantage of all of your benefits. They are considered one third of your annual salary. Use them before you lose them!
   Check with your Human Resources Department and Health Insurance Provider for coverage details.

What other treatment options are there?
   There are many options not involving acupuncture needles. Acupressure, cupping, Tui Na (Chinese massage), Ohm therapy or sound healing (using tuning forks), electrical stimulation, Gua Sha (scraping) therapy, diet and nutritional counselling are some of the additional options.

Does acupuncture hurt?  I’m afraid of needles.
   Acupuncturists utilize disposable, sterile, ultrafine filiform needles the size of a hair.  The needle point is rounded and the needle shaft is silicon-coated to minimize discomfort but enhance optimal results from acupuncture treatments.  Acupuncture needles are not the same as the syringe-type needles utilized for drawing blood or for vaccinations.  About 10 filiform acupuncture needles can fit into 1 syringe type needle!  While syringe type needles are very sharp and they can tear through tissue and blood vessels to inject or withdraw fluid in muscle tissue or a vein, acupuncture needle tips are rounded and so fine that they move between skin and muscle cells with minimal discomfort.

Is acupuncture effective just for pain?
   Acupuncture is not just effective for pain syndromes, as in sports related injuries, migraines or headaches, postoperative, arthritic pains, sprains and strains, or painful periods.  Acupuncture can treat a wide variety of symptoms and conditions, such as digestive problems (Crohn’s, acid reflux, IBS), gynecological conditions (infertility, irregular periods, menopausal symptoms), asthma and seasonal allergies, skin disorders (hives, acne, eczema), fibromyalgia, and endocrine disorders (diabetes), to name just a few.  The fundamental objective of acupuncture is to improve the circulation of Qi and blood to the tissues, to rebuild the cellular healing process, and ultimately, to promote the body’s energetic system to heal itself.

How many acupuncture treatments will I need?

   The number of acupuncture treatments needed will vary from individual to individual.  In general, for more acute type conditions, such as pain that has just recently come on, the treatment interval will be less than for more chronic type conditions, for example, seasonal allergies or digestive issues.  Within each type of condition, there will be more stubborn conditions which will require more frequent treatments and for longer combined intervals.  The reason for this is that acupuncture and traditional Chinese Medicine treat conditions from the root problem and by treating the root, we will eliminate the symptoms or branches that manifest from a larger broader condition.  Although at times acupuncture treatments may have some magical results, they are not magic.  You can rest assured that the results will be long lasting and will not reappear as readily as if treating and masking the symptoms.  Just as a physician may prescribe antibiotics for 2 full weeks for bronchitis or pneumonia, our treatment plans will also require patients to adhere to as frequent as needed acupuncture treatments, depending on each condition. Each acupuncture treatment is cumulative upon the last, so it is important that patients also adhere to the prescribed number of treatments, in order to optimize recovery.

I’ve had IMS or Dry Needling before at the Physiotherapists’ clinic.  Is Acupuncture the same?
   Some physiotherapists use IMS or dry needling on trigger points and other tissues involved with injuries and pain. Physiotherapists doing IMS, use often one acupuncture needle into taut muscle bands, where there is chronic muscle pain and near the spine, where there may be irritation of the nerve roots.  Acupuncturists insert needles at acupuncture points, or at trigger points, or along channels or meridians, and in addition, often use electrical stimulation or moxibustion to activate these points.  IMS uses western medicine’s understanding of neurophysiology to treat chronic pain issues, while Acupuncture uses traditional Chinese medicine’s meridian systems or diagnosis according to pattern differentiation, thereby treating an individual holistically.  So, it can be said that IMS is a westernized version of an ancient form of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Another primary difference between IMS and Acupuncture; in IMS the needle is inserted deeper into the muscle and moved in and out to hunt and peck for bands of tight muscle tissue. Many patients claim that IMS is painful.  Traditional acupuncture can be quite calming and soothing. The goal in acupuncture is to unblock the channels or promote the circulation, so that there is a free flow of Qi and blood through the channels, alleviate pain, numbness or tingling, and thereby promote the body’s energetic system to heal itself.