I’m sure to those not in the field, acupuncture must seem like a peculiar form of medicine. Our methods are so incredibly different from Western medicine, yet just as powerful in a distinctive way. For those curious about this form of treatment, I thought I would answer some of the most frequently asked questions about acupuncture.
What is Acupuncture/TCM and how does it work?
Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine which involves inserting ultra fine needles into the body at strategic points to promote natural healing and improve function.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is one of the most ancient forms of medicine being over 3000 years old that has it’s own unique model of diagnosis. It is a fundamentally different model than Western Medicine, and is mainly based on the concept of “Qi” or “vital energy” circulating in pathways throughout the body. Any blockages in these pathways disrupts the flow of Qi leading to imbalance and undesirable symptoms. By activating certain acupuncture points, an acupuncturist is stimulating the flow of Qi in the body, thereby improving health.
Modern scientific research has shown acupuncture to have specific biological effects, including:
- promoting the release of endorphins, which are pain-blocking biochemicals
- activating the parasympathetic nervous system to move the body into a balance state known as homeostasis
- influences the cellular matrix of connective tissue
- functional MRI studies have shown acupuncture to stimulate regions of the brain that correlate to the treated acupoints
Does acupuncture hurt?
The idea of needles being stuck into the skin is daunting for many people, however, acupuncture needles aren’t anything like the needles used for immunizations or drawing blood. Acupuncture needles are extremely thin, stainless steel and disposable. While you may feel some sensation as the needles are inserted, it’s not described as painful. The most common sensations include a dull ache, perhaps a feeling of tingling or electricity, or a sensation of heat or cold in the area.
The bottom line is that although acupuncture can cause some unusual sensations, it shouldn’t hurt. If it does, let your acupuncturist know right away so the needles can be adjusted.
What does acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine are extremely successful in the treatment of a multitude of conditions. Acupuncture is a complete medical system in itself, and is also an excellent compliment to almost any other treatment, including Western pharmaceuticals & surgery, herbal therapies, massage or chiropractic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the benefit of acupuncture for over 100 different conditions including pain, many women’s health complaints, infertility, mental & emotional conditions, car accidents & sports injuries, anxiety, depression and stress. Common conditions that may benefit from acupuncture include: addictions, pain, stress, anxiety, depression, cancer supportive care, pregnancy related conditions, labour preparation support, circulatory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, PMS, menstrual disorders, pelvic pain, urinary disorders, headaches, fertility support, respiratory disorders, insomnia and weight loss support.
How many treatments will I need?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary from person to person depending on the conditions being treated, your age and health, and how your body responds to acupuncture. Because we are getting to the root cause of a problem, this type of healing tends to be gradual, but because acupuncture is cumulative, each treatment will be building on the last one.