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Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and/or applying electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
Acupuncture is not new; as a healing technique it has been studied and utilized for more than 2,500 years. Using ancient scientific principles, acupuncture treats illness by bringing a person’s body into harmony, into balance, into homeostasis.
How does acupuncture work?
Classical Chinese Explanation – Channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy through the meridians.
Modern Scientific Explanation – Needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
What is the scope of acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health care:
- Promotion of health and well-being,
- Prevention of illness,
- Treatment of various medical conditions.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of problems, including:
- Muscular and neurological disorders: headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendonitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis.
- Digestive disorders: gastritis, and hyper-acidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea.
- Respiratory disorders: Sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections.
- Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems.
Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.
Are there any side effects to the treatment?
Not usually. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally, the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.
It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.
What are the needles like? Do they hurt?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt.
The needles are very fine, flexible and rounded but sharp at the tip. They are ‘atraumatic’, meaning that they do not have a cutting edge like a hypodermic needle, which slices through tissue. Their design allows acupuncture needles to slide smoothly through tissues and makes them unlikely to cause bleeding or damage to underlying structures.
Because only disposable needles are used, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
A dull, heavy, or aching feeling often occurs when the needle is correctly placed. This is referred to as ‘de Qi’ and is considered by some traditional acupuncturists to be necessary for acupuncture to be effective.
The needles are left in place for 15-30 minutes, and the practitioner may manipulate the needles to strengthen or reduce the flow of Qi. Lifting, twisting, and rotating are some of the needling techniques a practitioner may use.
Other related techniques:
• Electro-acupuncture: needles are electrically stimulated by various frequencies and voltages by attachment to a battery-powered machine using wires with small clips on the ends. Low frequency stimulation (2-4 Hz) results in a slow onset of pain relief that outlasts the treatment for hours to days and is often cumulative by repeating treatments. High frequency stimulation (80-200 Hz) results in a pain-blocking effect that is fast in onset but does not usually outlast the stimulation.
Does acupuncture really work?
Yes. In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union, and in Europe. It is now being used more and more in North America.
Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, physiotherapy hands-on treatment techniques and herbal medicine.
- All sessions are provided by Registered Naturopathic Doctors or Registered Physical Therapists Certified in Acupuncture, therefore most insurance providers will cover the cost of treatments. Fees are based on the service providers set rates (please refer to Physical Therapy or Naturopathic Medicine pages for fees. Direct Billing is available, please refer to spa etiquette page for more details.