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acupuncture

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is a component of Chinese medicine that originated more than 2000 years ago. It involves the insertion of fine needles into the skin at various depths, to improve overall health. Records of acupuncture in Canada date back to the 1880’s. It was only in the 1970’s and 80’s however, that records of acupuncture being used outside of Chinese communities began to surface. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has found acupuncture useful in the treatment of more than 90 diseases. Modern medicine however is still unable to explain clearly how acupuncture works. The general consensus is that the practice affects the body’s electrical (nervous) system in a way that results in better health. Eastern theory states that acupuncture stimulates the flow of energy in the body. Energy is known as qi (chi) or prana in the east. When qi flows smoothly through the body, disease or imbalance can not occur. Disease, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) arises when qi or life energy is deficient or when the flow of qi is some how blocked. Acupuncture works primarily by correcting the flow of qi in the body. Acupuncture is used most commonly for pain relief in the West. In China the practice is used for a wide variety of disorders, including stress management, emotional disorders, digestive disorders, respiratory conditions and pain.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

Normally, the first acupuncture visit involves a comprehensive and lengthy health assessment. Questions may seem unrelated to the client’s concerns, but in TCM what happens in what may seem to be a completely unrelated area of the body, can provide key information needed for accurate diagnosis. In TCM, diagnosis is not made according to the Western model of medicine. Diagnosis is achieved using age old Chinese theory and philosophy. From this diagnosis patients are then treated with either acupuncture, acupressure (which involves stimulating specific points on the body with pressure) Chinese herbal medicine or a combination of these therapies. In acupuncture, a patient may experience a stinging or sharp momentary sensation- similar to that of a mosquito bite- when the needles are inserted. Most patients however admit that they do not feel the majority of the needle insertions. Patients are asked to lie quietly, for 5 to 25 minutes with the needles inserted. Most clients find this aspect of the treatment very relaxing. Sensations of heat, heaviness and numbness in areas where needles are placed are commonly experienced. Afterwards, the needles are removed and home-care is then discussed. Home care may include physical exercises and dietary recommendations.

Ideally, patients should see the practitioner twice a week until symptoms improve. After improvement is seen, once weekly treatments are sufficient until the patient’s symptoms are completely abated. In chronic disorders, weekly or monthly treatments may be necessary, to ensure symptoms do not return and good health is maintained. Monthly or bi-monthly treatments are recommended to all patients as a form of preventative care, so optimal vitality can be achieved and maintained.

ACUPUNCTURE: SIDE EFFECTS AND CONTRA-INDICATIONS

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment with very few adverse side effects, provided the practitioner has been properly trained. Side effects from acupuncture in fact, are hardly ever serious. The most commonly experienced adverse side effects are bleeding and bruising at sites of needle insertion. Sweating and nausea may also occur. In such cases needles are withdrawn within 2 minutes if symptoms do not abate. The most serious adverse side effect of acupuncture is pneumothorax, which rarely happens, especially if the acupuncturist is properly educated. Fainting is another serious side effect. This however can easily be avoided or treated. Patients on blood thinners or those with bleeding disorders must check with their general health care practitioner before starting acupuncture.

Good side effects occur commonly as well. These include better sleep and mood, better digestion and better energy.

REQUIREMENTS TO PRACTICE ACUPUNCTURE

In North America, there are a number of different acupuncture certification standards that vary from state to state and province to province.

In Canada Registered Acupuncturists are now expected to have passed the Pan- Canadian Exam for Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturists. This exam, developed by the Canadian Alliance of Regulatory Bodies of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists (CARB-TCMPA), ensures safe high quality patient-centered health care across Canada. In Alberta, applicants are expected to have completed an acupuncture program approved by the Alberta Health Disciplines Board in order to contest the exam.

Doctors of Traditional Medicine (DTCMs) need to complete more training than Registered Acupuncturists. Programs for Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine total 4 years of full time study, in which more than 1000 hours are practicum.

IS ACUPUNCTURE COVERED?

Many insurance plans offer coverage for acupuncture. Contact your insurance company directly to find out if your plan covers acupuncture. Acupuncture may also be covered if you sustained a workplace injury or if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident. In Alberta acupuncture is only covered when it is practiced by registered acupuncturists

IS ACUPUNCTURE FOR ME?

Today acupuncture is commonly used by individuals who have already tried conventional medicine, but are dissatisfied with the results. Such persons have already been diagnosed by western medical practitioners, but fail to find relief in western medications, most of which only address the symptoms of a disorder and not the root problem.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine seek to treat the root of a disease. In persons with sleeping disorders studies have found that acupuncture increases neurotransmitters associated with relaxation and sleep. Regular acupuncture treatments have also been found to be beneficial in cases of depression, anxiety, seasonal allergies, digestive disorders and migraines. Acupuncture also improves immunity and is commonly used for pain.

Acupuncture however shines today as a form of preventative medicine. In China there is a saying – “the mediocre doctor treats disease… a good doctor prevents disease by examining the tongue and pulse and a master prevents disease just by observing the patient’s appearance.” Investing in one’s health today can save one from huge financial burdens in the future. It can also improve one’s quality of life in the years ahead. Exercise, good diet and sleep are key components of any preventative health care model. Stress management is also another important aspect. All diseases are associated with stress. Whether it is physical stress or emotional stress, acupuncture is an excellent choice for retarding and reducing the effects of stress on our health. Studies have found that regular acupuncture treatments actually decrease the amounts of stress markers in the body. Acupuncture bring us closer to a state of balance. Acupuncture brings us better health.

Patients with new or acute conditions however should always visit a primary health care practitioner before seeing an acupuncturist or Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, to rule out serious medical conditions.

© Copyright 2017, Dr. Laurel Stuart