So What is acupuncture anyway?
Acupuncture is an ancient tradition finding new life in modern medical practice. Simply put, it's the insertion of extremely fine sterile needles to alter or improve the flow of blood, oxygen, nerve signals, body fluid, and other important substances throughout your body. In doing so, acupuncture is effectively stimulating you to treat yourself, triggering your body's own tissue regeneration and pain management mechanisms. For this reason, acupuncture has an incredibly broad scope of efficacy while still being gentle enough to treat patients in all stages of health. Acupuncture is safe, surprisingly restful, and has among the fewest side effects of any treatment modality. While an effective treatment in its own right, acupuncture is also an excellent complementary therapy to pair with a pre-existing treatment; to either enhance your body's response or lessen negative side-effects.
How does it work?
The stimulation of acupuncture points, either by touch pressure or through needles, regulates the flow of Qi – a loose term that at once encompasses breath, air, energy, and movement – blood, and body fluid through groups of tissue that are linked throughout the body to your internal organs. These pathways of communication and flow are commonly known as meridians. By regulating the movement of various substances in these pathways, we can enact both external and internal change, treating everything from pain to insomnia.
Allopathic (Western) Medicine understands acupuncture to increase electromagnetic signalling and neurotransmitter activity in the brain, as well as to facilitate the release of endorphins and opioids (your natural painkillers). It is also shown to stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which together are important to appetite, digestion, water balance, blood pressure, sleep, thyroid function, temperature, and pain relief.
What can acupuncture treat?
Many are familiar with acupuncture in regards to chronic pain management, soft tissue trauma, chemotherapy/motion related nausea, and addiction recovery. Indeed, these are where I believe acupuncture truly shines as a restorative therapy. However, acupuncture can be used to treat a full range of health conditions, either alone or in concert with other modalities.
- Back and Neck Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
- Joint Syndromes
- Soft Tissue Injury
- Labour Induction
- Gastric Symptoms (Indigestion/Constipation/Diarrhoea)
Are there any side effects?
Acupuncture has an excellent safety record, and is considered to be highly non-invasive with few side effects. Local sensitivity and bruising after treatment are known, but not frequent, as are numbness or tingling. In multiple studies of acupuncture the most commonly measured side effect was a deep sense of relaxation or euphoria for several hours following treatment.
What does a treatment look like?
In our first session, a full and comprehensive history lasting a little over half an hour will be taken. This includes measuring your pulse and checking your tongue – traditional TCM diagnostic tools. For subsequent treatments, we will be tracking the effects of each session in order to improve our treatment strategy, and will be in discussion for less time. There will be a brief period where I will complete your chart where you are encouraged to use the washroom or otherwise get ready. In treatment, I will first palpate your body to locate points or areas of pain before needling. I may also test the analgesic effects of certain points with acupressure. I will always ask permission before palpating sensitive areas and be attentive to your comfort when needling. Typically, needles are retained for approximately 20 minutes and may be manipulated to increase their therapeutic effect. When treatment is over, we will assess any changes and I will offer further recommendations for you in the time between your nextappointment.
What should I wear?
Loose fitting cotton or stretchy – not restrictive – clothing is best. Most points can be accessed without having to entirely remove clothing, but occasionally it will be important for the treatment. If clothing is removed or shifted, you will be draped for warmth and privacy. I will be happy to step out of the room while you arrange yourself if that is more comfortable for you.
Is there anything I should avoid before/after my treatment?
Avoid stimulants or intoxicants for at least 2 hours before and after your appointment. The longer you can refrain the better. Avoid large or heavy meals directly before your treatment to prevent digestive upset on the table. A snack or small meal half an hour or so before your session is recommended to prevent drops in blood sugar. Limit strenuous exercise (running, weight work, hot yoga, etc.) for as long as possible post-treatment, ideally the net day. More relaxed exercise (walks, restive yoga, tai chi, etc.) is fine and may even improve your treatment's effectiveness.
How often should I come?
This depends entirely on the duration and nature of the condition, but the frequency and length of a course of treatment is dictated directly by the patient's response. Acute symptoms may resolve in as little as one or two sessions, while more chronic problems may take months, or even years to fully address. Typically, I encourage patients to see me once or twice weekly for four to six weeks in order to accurately assess the effects of the treatment and progress from there. Once the condition becomes more manageable, we may switch to a bi-monthly, monthly, or seasonal session to maintain good health.