What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a treatment that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. It involves inserting slender, sterile needles into specific points located all over your body. These points fall on acupuncture channels. These channels are thought to carry energy or qi throughout your body to your organs. By stimulating specific points along the channels we can direct energy to the various organs that need more, thereby improving their function. Western medicine research shows that these channels correspond with the flow of certain nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatic channels. Stimulating your nervous system impacts the release of brain chemicals like endorphins (feel-good substances) and enkephalins (pain-relieving substances). The goal of acupuncture is to help restore balance.
Why should I have this treatment? What conditions is acupuncture used for?
Acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective option to treat a number of conditions. Acupuncture coupled with Traditional Chinese Medicine treats almost any health problem. There is research supporting the use of acupuncture for the following:
- Adult asthma
- Allergic Rhinitis (allergies)
- Back pain in pregnancy
- Cancer pain
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain
- Foot pain
- Headaches and Migraines
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Labour pain
- Menopausal hot flashes
- Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA)
- Neck pain
- Pelvic pain
- Plantar fasciitis heel pain
- Post-operative nausea and vomiting
- Post-operative pain
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Shoulder pain
- Smoking cessation
- TMJ or Temporomandibular joint pain
As a naturopathic doctor, I often use it together with Chinese Herbal Medicine and Naturopathic treatment.
Does acupuncture hurt?
The needles used are not much thicker than a strand of hair. So insertion of the needles is relatively painless. Patients say that waxing is much more uncomfortable. When the needles are inserted, you may or may not feel a tiny skin prick. After insertion, you may feel a sensation of pressure or tingling. After the first minute or so, you may be aware the needles are there, but not really feel much from them.
What is an acupuncture treatment like?
A treatment involves the insertion of anywhere from 3 to as many as 20 or so needles, on various parts of your body. The areas to be needled, are pressed on, marked, and cleaned with alcohol before sterile, disposable needles are inserted. I may stay with you while the needles are in, or leave the room to allow you to have relaxation and quiet. The needles stay in for about 20 minutes. During which time, you can relax quietly. After treatment, most people report either feeling energized or relaxed. Painful conditions may feel fairly immediate relief.
How long does a treatment take?
All in all, the acupuncture treatment itself takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes. This includes the time for me to locate points, insert needles, let them stay for 20 minutes, then remove them.
Are there any side effects of acupuncture?
Typically there are none, but there can occasionally be mild bruising or tenderness at the site of the needles.
How many needles do you use?
The number of needles used per treatment varies depending on your condition and can range from 3 to 20+.
I’m afraid of needles, can I still do acupuncture?
A number of people report feeling afraid of needles. But after an initial session, they find that it’s not at all the negative experience they imagined it to be. Where acupuncture is the easiest, is when the patient is relaxed. Tense muscles make acupuncture more uncomfortable.
Can I get an infection from acupuncture needles?
Not from the ones that I use. I always choose sterile, disposable needles. They are only ever used once and then disposed of properly in a sharps container.
How many treatments will I need?
That depends on your particular condition. Rarely is one acupuncture treatment enough to provide long-term resolution of a problem. Although people often do report feeling better initially after one treatment. Without subsequent treatments, the problem often recurs. I would usually recommend 4-6 weekly treatments initially and see how your problem resolves. After that, people come once per month or less for maintenance. Some research on acupuncture has people having treatments as often as every 2 days for a month. But in practice, people don’t need to come that frequently. I will discuss with you what would be most beneficial in your case. I will take into consideration your condition, time, and financial constraints.
How long does it take to see the benefits?
Patients feel some improvement after even 1 session. However, to have more permanent improvement, I recommend at least 4-6 sessions.
How much does acupuncture cost?
As a Naturopathic doctor, I offer acupuncture treatment as well as naturopathic care. My initial visit costs $240, my second visit is usually $140, and visits after that are $85. There isn’t enough time to fit acupuncture into the initial visit, but sessions can start on the second visit.
Is acupuncture covered by my insurance?
It very often is covered by insurance. You would have to check with your HR department or benefits provider. You may have coverage for naturopathic medicine and acupuncture separately, or you may have them combined under the umbrella of “Paramedical Services”.
Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
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