What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is part of an ancient medicine dating back thousands of years, historically used in China, Japan, Korea and other parts of Eurasia. Acupuncture is based on theories very different from our Western medicine system. The body depends on vital energy, known as Qi (chi), being in balance. Qi flows along twelve meridians, or energetic pathways in the body, covering all major areas of the torso, arms, legs and head. When the flow of Qi is blocked, too abundant or deficient, an imbalance arises and pain and illness occur. The lack of density or structure of Qi makes this system of medicine difficult for people to understand.
Think of the meridians like water (Qi) flowing through a river (meridian) in the earth (your body). Rivers have many tributaries or pathways which carry water to many locations, in turn nurturing the earth around the river. Too much water, too little water, or a dam blocking the pathway will cause the water to no longer flow smoothly. Floods, drought and stagnation occur. So, just like water in the river, when Qi does not flow smoothly through the meridians, our body suffers just like the earth.
Acupuncture points are found in specific places along the meridians, where the Qi ‘wells up’ and is easily accessible. Inserting very fine needles into these acupuncture points activates them, helping to restore health and relieve pain. A common assumption about acupuncture is that it hurts. In fact, acupuncture should not usually hurt and should never feel sharper than a pin prick. No pain, though, does not mean no sensation. “Qi arrival” is important and comes with certain sensations such as heaviness, warmth, tingling and/or a dull ache. Most people find the sensation curious but relaxing.
What is a Registered Acupuncturist?
A registered acupuncturist is a complementary health practitioner who takes a holistic approach to the maintenance of health and the management of disease. An acupuncturist inserts fine, sterile, one-time use needles into acupuncture points that trigger the body’s natural healing process. Each patient’s health concern is treated individually, therefore the acupuncture points, needle depth, size and manipulation techniques are chosen for their effectiveness for each individual’s health concern. It is important to know that although other health practitioners use acupuncture within their field of training, only a registered acupuncturist has in-depth training in the art of traditional acupuncture and Chinese medicine. A registered acupuncturist takes training in the foundations of Chinese medicine [TCM]; TCM diagnosis; internal medicine; meridian & acupuncture point location; advanced needling techniques; clean needling technique, as well as western medicine courses. A professionally trained, skilled acupuncturist has the ability to identify the root of a health concern, knows the exact location to put the needles, and does it painlessly.
The correct manipulation of qi can treat a range of emotional and physical conditions, such as:
- Musculo-skeletal disorders – injuries or pain in the body’s joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and structures that support limbs, neck and back. Examples: whiplash, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, bursitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and more….
- Respiratory disorders – conditions affecting the lungs. Examples: common cold, bronchitis, asthma, COPD, etc.
- Gastrointestinal disorders – conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Examples: acid reflux, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, etc.
- Urinary disorders – conditions affecting the urinary system. Examples: urinary frequency, urgency & retention
- Gynaecological disorders – conditions affecting the female reproductive system. Examples: irregular menstruation, PMS, endometriosis, infertility, etc.
- Neurological disorders – conditions affecting the nervous system. Examples: headaches/migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, Bell’s palsy, shingles, etc.
- Stress & emotional related disorders – anxiety, insomnia, depression, irritability/anger, etc.
What to expect during an acupuncture treatment
General information – treatment is given in a private, clean, quiet room. Safety and comfort are top priority; therefore needles are ultra-fine for near-painless insertion, of high quality, individually packaged, sterile and one-time use (disposable) only. Depending on the area being treated, some clothing may have to be removed. You will be covered and professionally draped to maintain privacy.
Initial consultation (30 mins.) – involves a detailed health history, taking of the pulses, looking at the tongue and getting to the root of the problem so a Chinese medicine diagnosis can be made. I am not a medical doctor, so I will not be suggesting a diagnosis from a Western medical perspective. I will refer you to your medical doctor for that information, and ask what their diagnosis is and what recommendations they have made. Communication among health care providers is the best route for everyone.
Subsequent treatments (45 – 60 mins.) – Each treatment starts with a health update, the taking of your pulses and looking at your tongue. Often I start with some meridian massage, cupping, and/or gua sha, then approximately 8-20 needles are placed typically on the back, belly, legs, arms and head. You are left to rest for 15 – 25 minutes. Needles are removed and safely disposed of after each treatment.
Note – a treatment can be just acupuncture, acupuncture and massage/cupping/gua sha, or you may add on more massage/cupping/gua sha. See the pricing page for more details.
How many treatments will you need?
This is always hard to answer, but after many years of practice, I have developed a good sense of how the body should respond to therapy. Typically 4 – 10 treatments are needed, but it varies depending on what the condition is, how long you have had it, how healthy you are, your age and what you are doing to make yourself better. It’s best to contact me so we can decide if acupuncture is a good choice for you.
Acupressure & Meridian Massage
All techniques of massage therapy share a common historical heritage. They are more than a mere sum of their parts – not simply a “technique”, but a synthesis of education, training, experience, dedication, humility, and intuition that are expressed through a common instrument – the human hand.
Acupressure and meridian massage complement an acupuncture treatment by helping to stimulate blood circulation, release muscle tension, relieve acute pain, and prepare the body for the acupuncture needles. Varying hand techniques are used throughout the massage, employing gentle, firm, deep strokes, direct pressure, kneading, rubbing, and tapping/drumming.
Cupping & Cupping Massage
Glass cups are placed on the skin using suction that promotes blood flow to that area to assist healing. A cotton ball soaked in 95% alcohol is set on fire and placed in the glass cup. As the fire goes out, the cup is placed upside down on the patient’s skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum. This causes the skin to rise and redden as blood vessels expand. Cupping can produce round purple hickey-like marks on the skin. The cups can be removed immediately, left in place for five to 10 minutes, or glided along the skin to create a massage-like effect.
A more modern version of cupping uses silicone cups or a rubber pump and plastic cups to create the vacuum inside the cup instead of fire.
Gua sha (skin scraping) involves repeated pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edged gua sha tool. The smooth edge is placed against the oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles or along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians, each stroke being about 4–6 inches long.
Gua sha causes ‘Sha’ to come to the surface of the skin and may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing (ecchymosis), which usually takes 2–4 days to fade.
Tongue & Pulse Diagnosis
Pulse diagnosis is one method of determining the internal conditions of patients with the aim of deciding upon a therapeutic approach (acupuncture points, herbs). In order to make this diagnostic tool meaningful, the practitioner must learn the proper method of taking the pulse, the factors that influence the pulse, and the categories each unique pulse falls into. The pulse helps determine whether the patient’s condition is at the body’s surface or interior, is of a hot or cold nature, or is of an excess or deficiency type. Pulse diagnosis remains an important part of the practice of traditional Chinese medicine that is still being explored and developed.
A person’s tongue is a very useful visual indicator of a person’s overall health. The tongue has many relationships and connections in the body, both to the meridians and the internal organs. Inspection of the tongue is therefore an important part of confirming a Chinese medicine diagnosis. Qualities of the tongue such as: shape, size, colour, coating, cracks and moisture are all considered when the practitioner looks at the tongue.
Moxibustion / Moxa
Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy used in Chinese medicine. The herb, mugwort, is dried then ground up and used loose or rolled into cigar-shaped sticks, then burned and allowed to smoulder, producing penetrating heat and pungent smelling smoke. The moxa is either applied directly to the skin or held above the skin until the area warms up. This therapy is used to increase circulation of blood and qi, warm the meridians and treat pain especially in “cold” related illnesses.