Why should I see an acupuncturist? There are four main reasons why people explore acupuncture as a form of treatment:
The main reason people seek acupuncture is because of a chronic condition that has not responded to conventional care. They seek a treatment option that can effectively provide a solution to their health issue.
Conventional treatment often requires drugs with undesirable side effects or an unwanted surgery to treat the condition; therefore an alternative medical option is sought.
Another common complaint occurs when one is faced with taking many synthetic drugs that are expensive, have side effects which are a source of concern, and/or interfere with one another. Chinese medicine can often treat these conditions so that the drugs can be withdrawn.
Some people prefer to choose a natural, holistic-based treatment approach in order to avoid the above complications.
Can acupuncture help me even if I feel healthy?
Yes, very much so. Because acupuncture looks at a human body as the sum of all its parts, it is possible to ‘treat’ a condition before it actually emerges as a physical problem. One’s pulse and tongue offer signs of imbalance usually way before such imbalance begins to manifest at the physical level. At the very least, because acupuncture is so deeply relaxing, many benefit simply through the stress reduction that is achieved from this deep relaxation.
How does acupuncture work? Traditional Chinese Medicine, itself a system of medicine at least 5000 years old, was derived from Ayurvedic medicine, a system which goes back at least another 5000 years. Both are based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western medicine which, in contrast, is only about 300 years old. Proponents of the latter system tend to dismiss these ancient systems as simple-minded or devoid of scientific evidence. Yet, there are no other systems which are capable of connecting most of the dots together in the often complex health pictures brought forward by the patients.
This understanding of the human body is derived from the discovery of a subtle yet very palpable cyclic energy flow known as Qi (pronounced “chee” in Chinese, and “kee” in Japanese; it is also known as ‘vital energy’.) which circulates in discrete energy channels known as ‘meridians’ within everyone’s body.
There are 12 main meridians. Each is associated with a particular physiological system and an internal organ. Disease occurs when Qi in a pathway becomes obstructed, deficient or excessive such that the corresponding organs and muscles do not get their necessary flow of energy and nutrients to properly perform their physiological functions.
The channels communicate with the surface of the body at specific locations called acupuncture points. Needles inserted in these points influence the Qi that flows to internal organs. Acupuncture can also affect specific areas of pain associated with injury or trauma. A needle inserted near the area of overstrained muscle or tendon will adjust the flow of Qi and nutrients to that area, thereby reducing pain and accelerating the healing process.
Following the results of modern Western biomedical research, we now also understand that acupuncture influences a number of physiological functions such as the release of endorphins (natural pain killing chemicals), the restoration of proper circulation in diseased areas, the stimulation of hormonal flow, and the regulation of immune functions. Research into the benefits and mechanisms of acupuncture is on-going, and new findings increasingly support what the ancient already knew through simple, yet determined observation.
How many sessions will I need? Generally speaking, one should expect to notice some degree of improvement in his or her overall health in a matter of two to a few sessions. In Chinese Medicine, we speak in terms of treatment courses. One course is normally considered to take ten to twelve acupuncture sessions or, alternately, ten to twelve weeks of herbal therapy.
Clinical response to acupuncture treatment is individual. Some people will notice improvements after a single treatment. In more complex conditions, it generally takes longer for a response to be noticeable. Most patients begin noticing changes within one to three treatments. After five to seven visits, both the patient and the practitioner should feel confident that a particular course of treatment is indeed effective.
How frequently are visits spaced?
Generally patients are seen on a weekly basis. For some acute conditions, such as severe pain or extremely itchy, uncomfortable rashes, it may be necessary to come twice a week for the first two to three weeks, until symptoms are contained. As the condition improves, visits are spaced farther apart: every two, and later three weeks or monthly. On average, sessions occur weekly for about eight visits, and then begin decreasing in frequency as symptoms become more intermittent and later disappear. Once the condition has resolved, some people choose to continue treatment for maintenance and preventative care. These maintenance visits can be monthly or quarterly, or semi-annually, depending on one's health goals.
What if I can't come for regular sessions? Qi Gong and/or herbal therapy are effective options for those who cannot come regularly. In this case, it is advisable to combine acupuncture with Qi Gong exercises and/or herbs and benefit from their synergistic pairing, that is, each component benefits by the addition of the other. Qi Gong and/or herbal therapy can fill in for the interval between acupuncture treatments. In fact, this practice can reduce the frequency of acupuncture sessions.
Does acupuncture hurt? This is the quintessential question which creates the most confusion. Because ‘pain’ is indubitably subjective, it is incorrect to believe anyone who may say to you that acupuncture is painless because this person is only speaking from personal experience which may not be true for everyone who has experienced acupuncture. Here is what I like to say to this question:
“Acupuncture should not be a painful experience. But, and this is important, an acupuncturist will be inserting very fine, stainless steel needles through your skin. These are metal objects which will have an effect in the tissue underlying your skin. That effect is important and desirable, and sometimes the sensation you will experience from that effect will be surprisingly strong. It should however NOT be painful.
The surest way to experience pain in an acupuncture session is to be afraid that it might be painful. This FEAR leads to further tension which has a tendency to make the sensations you experience rather uncomfortable.
The surest way for this process to be comfortable, or at least bearable, is to focus on BREATHING in your lower abdomen. This does not mean ignoring the sensation but rather shifting your focus to your breath as opposed to the sensations from the needles. Typically, any strong sensation you may experience as a result of the insertion of an acupuncture needle in your body will mostly disappear within 2-3 breaths.”
And that is the simplest truth.
Are the needles safe? Yes. By law, all acupuncturists in British Columbia must use sterile, disposable needles. They are used once and then disposed of in biohazard containers.
Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
Some insurance companies will reimburse for acupuncture treatments. Consult your extended healthcare provider to determine the terms of coverage of your policy. If your policy includes acupuncture benefits, you will be provided with a receipt that you may submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.
I am ready to receive a session, what do I do next? Call (250) 218-2618 to schedule an initial consultation with Michel Duhaime R.Ac. All sessions consist of an evaluation of your current health status as well as ‘treatment’.
What should I wear for the acupuncture treatments? Wear loose fitted, comfortable clothing which can be easily removed as need be, or moved aside to reveal a point. A cover can also be provided when disrobing is required. This is often the case for points located on the back. Most points are otherwise located on the limbs, abdomen, and the upper thoracic area, near the collarbone.
Should I keep my appointment if I'm sick? Yes indeed. It is likely however that the focus of the session will be modified in order to take into account the sickness you are presenting with.
Are there different styles of acupuncture? Chinese medicine is over 5,000 years old. What is now known as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is actually rather new. TCM is the result of a standardization effort initiated by Mao Zedong in the 60’s in order to offer affordable medicine under his socialist regime. Chinese medicine itself has evolved tremendously over the last few centuries. In a way similar to how Ayurvedic knowledge became TCM over a period of centuries, Chinese medicine left the main continent to travel to many other areas where it blended with and morphed into the belief system of the local people.
As a result, there are now several different styles of acupuncture one may be exposed to. These include Japanese style, Five Elements, Korean hand technique, French auricular (ear acupuncture), Daoist and Tibetan styles of acupuncture, and esoteric acupuncture. Hence, it can be said that Chinese medicine is the grandparent of them all, the source from which all the other branches sprang from.
Interestingly, disciplines such as Jin Shin Do and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) have also sprung from Chinese medicine knowledge and meridian theory.
Is an acupuncturist a doctor?
In the broad sense of the word, yes, an acupuncturist is a doctor. Acupuncturists diagnose and treat disease, as does a Western medical doctor or chiropractor. However, the term 'doctor' also includes those who have been formally educated at the doctorate level.
In British Columbia, the practice of acupuncture, as well as the titles carried by those who practice acupuncture, is regulated by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture (CTCMA). There are only four designations approved by CTCMA:
-Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.) -Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbalist (R.TCM.H.) -Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCM.P) -Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Dr.TCM)
For more details on the practice limitations for each of these designation, consult the CTCMA website HERE.
Certain practitioners also use the letters “DTCM” to indicate their training in traditional Chinese medicine (suggesting that their knowledge extends to the various disciplines common to TCM, i.e. herbal therapy, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Feng Shui, Tui Na, etc. )