What is Acupuncture and how does it work?

According to TCM, the human body and all living things are made up of Qi (pronounced “chee”). The smooth circulation of Qi throughout our body serves to nourish all the tissues and organs, protects us from illness and pain, and keeps us strong and healthy. Our body is interconnected by a network of meridians or channels, through which Qi and blood flow. When Qi is deficient within the body or becomes stagnated or blocked, this will result in fatigue, pain, and disease. Acupuncture therapy enables the practitioner to tap into the channels of energy within the body to correct and/or redirect the flow of Qi in order to allow the body to restore balance and heal itself. By inserting special needles at specific locations (acupoints) along the affected meridians, acupuncture can rebalance the energetic imbalances and blockages.

Acupuncture provides quick relief from many different conditions due its ability to relax the nervous system into the parasympathetic nervous system, promote blood, lymph and nerve circulation, as well as by stimulating special nerve groups that connect with the internal organs, sensory organs, and the brain. The effects of Acupuncture as a viable alternative medicine are well documented in clinical trials and other research.

What can be treated by Acupuncture?
TCM is successfully used for a wide range of health conditions. Carolyn has a special interest in treating sports injuries and pain conditions, as well as pregnancy and fertility support and other Women`s Health conditions. She also finds it a very effective tool for reducing stress. According to the World Health Organization, other conditions that are effectively treated with acupuncture and TCM include the following:

  • Skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, urticaria
  • Gynaecological conditions, including pre-menstrual syndrome and painful periods, endometriosis, infertility, pregnancy and postpartum issues, perimenopause and menopause
  • Respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic coughs, allergic and perennial rhinitis and sinusitis
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis, gastric reflux, and candida
  • Rheumatological conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and chronic pain
  • Hormonal Imbalances including PCOS, chronic fatigue, hypothyroid, diabetes
  • GenitoUrinary conditions including chronic cystitis and yeast infections
  • Psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, addictions)
  • Children’s diseases

How can Acupuncture help?
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine complements conventional medicine. They are not substitutes for any conventional medical advice, medications or treatments. As a complement to conventional medicine, acupuncture can treat both acute and chronic problems such as insomnia, digestive and elimination problems, headaches, sleeping disorders, chronic pain, smoking and eating disorders, and much more.

Acupuncture can help to reduce or eliminate the need for medications for many conditions including narcotics and other pain-relievers, but your family doctor must always be consulted in such instances.

Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at illnesses from a different perspective than conventional medicine. The basic tenet of Chinese Medicine is that we have a life force that energizes all the metabolic activity in our bodies, and this life forces (often referred to as “qi”) is always moving and flowing. When qi flows unimpeded, we are healthy. When qi is blocked, we get pain and ultimately disease. The strategy of the Practitioner of Oriental Medicine is to find the areas of blocked energy, and help remove those blocks, which in turn helps the body return to its natural healthy state.

When you first enter the office of a registered acupuncturist, the practitioner will sit with you and do an intake. We are interested in all your symptoms and medical history which helps, which helps us start to determine our treatment strategy. The Chinese medical model is often very effective at treating hard to diagnose problems since it does not rely on having to know the biochemical reason for your condition, which is not known in most cases, particularly where blood tests and MRI’s are normal. Even when blood tests show imbalances, it is not usually known why this is happening.

This difference in perspective means that Traditional Chinese Medicine can often make sense of illnesses that Western medicine has difficulty treating. In cases where Western medicine may be limited to prescribing medication for symptom management, acupuncture may be able to intervene and encourage the body in a self-healing process. Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine is currently the fastest growing healing modality in the country.

What’s the difference between Traditional Acupuncture and IMS or Medical Acupuncture?
Both IMS and Medical Acupuncture are dry needling techniques performed by a health care practitioner other than an Acupuncturist. Typically offered by physiotherapists, these practitioners have limited training in TCM and limited training in needle techniques. Both IMS and Medical Acupuncture offer a standardized treatment based on the area of injury and using a set group of points according to nerve pathways only. Treatments are often quite limited and can be painful. Unfortunately many recipients of dry needle techniques found this therapy uncomfortable and even painful and do not realize that traditional acupuncture performed by a Registered Acupuncturist can be quite gentle and relaxing.

The World Health Organization
In the hands of a well-trained practitioner, acupuncture has much broader applications beyond pain relief. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of common illnesses including:1

  • Upper Respiratory Tract
    • Acute sinusitis
    • Acute rhinitis
    • Common Cold and Flu
    • Acute tonsillitis
  • Respiratory System
    • Acute bronchitis
    • Bronchial asthma (Most effective in children and uncomplicated conditions.)
  • Eye Disorders
    • Acute conjunctivitis
    • Central Retinitis Myopia (in children)
    • Cataracts (without complications)
  • Mouth Disorders
    • Toothache
    • Post Extraction Pain
    • Gingivitis
    • Acute and Chronic Pharyngitis
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
    • Spasms of esophagus
    • Hiccough
    • Gastroptosis
    • Acute and Chronic Gastritis
    • Gastric Hyperacidity
    • Chronic Duodenal Ulcer (pain relief)
    • Acute Duodenal Ulcer (without complications)
    • Acute and Chronic Colitis
    • Acute Bacillary Dysentery
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Paralytic Ileus
  • Neurologic and Musculoskeletal Disorders
    • Headache and Migraine
    • Trigeminal Neuralgias
    • Facial Palsy (early stage, i.e., within 3-6 months)
    • Pareses Following a Stroke
    • Peripheral Neuropathies
    • Sequelae of Poliomyelitis (early stage, i.e., within 6 months)
    • Meniere’s Disease
    • Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction
    • Nocturnal Enuresis (bedwetting)
    • Intercostal Neuralgia
    • Cervicobrachial Syndrome
    • Frozen Shoulder
    • Tennis Elbow
    • Sciatica
    • Low Back Pain
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • Back and Knee Pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Chronic Fatigue
    • Sports Injuries and Pains
  • Reproductive & Gynecological Conditions
    • Premenstrual Syndrome
    • Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)
    • Spotting and Excessive Bleeding
    • Amenorrhea (Loss of Menstrual Period)
    • Impotence
    • Infertility
    • Incontinence
    • Prostatis
  • Mental Emotional Problems
    • Stress
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Insomnia

The World Health Organization Interregional Seminar compiled the above list of illnesses that may benefit from acupuncture treatment. The list is only a partial list and is based on clinical experience, and not necessarily on controlled clinical research. The inclusion of specific diseases are not meant to indicate the extent of acupuncture’s efficacy in treatment, since all conditions may vary in severity and response.

The NIH Consensus Statement on Acupuncture
In 1997 the U.S. National Institutes of Health published a Consensus Statement on the use and effectiveness of acupuncture for a variety of conditions.

Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States. While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups. However, promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in post-operative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma where acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful. 2

Sources: 1. World Health Organization. Viewpoint on Acupuncture. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1979. 2. NIH, Acupuncture, Nov. 3-5, 1997, Vol. 15, No. 5

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