What is “medical” acupuncture?
“Acupuncture”, which literally means to puncture with a needle, comes from the Latin acus (needle) and puncture (puncture), can be defined as a method of stimulating certain points on the body by the insertion of special needles to modify the perception of pain, or to normalize physiologic functions, for the treatment and prevention of disease.
Contemporary Medical Acupuncture combines traditional Chinese acupuncture with modern biomedical knowledge. This combination allows the practitioner the opportunity to better organize clinical information and generate safer and more efficient acupuncture treatments for each of their patients by using either acupuncture on its own, or in combination with other therapeutic interventions that may be deemed necessary.
Acupuncture provides a therapeutic effect by facilitating the activity of the body’s natural healing mechanisms, thus restoring normal sensation and function to an area of imbalance. It is well established in scientific literature that acupuncture also has analgesic (pain relieving) effects, and the addition of electrical stimulation of the acupuncture needles (electro-acupuncture) often enhances these effects.
Conditions that are often found to be responsive to acupuncture therapy:
(The following is a partial list of conditions that can improve partially, or completely resolve with acupuncture treatment. If you require information about a condition not found on this list, please ask your chiropractor for further information.)
- Acute strains and sprains (all joints, including neck and back)
- Pain resulting from nerve entrapment
- Repetitive strain disorders (carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, plantar fascitis)
- Myofascial pain syndromes (temporomandibular joint syndrome (T.M.J.), muscle tension headaches, shoulder pain, neck and back pain)
- Arthralgias (particularly osteoarthritic in nature)
- Degenerative disc disease with or without radicular pain
- Pain following surgical intervention (both muscular and visceral pain)
- Post herpetic neuralgia
- Peripheral neuropathic pain
- Headaches from most sources
- True migraine headaches
- High/low blood pressure
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Asthma/shortness of breath
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Ill-defined fatigue or low energy
- Mild depression
- Stress related myofascial symptoms (muscle contraction headache, neck tension, etc.)
- Early functional disturbances (diminished libido etc.)
- Sleep disturbances
- Bowel dysfunction
- Recurrent infections and inflammatory states without underlying frank immunodeficiency (sinusitis, gastroenteritis, viral illnesses, etc.)
What will you experience with acupuncture?
When a needle is inserted into the skin a patient may feel a variety of sensations. Often, the sensation is similar to that of a mosquito bite, a small pinch, or nothing at all. Once the needle is in the acupuncture point, feelings of swelling, aching, itchiness, heaviness, warmth, radiating sensation, tickling, or numbness may occur. These sensations are all normal reactions. Sometimes the patient may not experience any sensation at all, and this is also considered a normal response. Over the course of treatment (usually within 5-6 treatments), any change in the patient’s condition is considered favourable. In the initial stages of treatment even a transient aggravation of symptoms is considered normal.
Types of needles used
Pre-sterilized, disposable, single use, acupuncture needles are used at our clinic. These needles are inserted into the necessary acupuncture points after the area has been cleaned and disinfected with disposable alcohol swabs. Once the needles are inserted, the doctor may occasionally “twirl”, or “flick” the needles. Sometimes the needles will be stimulated with an electrical current in order to maximize the benefit. After the needles have been removed from the patient they are immediately disposed of in a “biohazard” waste container. The needles are obviously never used again.
Which patients should not receive acupuncture therapy?
There are some patients with particular conditions that should not be treated with acupuncture. It may be unsafe for these patients to have needles inserted into their skin. These conditions include the following:
- Certain types of infections, including those of the blood or central nervous system
- Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy
- Hemophiliac disorders
- Anticoagulant (blood thinner) medication
- Infections of the skin (cellulitis etc.)
- Pregnancy – if you are, or may be pregnant, you must inform the doctor prior to any acupuncture treatment
In addition, any patient who is prone to any type of infection is advised to refrain from acupuncture treatment. Such patients include, but are not limited to, those undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, some diabetic patients, and some patients with artificial joints, heart murmurs, and/or prosthetic valves.