Acupuncture and What You Need To Know

Have you ever wondered about acupuncture? I mean maybe you know a little bit about it, like the fact it's people sticking tiny needles in you and what you've seen in movies or from friends. I've heard acupuncture work for so many people I just had to know all about it. What is it exactly and why it works. So I sat down with Andrea Wingrave from Acupuncture Edmonton to learn all about it. 

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) modality that involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into specific points on the body. These points lie on meridians or pathways along which the body’s life-giving energy called Qi (pronounced “Chee”) circulates.  Disease is caused by an imbalance of the normal flow of Qi through these meridians, whether there is too much, too little or it is blocked from flowing altogether.  When the points are stimulated, the Qi flow regains its proper balance and the body begins to heal itself.

How does it work?

Acupuncture is based on the TCM theory that our vital energy (Qi) circulates in our body along defined paths or meridians. When this flow of Qi is out of balance due to trauma/injury, poor lifestyle, stress or improper diet, acupuncture helps restore the flow and allows your body to heal itself.  Modern science tells us that acupuncture stimulates certain areas of the brain, triggering: hormone production and secretion; inflammation reduction; blood circulation; pain reduction; appetite supression, etc.  There is so much more to learn in this area, you can read more here:

Does it help with stress?

Acupuncture stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is induces a "rest-and-digest" state (the true opposite of the fight-or-flight state).  Patients usually feel very relaxed during and after their treatments.  Some fall asleep with the needles in, others report having a very good night's sleep on treatment days

What are some conditions you see typically or can treat?

  • Headache and Migraine
  • Trigeminal Neuralgias
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Sciatica
  • Jaw Pain
  • Chronic and Acute Low Back Pain
  • Neck and shoulder Pain
  • Hip Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Knee Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Sports Injuries and Pains
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Gastritis
  • Nausea
  • Sinusitis/Rhinitis
  • Common Cold and Flu
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)
  • Spotting and Excessive Menstrual Bleeding
  • Amenorrhea (Loss of Menstrual Period)
  • Pregnancy Support
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Incontinence
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • MS symptoms
  • Gout

Is acupuncture safe? Will it interfere with current medications?

Acupuncture is completely safe when administered by a Registered Acupuncturist. Acupuncturists are required to use only single-use needles which are disposed of after use. Any mild side effects such as bruising or dizziness is self correcting. Tell your acupuncturist about all the medications and supplements you are taking.  In some cases acupuncture can make your medication work better and/or lessen the side-effects caused by these drugs.   If you have a severe medical condition, or if you're not sure, always talk to your doctor before seeing any paramedical practitioner.

What to expect?

During your first visit I will ask you to sit and chat about your health history; I will ask you additional questions about your ailment(s), general health and lifestyle. You will be asked to show your tongue and I will take your pulse to complete my TCM diagnosis.

Next you will be asked to position yourself on a massage-type table either facing up or down or on your side depending on where the needles will be placed.  While you get settled I will leave the room to wash my hands.

To begin the treatment each point will be swabbed with alcohol then each needle is inserted to the correct depth. The needles used to stimulate acupuncture points are very slender; only the finest quality solid stainless steel, pre-sterilized, single-use, disposable needles are used. They are inserted beneath the skin’s surface into the muscle to a depth appropriate for each point. The sensation from the needle varies – you may feel nothing or you may feel heaviness, a mildly dull ache, a nervy sensation or tingle.

Once all of the needles are in place, you will be left to relax for several minutes (approximately 30). Many people fall asleep during this time since the treatment puts the body into a relaxed state.  When the treatment time has elapsed, the needles will be removed and any other complimentary therapies will be administered as needed. 

Will it hurt?

Getting acupuncture from a Registered Acupuncturist who uses TCM shouldn't hurt.  The odd time, you may feel a tiny poke which means the needle has come in contact with a very small blood vessel. Let your acupuncturist know and a simple re-direction of the needle will rectify this.

What is the cost?

When you see a registered acupuncturist, your first appointment will include a complete assessment during which you discuss your health history and your current complaint(s). This is followed by a full 1 hour treatment.  The initial appointment costs around $100.  Follow up treatments (typically 1 hour) usually cost between $60-80. Some clinics are set up to directly bill your insurance company on your behalf.  Most medium and large sized companies offer health benefits that include between $500 and $1000 that can be spent on acupuncture treatments.

Do you use other modalities other than acupuncture?

Depending on the condition being treated, electro-acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, basic massage, and/or diet therapy may be used.

Tonight I'm heading over to Acupuncture Edmonton for a treatment. I'll be tweeting my experience, but come back next week for a full blog post on how it went!

If you'd like more info on Andrea and her clinic you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram  and her website