Acupuncture in Vancouver

  1. What is Acupuncture?
  2. How Acupuncture Works (Mechanics of Action)
  3. Acupuncture: An Integral Part of Modern Health Care
  4. Acupuncture: Current Research and Modern Views
  5. Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture

1. What is Acupuncture?

The intent of acupuncture therapy is to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. The method by which this is accomplished, though it may seem strange and mysterious to many, has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be validated today.

The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of "vital energy," "energetic balance" and "energetic imbalance." Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages traveling via the nervous system, the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this "vital energy" within its pathways, known as "meridians and channels".

The acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these "meridians". Traditionally these areas or "acupoints" were stimulated by fine, slender needles. Today, many additional forms of stimulation are incorporated, including herbs, electricity, magnets and lasers. Still, the aim remains the same - adjust the "vital energy" so the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time. This helps your body heal itself.

Acupuncture is the stimulation of acupoints and energy channels to move Qi and blood. The Chinese believe that the body's energy, or chi, flows along pathways called meridians. Illness occurs when the cycle of chi is stalled or blocked. Placing fine sterile needles into specific points on the body, redirects the flow of Qi (chi) and restores balance. Acupuncture regulates Qi, nourishes organs and tissues, benefits the spirit and calms the mind. It is very effective in the treatment of pain disorders. Scalp acupuncture is particularly effective in treating paralysis and numbness, motor skills dysfunction and mental disorders.

Traditional Chinese Medicine includes herbology, acupuncture, food cures (dietetics), tuina (Chinese massage), and special exercises such as (Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Ji) and Qi Gong), and is a complete medical system unto itself and is not another branch of modern Western medicine.


Some Common Treatment Techniques Used in Acupuncture:

2. How Acupuncture Works (Mechanics of Action)

Several processes have been proposed to explain acupuncture's effects, primarily those on pain. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to release chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either change the experience of pain or release other chemicals, such as hormones, that influence the body's self-regulating systems. The biochemical changes may stimulate the body's natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being. There are three main mechanisms:

Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States and Canada. Promising results have emerged, for example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative 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, in which 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."

Increasingly, acupuncture is complementing conventional therapies. For example, doctors may combine acupuncture and drugs to control surgery-related pain in their patients. By providing both acupuncture and certain conventional anesthetic drugs, some doctors have found it possible to achieve a state of complete pain relief for some patients. They also have found that using acupuncture lowers the need for conventional pain-killing drugs and thus reduces the risk of side effects for patients who take the drugs Despite the powerful technology available today, even the modern physicists cannot explain exactly how this ancient healing therapy works. Perhaps in the near future, the actual chemical and electromagnetic events that occur during acupuncture will be described.

3. Acupuncture: An Integral Part of Modern Health Care

Today acupuncture remains an integral part of the health care system, offered in conjunction with western medicine. In North America, acupuncture has grown into what is now a common form of pain management therapy in many clinics and hospitals.

In 1997, the US National Institute of Health issued a report titled: "Acupuncture: The NIH Consensus Statement". It stated that acupuncture is a very useful method for treating many conditions. It acknowledges the side effects of acupuncture are considerably less adverse than when compared to other medical procedures such as surgery or pharmaceuticals. In addition, the NIH made the recommendation to U.S. insurance companies to provide full coverage of acupuncture treatment for certain conditions. This momentous advancement in the status of acupuncture in the United States has certainly influenced its status elsewhere in the world, including in Canada.

Canadian General Practitioners recommend it more and more as an effective relief for many medical conditions.

Acupuncture treatment is included in many Insurance plans. It is a sure sign of acupuncture's acceptance into the mainstream. It is also an indicator of its success.

4. Acupuncture: Current Research / Modern Views

When the human body was finally described in terms of cells, biochemicals, and specific structures (most of this accomplished less than 150 years ago), the Chinese method of acupuncture and its underlying concepts were evaluated in these new terms. As a first effort, researchers sought out physical pathways that might correspond to the meridians, and even a fluid substance that might correspond to qi. Neither of these were found. Nonetheless, the action of performing acupuncture was shown to have effects on the body that required some detailed explanation.

From the modern perspective, diseases and injuries are resolved by a complex set of responses; the responses are coordinated by several signaling systems. The signaling systems mainly involve peptides and other small biochemicals that are released at one site, travel to other sites, interact with cells, and stimulate various biologically programmed responses. Rather than blockages of circulation described in the old Chinese dogma, diseases are understood to be caused by microorganisms, metabolic failures, changes in DNA structure or signaling, or breakdown of the immune system. Some of these disorders are resolved by the cellular functions that are designed for healing, while others become chronic diseases because the pathological factors involved have either defeated the body's normalizing mechanisms or because something else has weakened the body's responses to the point that they are ineffective. For example, poor nutrition, unhealthy habits, and high stress can weaken the responses to disease.

Modern studies have revealed that acupuncture stimulates one or more of the signaling systems, which can, under certain circumstances, increase the rate of healing response. This may be sufficient to cure a disease, or it might only reduce its impact (alleviate some symptoms). These findings can explain most of the clinical effects of acupuncture therapy.

According to current understanding, the primary signaling system affected by acupuncture is the nervous system, which not only transmits signals along the nerves that comprise it, but also emits a variety of biochemicals that influence other cells of the body. The nervous system, with over 30 peptides involved in transmitting signals, is connected to the hormonal system via the adrenal gland, and it makes connections to every cell and system of the body.

In a review article, Acupuncture and the Nervous System (American Journal of Chinese Medicine 1992; 20(3-4): 331-337), Cai Wuying at the Department of Neurology, Loyola University of Chicago, describes some of the studies that implicate nervous system involvement. According to a report of the Shanghai Medical University, cranial nerves, spinal nerves, and their terminals were dispersed in the area surrounding the acupuncture points for about 5 millimeters. They also found that the nervous distribution of the Bladder Meridian points (which run along the spine) was in the same area of the spine as that of the corresponding viscera. It was reported when acupuncture points were needled, certain neurotransmitters appeared at the site. In laboratory-animal acupuncture studies, it was reported that two such transmitters, substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide, were released from primary sensory neurons. Acupuncture analgesia appears to be mediated by release of enkephalin and beta-endorphins, with regulation of prostaglandin synthesis: all these have an effect on pain perception. One of the dominant areas of research into acupuncture mechanisms has been its effect on endorphins. Endorphins are one of several neuropeptides; these have been shown to alleviate pain, and have been described as the body's own "opiates". One reason for the focus on these biochemicals is that they were identified in 1977, just as acupuncture was becoming popular in the West, and they are involved in two areas that have been the focus of acupuncture therapy in the West: treatment of chronic pain and treatment of drug addiction.

For many nervous system functions, timing is very important, and this is the case for acupuncture. The duration of therapy usually needs to be kept within certain limits (too short and no effect, too long and the person may feel exhausted), and the stimulation of the point is often carried out with a repetitive activity (maintained for a minute or two by manual stimulation-usually slight thrusting, slight withdrawing, or twirling-or throughout treatment with electro-stimulation). It has been shown in laboratory experiments that certain frequencies of stimulus work better than others: this might be expected for nervous system responses, but is not expected for simple chemical release from other cells.

5. Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture

  1. How does acupuncture differ from treatments received from a physiotherapist or medical doctor called a 'medical acupuncture'?
  2. How are acupuncturists' regulated?
  3. How does the acupuncturist view sickness?
  4. What is treatment like?
  5. Is acupuncture safe?
  6. What are the side effects of Acupuncture?
  7. Does acupuncture hurt?
  8. What should I know prior to my treatment?