By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a treatment that originated in China over 5,000 years ago and involves inserting sterile needles into specific points located all over the body, that fall on acupuncture channels. These channels are thought to carry energy throughout the body to the different organs and by stimulating specific points along the channels we can direct energy to the various organs to improve their function. Western medicine research has found that these channels correspond with the flow of certain nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic channels and can impact the release of brain chemicals like endorphins (feel good substances) and enkephalins (pain relieving substances). The goal of acupuncture is to help restore balance.
Why should I have this treatment?
Acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective option to treat a number of conditions. At Forces of Nature, we often use it together with Traditional Chinese herbs and Naturopathic treatment.
What conditions is acupuncture good for?
In China, it is used to relieve most medical conditions, it’s even used as an anesthetic for surgery. People seek us out for acupuncture for relief of all kinds of conditions: anxiety, stress, back/neck/shoulder/knee pain, infertility, PCOS, headaches, migraines, allergies, asthma, digestive problems, any other pain disorder and skin conditions.
Does acupuncture hurt?
The needles used are not much thicker than a hair and so insertion of needles is relatively painless. Patients have told me that waxing was much more uncomfortable. When the needles are inserted, you may or may not feel a tiny skin prick. After insertion you may feel a sensation of pressure or tingling. After the first minute or so, you may be aware the needles are there, but not really feel much from them.
What is an acupuncture treatment like?
A treatment involves insertion of anywhere from 3 to as many as 20 or so needles, on various parts of your body. The areas to be needled, will be palpated, marked and cleaned with alcohol before sterile, disposable needles are inserted. Your acupuncturist may stay with you while the needles are in, or leave the room to allow you to have relaxation and quiet. The needles stay in for about 20 minutes. During which time, you can relax quietly. After treatment, most people report either feeling energized or relaxed and painful conditions may feel fairly immediate relief.
How long does a treatment take?
All in all, the acupuncture treatment itself takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes, to locate points, insert needles, let them stay for 20 minutes, then remove them.
Are there any side effects of acupuncture?
Typically there are none, but there can occasionally be mild bruising at the site of the needles.
How many needles do you use?
The number of needles used for a treatment varies depending on your condition and can range from 3 to 20+.
I’m afraid of needles, can I still do acupuncture?
A number of people report feeling afraid of needles, but after an initial session, find it’s not at all the negative experience they imagined it to be. Where acupuncture is the easiest, is when the patient is relaxed. Tense muscles can make acupuncture more uncomfortable.
Can I get an infection from acupuncture needles?
Not from the ones that we use at Forces of Nature. We always choose sterile, disposable needles. They are only ever used once and then disposed of properly in a sharps container.
How many treatments will I need?
That depends on your particular condition. Rarely is one acupuncture treatment enough to provide long term resolution of a problem, although people often do report feeling better initially after a treatment, without subsequent treatments the problem often recurs. I would usually recommend 4-6 weekly treatments initially and see how your problem resolves. After that, I would have people come once per month or less for maintenance. Some research on acupuncture has people having a treatment as often as every 2 days for a month, but in practice I have never had anyone need to come that frequently. Your acupuncturist will discuss with you what would be most beneficial in your case, taking into consideration your condition, time and financial constraints.
How long does it take to see the benefits?
Patients will often feel some improvement after even 1 session, however, to have more permanent improvement, at least 4-6 sessions are recommended.
How much does acupuncture cost?
That depends on which practitioner you are seeing, our naturopathic doctors (Dr. Frank and Dr. Vong) are qualified to provide acupuncture treatment as well as naturopathic care. Their initial visit costs $240, second visit is usually $140 and visits after that are $85. For Joy Walraven, an initial visit is $160 and follow-up visits are $100-$120.
Is acupuncture covered by my insurance?
It very often is, you would have to check with your HR department or benefits provider. You may have coverage for naturopathic medicine and acupuncture separately, or you may have them combined under the umbrella of “Paramedical Services”.