FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
There are many questions surrounding the practice of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine. Many believe it is a form of mysticism, hocus pocus, a non-quantitative practice. Thank goodness for modern day science and true advocates for Traditional Chinese medicine. We now have many quantitative, scientifically backed studies proving the efficacy of this ancient medicine.
What is Acupuncture and why does it work?
It might not make sense why it works. You don't have to "believe" in it. It works regardless of your belief in it. This is one of the great mysteries of medicine and probably of life. Examples? Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice. Simply by navigating your way to this page, you're looking at trying it, friends have tried it, and likely a family member or 2 have tried it. Many have had good results. But you are still likely having troubles understanding why it works. In a science based world, we expect tangible proof, mathematical solutions and science backed evidence. In an attempt to make connections between the mainstream medical terminology we have been exposed to and Chinese medicine, we can start with explaining how the fascia, a fibrous tissue that binds blood vessels, nerves, muscles and groups of muscles work together and they communicate with each other. Fascia could be considered the physical expression of what the Chinese call meridians, often described as energy channels. They connect in ways you might not have considered, and they're the reason an acupuncturist can treat frontal jaw pain by inserting a needle in the frontal part of your foot. When an acupuncturist inserts a needle an inch or so into the skin it touches deep nerve centers that connect to a part of the brain involved with activities not wholly under our conscious control such as digestion, respiration and the sleep cycle. The body reacts powerfully when we stimulate these nerve centers associated with such deep regulatory processes. The body is launching a strong response to a trauma that's never occurred and the fascinating thing is that response can be a healing force. In this approach, the acupuncture needle is providing the body with a tool to send energy into a trouble zone, or stagnant area.
If you've ever had a dream about falling and woke up breathing hard and in a cold sweat you've experienced how something that is "just in the mind" can be so real. Maybe this is why there may never be a scientific response to the "reason" acupuncture works. Simply by becoming involved in it you are involved in your own healing. You're not a passive patient, you are a co-creator of your own wellness. Maybe we shouldn't ask why it works, but instead, is it effective? For many problems treatable by acupuncture, the answer is a resounding "yes." With regular advances in science and technology, in particular, medical imaging, we are now able to demonstrate in visual form, these pathways and meridians and the stimulation of them through acupuncture. I like to think of the meridians in our body as roadways. Qi is the mode of transportation used within these pathways. If the roads are clear, there is a smooth flow and no issues to be found. If there is a blockage, or accident along one of the roadways, it can cause a major pile-up wreaking havoc on the flow throughout the body, much like a traffic jam. For a further look into this, I encourage you to follow this link. This brings me to my next FAQ and the concept of Qi.
What is Qi?
Termed many things, across many cultures and belief systems, qi (pronounced ‘chee’), is the root currency of Chinese medicine, the energy that TCM practitioners use, harness, and manipulate, to fight disease and strengthen health. Hawaiians call it mana, the Greeks call it pneuma, yogis know it as prana, the Japanese consider it ki, and perhaps the closest comparison for Christians may be The Holy Ghost. Simply put, qi is considered our vital force, or in a term relatable to all cultures, philosophies and practices, it is ENERGY.
The fact that qi is nonmaterial, makes it more difficult to wrap our heads around. If we were to combine some Western medical concepts into the theory of qi we could include the notions of lymph, blood, heat, photonic energy, DNA, vibrational quality of subatomic particles…and the list goes on. We cannot however, directly relate it to one of these concepts.
More importantly than trying to assign materialistic qualities to an energetic form is understanding what qi is in relation to acupuncture. As mentioned in my description of what acupuncture is and how it works, we have pathways, referred to as meridians in our body. Qi is the energy form, or in relation that that analogy, the car or mode of transportation that travels through those pathways. If there is flow, there is no disease. If flow is blocked, by many different factors, disease will occur.
Becoming attune to different feelings of qi is highly beneficial not only as an acupuncture patient but as more understanding individual of your own body in relation to the world and nature.
For a great article on what qi is click here.
Does It Hurt?
Many people are hesitant to try acupuncture for fear of needles and pain associated with the needles. Acupuncture can elicit several different types of sensations though pain is typically a very uncommon one. Your practitioner will ask for your feedback on the needles when they are being inserted and will most often be looking for a dull achy or heavy type sensation on the points. Sharp, shooting and severe pain should never be the goal of an experienced practitioner. Be sure to speak with your acupuncturist regarding your concerns or if you are experiencing any discomfort prior, during or after your treatment. They will be able to answer any questions you have and put your mind at ease.
For much more information on what to expect and a great description to ease any concerns you have, click here.
How Big Are The Needles?
Many people think of injection type needles used for drawing blood or shots from an MD. Acupuncture needles however are extremely different. The typical Chinese fine needle measures .25 to .30 millimeters in diameter, and 30-50 millimeters in length. Acupuncture needles, unlike hypodermic needles, are neither hollow nor rigid, and the tip is shaped to increase the patient's comfort during insertion.
What types of issues do people seek acupuncture for?
Acupuncture addresses a broad scope of health and wellness issues. An important goal of acupuncture and TCM with Banyan Tree Health is healthcare oriented. The focus of your treatments will be to provide your body some extra tools to perform daily functions to it's maximum performance. Other forms of mainstream medicine are considered sickcare - addressing issues that have already come up due to certain areas of your body being out of balance. Acupuncture can help with a wide range of ailments in a drugless manner, the focus of Banyan Tree is providing your body with a modality to maintain balance once that balance is achieved. In no particular order of relevancy or importance, below is a list (but not limited to) ailments acupuncture and TCM can address.
Gynaecological: Menopause Symptoms, Infertility, Labour Induction, PMS.
Digestive: Abdominal Pain, Constipation, Diarrhea, Indigestion, Crohn's Disease.
Musculo-Skeletal: Arthritis, Back Pain, Neck Pain, Muscle Pain, Muscle Cramping, Sciatica, Plantar Fasciitis.
Emotional: Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Nervousness, Neurosis.
Respiratory:, Asthma, Bronchitis, Common Cold, Sinusitis, Smoking Cessation, Tonsillitis, Seasonal Allergies.
Neurological:, Headaches, Migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, Post-Operative Pain, Stroke, Bell's Palsy.
Miscellaneous: Weight Loss, Addiction Control, Athletic Performance, Blood Pressure Regulation, Chronic Fatigue, Immune System Toning, Stress Reduction.
Is It Safe?
Yes, it is very safe when practiced by a qualified practitioner. The practice of acupuncture and TCM is regulated by the College and Association of Acupuncturist of Alberta. Your practitioner will be able to provide you with their licensing number. This license is only granted to those individuals who have successfully completed a minimum 3 years educational program in the field at a recognized institution and passed a Pan-Canadian licensing examination. Disposable sterile needles and clean needling protocols make the risk of infection negligible. With distal-point styles of treatment, risks are reduced to an occasional small bruise.
Are The Needles Re-Used?
No. Only sterile, disposable, one time use needles are used. Practitioner's complete Clean Needle Technique certification in order to obtain their license and as part of this certification, no needle is reused. Modern acupuncture needles in North America are not re-used. They are sterile, single-use stainless steel needles, and each needle is placed in a bioharzard sharps container following use.
How Often Do I Have To Come? How Long Will It Take To Resolve My Issue?
Acupuncture is most effective if sessions are done 1-2 times/week to start. As conditions improve, your practitioner will work with you to assess your long-term treatment plan, ensuring it aligns with your wellness goals. Each individual is unique and as such, the treatment program and schedule will be adjusted to that individual. It is essential that you work with your practitioner on your wellness goals, reassessing as you progress and disclose all health related issues with your acupuncturist to ensure they have a whole picture to work with.
How Deep Do The Needles Go?
Many factors play into this answer. Location of the acupuncture point, constitution of the patient, angle of insertion, condition being treated are all factors to needle depth. A needle into the hip/buttocks area will go much deeper than an auricular needle or one around the head or face. If you want specifics as to how deep your needles will be inserted, feel free to ask your acupuncturist once they have set a treatment plan and chosen the appropriate acupuncture points for your treatment.
How Long Will The Needles Stay In For?
This too depends on the type of treatment, the condition being addressed and the constitution of the patient. It takes approximately 28 minutes for your body's qi to complete a full cycle through your body. Many practitioners like to retain the needles for that full cycle to be most effective but again, your experienced practitioner will take into account all the factors listed above to decide how long they will leave the needles in for.
How Many Needles Are Used In A Treatment?
Similar to the questions above, this depends on the constitution of the client, the conditions being treated and the treatment protocol. On average, you can expect between 10-15 needles in a treatment session.
Can The Needles Break Off?
With single use needles, it is extremely rare for a needle to be broken during a treatment. Repeated sterilization of needles tends to weaken the structure of the metal, which is why broken needles were more common prior to single use needles became the norm. It is possible for a needle to break if the patient moves around a lot while the needles are in deeper muscle tissue or if a patient has a muscle spasm while the needles are in. However, the needles used are very small, very flexible, and generally do not break with ease. Stuck needles are more common than broken needles, but this also is a rare occurrence. Generally, when a needle appears stuck, the body just isn't ready to let go of it yet. Waiting 5 minutes or so and coming back to it is usually all that is needed for that stuck needle to lift right out with ease. In some cases where the patient has particularly tight muscles or has moved during the treatment, muscle fibers get wrapped around the needle making it more difficult to remove. This is easily fixed by massaging a point near the stuck needle or inserting a needle a point or two down the channel to loosen the qi in that area.
Is It Safe For My Child?
With a trained and licensed practitioner, acupuncture is safe for you and your child. Some practitioners have more experience in pediatrics and as such it is better to seek out those who specialize. Speak with your acupuncturist about this and if they are not comfortable treating your child, they will be able to refer you to someone who can. Acupuncture can be a great form of family medicine. It is important that your child is comfortable with the acupuncturist so that communication about the process is open at all times and at a level that your child can understand regarding their treatment.
For an excellent study on this click here.
Will I Be Bruised Or Will The Needles Cause Bleeding?
Since the needles are very fine in diameter, acupuncture generally does not cause bleeding. If a small capillary is punctured—and capillaries are everywhere—it may cause a tiny spot of blood to emerge. Similarly, slight bruising may occur, particularly in those with fragile blood vessels. These are mild reactions and are no cause for concern. Please ensure that you notify your acupuncturists if you are taking any blood thinner medication or have any clotting related disorders.
Traditionally, in cases of blood stasis, Chinese physicians purposely draw out a small quantity of blood with a lancet. This is a therapy that brings an immediate sense of relief to the patient, and it is not particularly painful. If this is part of your treatment plan, your practitioner will discuss with you prior to doing so. Please not that along with disposable needles, the lancets used for this type of treatment are sterilized, disposable.
Clients receiving cupping therapy may experience discolorations that can occur from the release and clearing of stagnation and toxins from the body. This reaction is not bruising but due to cellular debris, pathogenic factors and toxins being drawn to the surface. Any discolorations will dissipate from a few hours to as long as 2 weeks.
Do I Need A Prescription For A TCM Formula?
Though herbal formulas in the Province of Alberta are not regulated, it is not recommended that you purchase these without consultation from a licensed practitioner. Your acupuncturist will be able to assess if TCM herbal medicinals are necessary and beneficial in your case and will discuss those options with you after a thorough intake and diagnosis. Once you have consulted with your practitioner and they have made a recommendation for a formula, they will be able to guide you where to get that formula. Most practitioners will have these formulas available to you for purchase directly from them. If they do not, they will be able to guide you to an appropriate vendor to get your herbal prescription. Please note that while these are over the counter medicinals, if taken incorrectly or from an unknown source, can be harmful to your health. Your practitioner will be able to discuss these details with you and make educated recommendations.
Are The Herbal Formulas Animal Cruelty Free? Can I Take The TCM Medicinals If I Am Vegan?
All brands carried by Banyan Tree Health have been assessed, researched and scrutinized to ensure only the highest quality. All brands carried by Banyan Tree are animal cruelty free. If you are a vegan, please consult with your practitioner to ensure there are no animal products in the formula prescribed to you. There are vegan alternatives your practitioner will be able to prescribe appropriate for your condition.
Can Acupuncture Be Performed on My Pet?
Regulations on the practice of acupuncture vary by Province and State. Consult with your acupuncturist to find out if they can and will perform acupuncture on your pet. Majority mainstream veterinarian schools include courses on animal acupuncture so it is good to consult with your veterinarian on this as well as they have a much better picture of your pet's overall health and wellness.