Most Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture
Click any of the following links or scroll down to read all frequently asked questions about acupuncture:
“I was so scared of trying acupuncture but was nicely surprised that there was no pain at all. Why is this?”
Even patients who have had previous experience with acupuncture before going to the Pacific Wellness Institute Acupuncture Clinic are often pleasantly surprised at how virtually painless and more comfortable our acupuncture treatments are. There are 4 main reasons why our acupuncture treatments are so painless:
- Needles: We use the thinnest acupuncture needles available on the market (0.12 mm in diameter) -they are thinner than human hair! They are also more than 2 times thinner than the needles typically used in most North American acupuncture clinics.
- Guiding Tube: We use specially designed guiding tubes to insert the needle. Guiding tubes, which were invented in the 17th century by a talented and blind Japanese acupuncturist named Waichi Sugiyama, significantly decrease the pain and stinging sensation when the needle is inserted.
- Our Technique: Technique plays the important role in achieving painless needling. We spend years in training refining our painless acupuncture techniques. Inserting and manipulating thin, fine and extremely soft needles without bending them requires highly sensitive skills.
- Needling Depth: We specialize in a superficial acupuncture needling technique. The acupuncture needles are usually inserted less than a few millimeters in depth.
Some acupuncturists believe that in order to produce a significant effect one must insert needles deeper and administer a much stronger stimulation; however, we do not believe this is necessarily true. Many Japanese practitioners clinically observe significant improvement in their patients’ conditions using an extremely gentle superficial needling technique. Furthermore, my scientific study (Tanaka, et al., International Journal of Neuroscience in 1997) indicated that very gentle superficial needling stimulation produces an immensely favorable response in the human physiological system. The study demonstrated that a very small amount of superficial stimulation produces significant responses in the body when applied skillfully with consideration of the patient’s physiological condition. Our goal is to deliver the most effective treatment for a patient’s condition while providing the most comfortable treatment experience.
Many people, including some medical professionals, assume that acupuncture is a method of temporary pain-relief only. This misconception may have resulted from acupuncture being popularized in North America since 1978 as a form of analgesia. It is true that acupuncture is commonly utilized as a form of pain control, especially when performed by physicians, chiropractors, or physiotherapists. The main concept of acupuncture as practiced in China or Japan, however, is to harmonize internal body systems and address the cause of illness. Therefore, temporary relief of pain is only one aspect of acupuncture.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective method to deal with a variety of health conditions other than those causing pain. The WHO listed a variety of health conditions which can be treated by acupuncture, including organic illness. This is because acupuncture helps to regulate our physiological functioning. Acupuncture primarily affects our nervous system, which controls our entire visceral function.
How does your treatment (acupuncture) differ from anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDS)?
NSAIDs may potentially have several well-known detrimental effects in your system such as gastric irritation and liver damage while acupuncture has virtually no side effects. In terms of the action on your muscle and joint pain, acupuncture works in a completely different manner than medication does.
Most pain-relief and anti-inflammatory medications provide excellent short-term pain-relief by blocking the production of pain-causing substances called prostaglandins. In addition to inducing pain, however, prostaglandins are vasodilators which help enhance circulation. By inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, there will be decreased sensitivity to pain but blood supply to the muscles and joints will also be decreased, thus creating problems and prolonging true recovery.
On the other hand, our acupuncture procedure produces the complete opposite effect. Except in a few very acute cases, we attempt to enhance blood circulation, especially in the area that there is pain or discomfort. This desired action can be achieved by regulating the autonomic nervous system (which is responsible for internal organ system functioning, regulation of blood circulation and production of relaxation effects) using specific acupuncture techniques. When circulation of the tissue improves, muscle relaxation occurs and in many cases immediate pain reduction follows. However, when circulation improves, the pain in the affected area occasionally intensifies, and is then followed by repair of tissue and muscle relaxation.
Here is an analogy that somewhat explains this healing recovery pain. If you have been sitting for a long time, your legs start to get tight and feel numb. This, as you know, is due to poor circulation (ischemic pain). There is some discomfort at this point, but it’s not very intense. Most of the discomfort occurs when you get up and start to walk around and blood flow is re-established (recovery pain). In some cases, it is necessary to go through some discomfort in order to get complete relief. Proper circulation in the tissue is important not only for blood to nourish the tissue but also to enhance the elimination of muscle fatigue and pain-causing substances (e.g., lactic acid) thus creating healthy tissues. On the other hand, tight muscles with poor circulation are fatigued easily and more prone to injury.
Any prescription for good health must include prevention, not just treatment of disease. Acupuncture has been traditionally used as a preventive medicine. Recent research has now verified that acupuncture stimulates immune functioning which increases your resistance to bacterial and viral infections. Acupuncture also increases overall vitality and energy. Many people find that regular monthly acupuncture tune-ups are the best medicine to feel “in sync” and to ensure continued good health.
“An Excellent Doctor Treats a Patient Before Disease Arises” – Bian Que (Known as the King of Medicine, 4th C. B.C.)
The location of the needles depends on your particular pattern of symptoms. But in general, needling points are chosen on the entire body. This is because we approach your signs and symptoms as being a manifestation of your body’s disharmony. Some of the commonly utilized body balancing points are located on the forearms, legs and abdomen.
Do I need to believe that acupuncture will work in order for it to be effective?
Significant results have been obtained when acupuncture is used for very small children and animals, both groups being less likely to be affected by the degree of their beliefs. These studies suggested that acupuncture produces a significant physiological response regardless of your belief or faith in acupuncture. However, I cannot emphasize enough your role in your recovery. If you maintain a positive attitude with a firm belief in the treatment you are receiving and have a desire to recover, it can only help.
The powerful synchronizing effect between the action of acupuncture and your attitude makes sense since the cure comes from your own body, regardless of the form of therapy you receive. Even western medical practices are beginning to recognize the importance of the patient’s attitude towards treatment. Consequently, a growing number of modern hospitals are incorporating hypnosis or psychotherapy as a routine part of pre- and post surgery conditioning. It certainly works.
Is there any scientific proof that indicate acupuncture works?
In recent medical practice, the doctor’s personal preference or belief has played a diminishing role in selecting the medical procedure for their patient. Instead, much more emphasis has been placed on evidence from rigorous research. This is called evidence-based medicine (EBM). This trend has also influenced the practice of acupuncture and over the last decade, acupuncture has been put through serious testing according to western scientific research standards.
In 1997, the US National Institute of Health conducted a large conference where panels of expert scientists discussed the efficacy and safety of acupuncture based on current evidence. Following the meeting, NIH issued a report entitled the “NIH Consensus Statement of Acupuncture”, which acknowledged the effectiveness of acupuncture in a variety of health conditions. Furthermore, they recommended US insurance companies cover acupuncture for treatment of some recommended conditions. A research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience was one of the studies reviewed by the NIH and contributed to this positive outcome (Tanaka et al. 1997).
Yes, we have been using only disposable needles since the opening of our practice in fall 1990. Each needle is discarded into a medical hazard container after single use.
Are there different grades or qualities of needles?
Yes, there are a number of different grades of disposable needles. We use only the highest quality needles on the market. They are manufactured in Japan. The average cost per needle is approximately 5 times more expensive than common brands. High quality pre-sterilized needles are guaranteed for 100% non-contamination. Additionally, the ultra-fine needle tips provide smoother insertion, ensuring much less discomfort during treatment.
Are there any side effects of acupuncture?
As with any medical treatment, there is a chance of developing unfavorable reactions after acupuncture treatment. Adverse effects of acupuncture reported in the literature include infection, nerve damage, fainting, and puncture injuries to vital organs. These complications, however, are exceptionally unusual, especially under the care of qualified acupuncturists. Tiny bruises around needling sites are not very common but occasionally occur. These usually diminish completely within a week. Compared with medical and pharmaceutical intervention, acupuncture is considered an extremely safe treatment with minimal chance of any complication.
I have tried acupuncture somewhere else before and did not feel any improvement.
It is true that not everyone responds well to acupuncture, however, it is important to remember that failure to respond to treatment from one acupuncturist does not necessarily mean that your condition cannot be helped by acupuncture. As indicated, currently in Ontario, acupuncture is provided by various individuals with a wide variety of educational backgrounds. An acupuncturist from the Pacific Wellness Institute has qualifications and extensive experience in not only acupuncture but also in a wide range of alternative therapies and applied physiology fields. Therefore he can, in many cases, offer unique insight in a variety of health conditions that previously were non-responsive to conventional medicine or other alternative approaches.
Does all acupuncture work the same way?
When we discuss acupuncture it is important not to generalize the effect and response from acupuncture treatment just like medication (for the most part, medication does provide an expected reaction from targeted populations). Physiological response from acupuncture varies greatly based on various factors such as practitioner’s skills. In fact, experimental studies indicated that an acupuncture needle inserted in the same point produces a different reaction depending on a variety of other factors such as depth of the insertion, amount of stimulation, and position of the patient. A unique acupuncture system utilized at the Pacific Wellness Institute is designed to relieve your symptoms and address the root cause of the problem simultaneously in the most effective and timely manner possible, which is based on the acupunturist’s extensive research and clinical experience.
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I live very far away. Do you offer consultation over the phone or internet?
Unfortunately, we are not able to provide any specific health advice over the phone or internet. Oriental medicine has never been intended to be used in that type of format throughout the thousands of years it has been practiced. Consultations and assessments provided in clinic are very important in order to deliver accurate diagnosis and safe, effective treatments. Much more than Western medicine, Oriental medicine relies on information obtained through interpersonal face to face evaluations, which include palpation of points, pulse diagnosis, observation of skin color, tongue etc. If you are unable to come to our clinic in Toronto, we recommend that you see a practitioner in your local area.
Click here for resources and tips to find an acupuncturist in your area.