TCM Acupuncture: What is it, and why is it beneficial to your health?

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What is TCM Acupuncture?

There are several different types of acupuncture. A few examples include medical, motor point, Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. I’ll be discussing the acupuncture that I’m specifically trained in, which is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine takes all aspects of an individual and their environment into account. TCM Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help treat an array of health conditions, from muscular pain, to irregular menstruation, to anxiety, and everything in between!

Acupuncture involves inserting very fine, sterilized needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body, commonly referred to as acu-points. By activating these points, it allows energy (Qi) and blood to move more freely, as well as giving your body signals to help boost its self-healing ability.

What is Qi? (pronounced “chee”)

An important aspect in Chinese medicine is the concept of Qi. Qi can be generally described as a vital energy force in the body. It flows along specific pathways - called channels or meridians - that run through the body and correlate with different organs. Qi helps the body perform important life functions such as circulation (moving/warming), immunity (protecting), storing (holding), and separating/absorbing nutrients (transforming & transporting).

When Qi, blood, body fluids, and organ systems are performing optimally, the body is in balance. if there is disruption (such as falling on ice, being stressed), this can cause disharmony and the energy can become stagnated. Similar to nutrition, some substances and systems may be used more (become deficient), while others overact (become excessive). It is our job as acupuncturists to recognize what systems are being effected (based on your symptoms), find the root of where it began, then select and give points that help bring your body back in balance.

Acupuncture as Preventative Medicine

As acupuncturists, we can also recognize what could potentially become an issue down the road. For example, let’s look at menopause. Menopause will have an effect on the body one way or another, so we can alleviate future symptoms associated with menopause by nourishing specific organ systems before menopause starts. Therefore, acupuncture works really well as a preventative measure of your health!

What To Expect On Your First Visit?

Your first visit will last approximately 90 minutes. We will discuss your medical history as well as other aspects of your life such as sleep, digestion, emotions/relationships, etc. My goal is to get a full picture so I can best tailor treatments to you. I will then ask to look at your tongue, and take your pulse. Since different organ systems are reflected on the tongue and pulse in Chinese medicine, these are additional diagnostic tools that give me more insight into what areas are affected and nature of what’s going on. It’s less about there being something physically wrong with an organ, and more to do with its function in the body from a Chinese medicine perspective, and how well it’s working with relation to other systems to keep the body in balance. The last 30 minutes will consist of an initial acupuncture treatment. Similar to a massage treatment, you’ll be lying on a massage table covered by cozy sheets.

Does It Hurt?

Very thin, fine, sterilized and disposable needles are used - so small that they are thinner than a hair strand! Most of the time, you barely feel the needles. Some areas can be more sensitive than others based on location and the patient. There may be a “mosquito bite” or a “hair pull” with initial insertion, but it should be minimal and dissipate shortly after. It’s common to feel other sensations while the needles are in (warmth, heaviness, movement, tingling) as this is a sign of Qi activating and moving— pain is not one of them. There should not be any pain during your acupuncture treatment. If so, small adjustments are usually enough to alleviate it. The number of needles used and the needle’s locations on the body will vary depending on what condition you’ve come in for. Once all the needles are inserted, they’re typically left in for 15-20 minutes. After that time, the needles are removed (you’ll feel relaxed and fantastic), then we’ll discuss number and frequency of treatments that would work best for you.

Follow-up treatments last 1 hour. We will take a moment to discuss how you’ve felt since last visit, look at the tongue/pulse again, and then move forward with acupuncture treatment.

I hope this was a helpful explanation into TCM acupuncture. I also hope you feel at ease with what to expect when you come in for a visit. I look forward to seeing you soon!

- Olivia Doughart, BSc (Kin), R. Ac