FAQs About Acupuncture And Chinese Medicine

+How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles at specific points on the body.  The points we needle (“acupoints”), are the same ones which have been used for over 2000 years, to treat many of the same symptoms that we treat today.  These acupoints are areas where the energy (Qi) of the body is more easily accessible, and commonly coincide with known anatomical landmarks (e.g. muscle trigger points, nerves, etc.).  Stimulation of the points results in increased circulation of qi and blood around the needles, as well as within the channels which connect the points to distant areas of the body and the internal organs.  In this way, regulation of the flow of qi and blood at an acupoint can affect change in the whole body.

Modern medical research has been trying to explain the effects of acupuncture for over 30 years.  We now know that the needles inserted into acupoints produce special physical stimulation which can facilitate homeostasis in the body.  Acupuncture works by regulating various signalling pathways within the nervous system, which modulate pain, stress, autonomic activity and the immune system.

+How safe is it?

All the needles I used are single-use, pre-sterilized, and made of surgical grade stainless steel.  The area to be needled is always swabbed prior to insertion, and the needles are properly disposed of in a sharps container after use.  This greatly reduces any possible chance of infection.

The most common side effects of treatment are minor bleeding and occasional bruising. When performed by trained and qualified professionals, serious side effects are extremely rare.

+Does acupuncture hurt?

The simple answer is no, acupuncture should not be painful. Patients sometimes feel the needles when they are initially ‘tapped-in’; often they are not felt at all.  Once the needles are in, it is perfectly normal to have an awareness of the fact that they are there, however they should not be painful.  Mild sensations of tingling, numbness, heaviness, aching, warmth or movement are all very normal, and in fact, a positive sign that your body is aware of the fact that the needles are there.  If a needle is uncomfortable it can easily be adjusted or removed.  The majority of my patients routinely meditate or nap during their treatments.  It should be a very relaxing experience.

+I’m still not sure about needles.  Do I have any other options?

Absolutely!  People often get hung-up on the idea that the needles are the key to the treatment, when in fact they are just simply a method of stimulating the acupuncture points.  The points are the key to the treatment and there are many ways of stimulating them.  I also offer non-needle techniques such as laser, electrostimulation, auricular therapy, moxibustion, heat therapy, cupping and Chinese Herbal medicine in my practise.

+Do you treat children?

I treat patients all ages in my practise, from infants to the elderly.  With children, I typically use non-needle stimulation methods like laser or electro-stimulation, and herbs, until they are comfortable with the idea of needles, and able to give consent.  For most, this happens between 8 and 12 years of age.

+If I have to take herbs as part of my treatment, do I have to cook them?

No, I do not typically prescribe raw herbs in my practise, for a couple reasons.  First of all, ensuring adequate quality control of the identification, purity, potency, processing and storage of raw herbs is a very extensive and time-consuming process.  Secondly, my experience is that patients’ compliance with taking their herbs is not as good when using raw herbs which require cooking. 

I use a combination of tablets and loose “instant tea” granules for most of my patients, sourced from three herbal product lines, available only through Chinese medicine practitioners.  The companies which produce these products are certified by GMP standards and closely regulated by Health Canada.  This ensures that all herbs are tested for species identification, pesticide and heavy metal residues, bacterial and fungal growth, and are manufactured under high standards for potency.  The end result is a high-quality, effective herbal product, free of contaminants which is easy for patients to take.

+What kinds of problems does Chinese Medicine treat?

It is usually easier to answer this question by saying what it doesn’t treat!  If it is an emergency situation, like a stroke, heart attack or imminent delivery, you are much better off in the local ER.  However, outside of these critical situations, Chinese medicine offers effective treatment for many conditions.  Some of the typical issues we commonly treat include:

Pain (Back, neck, joint, nerve, headache, migraine)

Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome

Neurological disorders (Parkinson’s, MS)

Digestive disorders (IBS, colitis, Crohn’s, GERD, constipation, diarrhea, etc.)

Respiratory disorders (cough, allergies, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia)

Circulatory disorders (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, angina, Raynaud’s, varicose veins)

Skin conditions (acne, psoriasis, eczema)

Urinary disorders (UTI’s, interstitial cystitis, prostatis)

Menstrual and menopausal symptoms

Infertility (both male and female)

Pregnancy related issues (morning sickness, breech presentation)/p>


Anxiety & depression

+Can I have acupuncture and take herbs while I am having other treatments or taking other medications?

That is a tough one to answer quickly!  There are certain medications which can be affected by the use of certain herbal products.  Also, there patients who have certain conditions which require additional precautions during treatment.  I would never advise a patient to discontinue any other treatment or medication recommended by another practitioner.  Additionally, I always recommend that my patients are open with their doctor and pharmacist about the fact that they are having acupuncture or taking herbs.  In a small number of patients, I may choose to forgo certain treatments or avoid certain herbs because of other ongoing treatments, however this is done after careful consideration and weighing of all information.  In the vast majority of cases, once I have a clear understanding of a patient’s health history, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be safely integrated into their existing treatment plan.

+OK, what do I do to get started?

Initial appointments can be booked by calling the office during regular office hours.  The initial visit is typically two hours in length and consists of a complete health history, consultation, examination and treatment (if time allows). 

+Why does the initial visit take so long?

Most patients come in with a number of health concerns on the first day.  In the majority of cases, these seemingly separate symptoms are connected from the standpoint of Chinese medicine.  Treatment is always a balance of treating the symptoms (“branch”) and the underlying cause (“root”).    The most effective treatments treat the symptoms and the root together, in order to prevent them from re-occurring.

Chinese medicine involves asking questions about the patient’s health, looking at the tongue, taking the pulse and a basic physical examination, in most cases.  This process forms the foundation of a Chinese Medicine diagnosis and determines the treatment direction.  It is vital to establishing a clear picture of the overall patient and is the most important part of the initial visit.  Subsequent visits are usually an hour in length.

+How many treatments will I need?

Most patients are seen weekly for the initial 6-8 weeks.   Some patients experience relief almost immediately, while others may take a few visits before they notice any changes.  Generally, acute conditions resolve within 4-6 visits.  However, if the condition is chronic, it may require longer to resolve completely.  Six visits is typically enough time to “give it a fair shot”.  This initial course of treatment allows me time to modify treatments, depending on how patients respond, because what works for most, does not work for all.   After the initial course of treatment, some patients are seen on an as-needed basis, while others with more chronic conditions often continue treatment on a less frequent basis in order to manage their condition. 

+Will my insurance plan cover the fees?

Since the regulation of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine in Ontario in 2013, many workplaces have responded by providing coverage as part of their group extended health insurance policies.  As the terms of each policy are different, you should contact your insurer to confirm your coverage.  We do not direct bill 3rd party insurance at this time, but are happy to provide you with any documentation that you many require to receive reimbursement.