Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a comprehensive and powerful system of healing which utilizes the placement of fine needles into specific body points to have a direct, positive stimulatory effect.


Countless research studies have proven, without a doubt, that acupuncture is effective for a wide variety of conditions.

Acupuncture systems fall into several categories and, depending on your health goals, the health condition you are experiencing and your personality, some styles will be better suited to you than others. Your body has an inherent tendency to want to be well, the challenge is to find the right combinations of therapies that unlock that healing potential.  The various methods of acupuncture available today offer many keys that can open the lock to wellness.

1. Those that utilize Energy or "Qi" flow theory are:

  • Regular Body Acupuncture - TCM style

    TCM Acupuncture uses the foundational theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine such as Yin and Yang and Qi. These terms have been greatly misunderstood over the years and have often been minimized by scientists calling them metaphorical, or magical theories. More recently, as TCM and acupuncture has evolved in North America, professional TCM acupuncturists were able to explain that these terms describe the TCM method as a systems analysis that explores the relational tendencies between different kinds of energy in a living system.

    Therefore a TCM acupuncturist will look at a patient’s constitution, lifestyle and other health-related factors and develop an understanding of a pattern of disharmony, or in less poetic words, the direction of health or disease a patient is trending towards.

    The practitioner uses traditional acupuncture points to relieve pain and restore wellness. Although from a scientific point of view, many points that a TCM acupuncturist might use makes no sense anatomically, the effects can be very profound. There is a growing respect from the scientific community on the wisdom and effectiveness of this type of acupuncture, as it functions on a level that is much more inclusive of the greater whole.

    Summary: The practitioner will use qualitative assessment methods like asking, listening, taking your pulse on both wrists and possible other pulse locations on the body, look at your tongue, assess the warmth or coolness of different parts of your body. The diagnosis will reflect the practitioner’s interpretation of the pattern of disharmony your system is undergoing. It may sound like a weather report or like you have some serious organ problem. Rest assured that the terminology the practitioner is using should not be confused with western anatomy or western terms. The terms that a traditional acupuncturist will use are, although sounding archaic, like wind or cold, they are technical terms to describe the qualitative excess or deficiency occurring in your body. Take the time to ask your practitioner about these terms, as they have relevant meaning in today’s world when properly explained.

    Treatment involves anywhere from 6 to18 needles in total, and while usually both sides of the body will be treated, front and back, sometimes only one side will require treatment. In general, a course of treatments is from 3 to 10 treatments depending on the nature of the problem. Follow-up treatments are arranged for health maintenance, or patients can use the system on a as-needed basis.

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  • Japanese acupuncture

    Japanese acupuncturists use the same foundational theories as traditional Chinese medicine. As acupuncture moved from the Chinese mainland to Japan, treatment methods changed to include thinner needles, more superficial needling, different types of palpation methods to diagnose energy imbalances and other methods to treat patterns of disharmony. Japanese acupuncture will rely on transferring energy between meridians and tend to use what is called Five Element points to do so.

    Japanese acupuncture also will use specific styles of moxibustion (see moxibustion) that involve a very focused heat directly on the skin.

    Within Japanese acupuncture techniques there is a famous tradition of Toryohari acupuncture, which was developed by blind acupuncture focuses primarily on pulse diagnosis, palpation and superficial needling.

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  • Korean Acupuncture

    TCM theory and techniques moved from the Chinese mainland to neighboring countries. As it was absorbed into the Korean culture, the emphasis on the use on points below the elbows and knees developed. There are two main styles of Korean acupuncture one called Saam and the other called Taegeuk. Each style has its own strategy for encouraging a positive and healthful energy shift through acupuncture needling. Their success and popularity in Korea has crossed the ocean and now can be found being practiced in Europe and the Americas.

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  • Five Element Acupuncture

    Five Element acupuncture is rooted in observing the movement of energy through the five phases that are observable in all living systems. Although the word “Element” is used in the title of this system, it is actually a poor translation of the word “Xing”. Xing more correctly translates as “elemental phases or movements of energy”.

    In any living system, energy moves through different phases as part of the normal process of maintaining homeostasis or health. Those states are: energy in its lowest state, energy increasing, energy reaching its highest state, energy stabilizing (neither increasing or decreasing), and finally energy decreasing to reach its lowest state to begin the cycle all over again.

    In health, all metabolic processes move through these states so that the system can transform food, eliminate waste, maintain the appropriate temperature for cellular function, and so on. These states of energy are found not only in the microsystem of the body but everywhere in nature. Every phenomenon in nature can be grouped into one of these five phases of energy. As an example, we can group cold, still, quiet, dark, winter, as reflecting energy in its lowest state. Similar correspondences can be drawn for each elemental phase and will include: colour, taste, season, material nature, organ, odour, sound, balanced emotion, unbalanced emotion and so on. For ease of grouping, each phase of energy movement is named by a term that best reflects the natural phenomena that are grouped together. These are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.

    From the Five Element theory point of view, every individual has a constitutional type that dominates the way the individual moves through their life’s journey. This constitutional type can reflect in health certain strengths and when out of balance, can reflect particular weaknesses.

    A Five Element practitioner is always looking to bring their patient back into balance on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, as imbalances will present themselves in any one of these areas. This system will use fewer needles and small amounts of moxibustion to correct the energy blocks or imbalances.

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  • Master Tung Style Acupuncture

    In Chinese Medicine there is a saying that captures the essence of acupuncture therapy: “Where there is pain… there is no circulation… Where there is circulation… there is no pain.”

    The Tung system of acupuncture developed by the Tung family has, at its core, the essence of the above saying. A Tung style acupuncture treatment focuses on unblocking energy by using relationships within the meridian/channel system.

    With this style of acupuncture, the area of pain is rarely needled directly. Instead, the practitioner will look at the relationship of where the pain is occurring and explore areas within the meridian system that can, like a drain valve, unblock the energy flow in the pain area by relieving pressure further down the system. Therefore a shoulder pain may be relieved by needling the paired meridian in the ankle area.

    Practitioners take special training in this style and may use it as a stand-alone treatment or combine it with other systems. Results can be instantaneous, and fewer needles are used in general.

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2. Those that are extrapolations of traditional acupuncture systems. These methods focus on neural muscular systems and modern anatomy:

  • Motor Point Needling/ Sports Acupuncture

    This style of acupuncture focuses on a structural approach to pain and sports injury management. The therapist will test and isolate the muscle groups that are involved in the problem. Then, using acupuncture needles, will trigger the Motor Points (the area of the muscle where the nerve inserts) to reset the muscle to its normal state.

    In addition to assessing muscular imbalances in the case of injury or pain, Sports Acupuncture can help improve an individual’s athletic performance. By identifying weak and overactive muscle groups, the therapist uses acupuncture on the motor points to restore the natural tonicity thereby reducing potential injury and maximizing performance.

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  • IMS (Intra-Muscular Stimulation)

    Intra-Muscular Stimulation (IMS) is a system that uses acupuncture needles to treat chronic pain conditions that occur in the musculoskeletal system that are not resolving on their own or with conventional treatment methods.

    IMS does not call the treatment procedure acupuncture, as their diagnostic and treatment rationales are based in Western medical science. The term they use is “dry needling” to reflect that no substance is being injected into the tissue by the needle. From the IMS point of view, the action of the needle being inserted into the appropriate contracted muscle initiates a number of biomedical responses that restore normal muscle tonicity, reduce inflammation and irritation to the nerve. Training in this system is usually limited to physiotherapists and requires a specific certification to be able to use the term IMS.

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  • Anatomical Acupuncture

    Anatomical Acupuncture is a system of training that uses traditional acupuncture points and combinations, but uses modern western medical anatomy and neurology to explain the pain reduction and healing effects of acupuncture needling. This system is taught through a certification process to western trained healthcare practitioners.

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3. Those that work with microsystems (smaller distinct zones of the body that have reflex arcs to other areas of the body). The more popular microsystems in use are the following:

  • Auricular (Ear) – French/German Style

    This microsystem originated in France and was developed by Dr. Paul Nogier, a neurologist from Lyon, France. In 1957, Dr. Nogier became intrigued by a folk remedy for treating Sciatica by sticking a hot needle into a specific point on the ear.

    Patients experienced relief after this procedure and their results inspired Dr. Nogier to investigate further. After years of research, a complete system evolved with over 200 points being identified on the ear, each one reflecting a specific area of the anatomy. This system was taught to medical doctors throughout Europe and was practiced with great success. Further refinements were developed in Germany by Dr. Bahr and then later by Dr. Beate Stritmatter. The Nogier (French school) and the Bahr (German school) have evolved to have differing assessment and treatment approaches, however both use the same foundational anatomical reflex map of the ear.

    In this system, small needles are inserted into specific zones of the ear to relieve pain or treat disease. A distinction is made between Auricular Therapy and Auricular Medicine. Auricular Therapy uses the reflex zones of the ear to treat pain. Auricular Medicine is a more indepth procedure that treats pain, disease and non-responsive medical conditions. More training is required for the practitioner to be able to apply this system. Auricular Medicine involves the practitioner learning how to assess various levels of imbalance, identify blockages that impede healing, and systematically unravel complex health conditions to provide streamlined treatment strategy. This system is practiced by thousands of medical doctors in Europe with great acceptance and success. Treatment for auricular systems may include needles, acupressure devices (small metal pellets or seeds), electrotherapy or laser.

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  • Auricular (Ear) – Chinese Style

    Auricular acupuncture was a part of traditional acupuncture for over a thousand years. Specific points were identified to treat other regions of the body.  However it was the discoveries of Dr. Nogier in France that encouraged the Chinese doctors to look at the ear more closely. They indeed found hundreds of additional reflex zones on the ear. Over the years Auricular therapy in China became its own specialty with many famous practitioners such as Dr. Li Chun Huang. Just as in the French and German systems where differences are to be found, so too in the Chinese system differences are found when compared to the European systems. Ongoing discussions and exchanges are occurring, but one thing all systems agree on is that the ear is a powerful microsystem with confirmed therapeutic results. Treatment for auricular systems may include needles, acupressure devices (small metal pellets or seeds), electrotherapy or laser

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  • Korean Hand Acupuncture

    Discovered in 1971 by Dr. Tae-Woo Yoo in Korea, this system uses the hand to treat the entire body. Reflex points and micro meridians are used to treat pain and a wide variety of health conditions. Widely used in Korea and increasingly more popular in North America, this acupuncture microsystem, like that of the ear, is very effective.Treatment utilizes small needles specific to this therapy, magnets, acupressure devices that are specific to this system (gold and silver pellets), moxibustion (focused heat therapy) and others.

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  • Scalp Acupuncture

    This microsystem evolved out of China in the 1970s. The system uses knowledge of the anatomy of the brain to map out reflex points on the scalp. Clinical experience has shown stimulation of these scalp points can trigger positive and lasting responses in the nervous system. While it is extensively used for stroke recovery and rehabilitation, the method can also be used to treat a wide variety of health conditions. Scalp acupuncture results continue to show that this system will continue to be a treatment of choice for many practitioners. Treatments are generally very concentrated, once or even twice a day in acute conditions with 10 to 12 consecutive treatments being considered as a single course of treatment. Two to three courses of treatment may be required, with breaks between courses that range from 2 to 7 days. Frequently, body acupuncture is combined with Scalp Acupuncture to maximize results.

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Acupuncture can be applied in several types of therapeutic settings:

  • One-on-one sessions with the practitioner and patient in a private treatment room.
  • Private consultations – however the practitioner may be seeing multiple patients at the same time.
  • Group settings called community acupuncture, where patients sit in a group while the practitioner inserts needles and moves from patient to patient
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