Did you know that more than three-quarters of Canadians (79%) had used one or another alternative or complementary medicine therapy in 2016? 22% of people had chosen acupuncture as their healing modality (massage was the most common at 44%).
It seems that the public attitude in Canada towards alternate healing modalities is softening up as more and more Canadians choose to complement traditional medicine with something extra.
If you are suffering from back or neck pain or a hormonal imbalance, and looking for additional help healing yourself, then consider getting an acupuncture treatment. There is a lot to know about acupuncture treatments and their benefits, so keep reading to learn more about this alternative healing therapy.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has its origins in China probably a few hundred years before the Common Era (making it more than 4000 years old!). Interestingly enough, in the beginning, sharp stones and long sharp bones were used for treatment, instead of long sharp needles.
The earliest documents that speak about acupuncture procedures would be The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine from about 100 BCE. It speaks in detail about the meridians (the 12 main energy channels that qi, pronounced chee, flows through). It doesn't have any details on the acupuncture points themselves, as that comes later in history.
Acupuncture developed over the next centuries in China and became one of the main therapies used. This brings us to the 21st century where acupuncture is well known throughout the world as an alternative therapy treatment.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
In an acupuncture session, a trained practitioner will place long sharp needles (don't worry they are long and thin and not painful) at strategic points throughout the body depending on what ails you and what needs fixing. The practitioner will usually use 5-20 needles at several different points.
Acupuncture believes that all disease is due to an imbalance or blockage in the body of certain energy channels. Acupuncture needles allow this energy to start flowing freely again, healing the body of whatever ails it.
Of course, it isn't magic, and one or two sessions won't unblock whatever meridian in your body needs fixing. But a few sessions of acupuncture (more or less depending on how severe your illness is) along with a regimen of proper diet, herbs, acupressure or massage, and heat therapy (or moxibustion) will surely help.
Who Can Acupuncture Benefit?
Acupuncture may benefit many different ailments and diseases, depending on the severity and condition. Let's look at some of these in detail below.
People with Mental/Emotional Disorders
Acupuncture helps stimulate the release of endorphins (the body's pain-relieving neurotransmitters). This can help relieve or heal anxiety, depression, insomnia, neurosis, and other mental and emotional disorders.
Many studies have proven a significant decrease in anxiety in the participants after acupuncture treatment. Considering that 1 in 5 people will experience some kind of mental health problem or illness in any given year, it's a good idea to supplement your medication with some acupuncture treatment.
People with Respiratory Problems
Acupuncture has been shown to alleviate breathlessness in people with dyspnea. It can also be used to alleviate the clinical symptoms of COPD and improve the quality of life in patients. Other disorders that can be helped are sinusitis, bronchitis, and allergic rhinitis.
People with Eye Disorders
Eye acupuncture works on healing eye disorders by placing needles around the orbit of the eye. It has been used since 1970 for the treatment of various eye ailments.
In addition to healing eye conditions, acupuncture can boost overall visual acuity, reduce sensitivity to light, reduce or eliminate eye floaters, blurred vision, dry eye syndrome, decrease excessive tearing, and heal swollen, and/or painful eyes.
People with Mouth Disorders
Acupuncture can help heal mouth ulcers, relieve dental pain (providing pain relief after surgery or wisdom tooth removal), and rhinitis. This is because acupuncture promotes blood circulation, removes stasis, and opens nasal passages.
People with Gastrointestinal Disorders
Good news for any folks suffering from gastrointestinal disorders, acupuncture can help heal many of them. Some examples are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Functional disorders (irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diarrhea)
- Peptic ulcer disease
- Crohn's disease
- Gall stone disease
- And more
It's time to take advantage of this alternative therapy to enhance the health of your gut.
People with Neurological and Musculoskeletal Disorders
Acupuncture can address the inflammation and other tensions that are prevalent around joints and in the body. This can help alleviate some neurological and musculoskeletal disorders, like migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, peripheral neuropathy, and tendon or ligament problems. Other ailments that can be helped are:
- Back pain
- Muscle cramping
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Neck pain
- Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
- Parkinson's disease
- Postoperative pain
Consult with your acupuncturist about your particular ailment to see if acupuncture can help alleviate or heal it.
What Can Acupuncture Help With?
As seen above, there are a wide variety of ailments and disorders that acupuncture can help with. Some of these are:
- Dental pain
- Headaches and Migraines
- Menstrual cramps
- Labour pain
- Neck pain
- Low back pain
- Some respiratory disorders like asthma, COPD, etc.
The issue with using acupuncture for treatment is that not everyone responds to acupuncture in the same manner. It might help one person heal a particular ailment almost instantaneously. But it might take longer for another person or not help at all.
That's why it's important to try it for yourself and see how your body reacts to it. In the case of acupuncture, personal experience is worth more than a thousand testimonials.
How to Prepare for an Acupuncture Treatment
If you have never tried acupuncture before, you might be wondering how you can prepare yourself for it. It's quite easy actually. When you first set up an appointment with an acupuncturist, they will inquire what exactly you are seeking to heal.
Once you are at your appointment, through a series of questions, heart rate and tongue health checks, the acupuncturist will garner exactly which meridians and energy channels are blocked and need healing. They will then place needles at strategic points to encourage the unblocking and renewed flow of energy through these channels.
You will not need to wear anything special for the treatment. Loose pants and a loose t-shirt are fine.
Depending on the treatment area, the acupuncturist might ask you to take your shirt off and lie on your chest. But everything is done with the utmost respect and decorum.
Try not to have a heavy meal right before your treatment as the energy channels being unblocked could make you nauseous if you are not used to it. Of course, every person is different and you might notice that you need the boost of some sugars or carbs before your treatment to keep your nerves steady. Do what works for you.
Choose the Right Practitioner for You
The most important thing with acupuncture is to choose a practitioner who is respectful and makes you feel comfortable throughout the process, explaining everything in detail and allowing you to get used to the needles bit by bit. If you are more comfortable with a female acupuncturist, then make sure to ask for that when you book your appointment.
Energy truly matters when it comes to acupuncture treatments, so you will want to choose someone who makes you feel at home. If you feel anxious or discomfort in any way, feel free to ask for another practitioner or stop the session right there.
What to Expect During a Treatment
Acupuncture treatments are quite relaxing and soothing, because of the rush of endorphins that needles cause. That's why all you need to worry about during the treatment is to ground yourself and lean into whatever your body's feeling.
If it's your first time, you might be a bit nervous about the whole experience, but you will soon discover that it can be quite an enlightening and addictive experience. Many people even fall asleep while the needles are in them because it's so relaxing. The needles are usually in you for 15-20 minutes at a time.
After the Treatment
Some needlepoint insertions might feel a bit sore after the treatment, but all you need to do is massage them gently and the pain will go away in a few hours or a day or two. Also, try not to overschedule yourself after your acupuncture treatment, but take the time to rest, recuperate and rejuvenate yourself. Indulge in a nap or spend time at home with a good movie and some herbal tea.
What Does It Feel Like? - Does Acupuncture Hurt?
If you are afraid of needles, you might be worried about how much the acupuncture treatment will hurt. But you have nothing to fear.
Acupuncture needles are not meant to hurt, and usually don't hurt. You might feel some sensations at the insertion points, but because the needles are so long and thin, they don't cause pain when inserted.
Most people end up feeling nothing when the acupuncture needles are inserted. Of course, it might also depend upon your pain tolerance and sensitivity levels.
Also, remember that pain isn't always a negative thing. Some sensations like pressure, throbbing, or jumping, are all good signs that the qi (energy) is unblocked and moving around in a balanced fashion again.
Of course, every person is different and if you are feeling extreme pain that's uncomfortable or unbearable, then speak up! Tell your acupuncturist to move slowly, add fewer needles, or be more gentle with you. It will also inform them that perhaps you have more of a qi blockage than they surmised.
Risks of Acupuncture
Like all alternative or traditional treatments, acupuncture has some risks associated with it as well. If you are on certain medications, or have a pacemaker, are at risk for infection, have chronic skin problems, are pregnant, or have breast or other implants, you will need to inform your acupuncturist about all this, so they can decide whether they can proceed with your treatment or not.
Always come clean with any health issues, family history of disorders or illness, or any other ailments you might have, so the acupuncturist has a true picture of your current health and whether acupuncture would be too risky for you.
How Much Does Acupuncture Cost in Canada?
The average cost of acupuncture varies from province to province. This can range from $30 to $120, but this doesn't include the initial consultation fee which can be anywhere from $100 to $300 depending on the severity of your illness. 30% of Canadians use acupuncture as a method of healing. With popularity rising, we can see this number growing over time.
Is Acupuncture Covered by Provincial Health Care Plans?
Most provincial health care plans do not cover acupuncture treatments (except BC that covers part of it). BUT most extended health care plans from your work or university will cover acupuncture, so you should look into your coverage plans and see how much of your treatment fees you can get reimbursed.
Final Thoughts on Acupuncture
Considering that so many Canadians are partaking in acupuncture to improve their health, it seems like acupuncture has already gained a foothold into the mainstream consciousness as a valid alternative medicine treatment. If you haven't tried it yet, what are you waiting for?
Insurdinary has many health insurance plans that cover acupuncture treatments, so if you are worried about costs, then look into these plans today.