There has been a recent increase in articles regarding acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and their positive effects, especially on pain management. As acupuncture gains popularity, more people may encounter someone who says that acupuncture and TCM cured them. It is important not to view acupuncture and TCM as some miracle treatment. Acupuncture is a complex system of medicine dating back thousands of years and although it looks and sounds very different from Western medicine it is still a form of medicine. It's effectiveness comes from the approach to treatment. It addresses not only the branch (symptoms) but also the root (underlying cause), and getting to the root of the problem allows acupuncture to provide a long lasting reduction of symptoms for some people.
Equally complex is the human body, especially in regard to TCM which views the body as one interconnected system. In TCM we recognize that the person being treated will either contribute to or take away from their healing through lifestyle choices such as nutrition, exercise and stress management. The influence that lifestyle has on the how energy flows throughout the body should not be underestimated. A registered acupuncturist takes all of these factors into consideration during the health intake and may provide lifestyle recommendations to aid in the recovery process in addition to the treatment.
A key benefit of acupuncture is the individualized approach to the person being treated based on the information gathered during the intake. An acupuncturist addresses issues with a holistic view of how the body works to provide a deeper understanding of the underlying issues. No two people are the same, therefore a migraine or pain like sciatica may be treated with many different approaches since the underlying reason for the pain will vary from person to person.
Acute issues may take a few treatments to resolve while chronic conditions could take months or even years. A typical treatment plan consists of one to three treatments for the first few weeks with a reassessment at that point. There is the possibility that the condition is resolved after a couple of treatments. In some instances there may be little to no improvement seen after the initial visits. In these cases it's important to bear in mind that treatments are often accumulative, building up positive effects with each subsequent treatment. In addition there are often multiple factors playing a role in the causation of the main complaint, and these layers will need to be peeled away one treatment at a time before getting to the root(s) of the problem.
A selection of acupuncture points and modalities used are considered a prescription, and similar to a Western medicine prescription we cannot expect to take a single pill and expect to be cured. Each point is selected for a particular healing benefit and a combination of points are used to address one or multiple issues. The acupuncture points used will create a free flow of energy allowing the symptoms to change and in some cases other symptoms may develop temporarily as the body adjusts. Single use, sterilized needles are used to stimulate the acupuncture points to get the energy flowing and perhaps boost or sedate the energy as needed.
Most will find an acupuncture treatment to be very relaxing and rest is recommended following an appointment. Ensuring adequate sleep and creating a stress free environment is important to maintaining a proper energy flow after the treatment. This is key to helping the body heal and recover.
While acupuncture should not be used to replace Western medicine it may be used in an integrative manner to speed up recovery and healing or assist with the side effects of other treatments. People may seek acupuncture when other treatment options have been exhausted and no resolution to their problem is achieved by traditional methods. TCM recognizes that the body has an innate drive to heal itself and maintain balance, in fact your body is regenerating and healing as you read this.
Jeanette is a Registered Acupuncturist and Reiki Master at Trinity Registered Massage Therapy located at Huron Crossing and Sage Naturopathic Clinic in Kitchener.