Under TCM, the body - both physical and emotional / psychological - is controlled by the Qi Acupuncture(vital force), which circulates among the key organs along channels called meridians . The 12 main meridians correspond to the 12 major body functions. Treatment can aim to address a deficiency in Qi, reduce an excess of Qi, or in some cases be neutral but aimed at bringing about other specific changes.

Acupuncture points are located along the meridians and provide a means of regulating the flow of Qi. Illness is manifest by a deficiency or imbalance or yin & yang of the vital fluid associated with the organs. Treatment is aimed at restoring the patient to proper balance. The precise treatment depends on the examination, diagnosis and patient and family history.

The practice of acupuncture among conventional western doctors has grown significantly in recent years. Acupuncture points are often interpreted in western medical terms according to specific physiological / anatomical features, often related to the nervous system. For example, a "trigger point" is the part of the neuromuscular system having heightened sensitivity to cause a characteristic pattern of pain. An example is a tender area in the muscles of the neck and shoulder, which may relate to various patterns of headache.

In auricular (ear) acupuncture, small needles are affixed with small pieces of bandage on ear points and maintained over a number of days. This practice enables the effects to go on continuously during the period of treatment to produce the desired effect. One example of auricular acupuncture is in treatment to help a patient stop smoking.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture points are located at the key junctures where meridians come closest to the surface. Acupuncture facilitates and regulates the circulation in these channels, mobilizing Qi, Moisture and Blood, stimulating the working of the muscles, nerves, vessels, glands, and organs.

The effects of acupuncture, particularly on pain, can - at least partially - be explained in conventional physiological terms. Acupuncture is known to stimulate larger nerve fibers that transmit the sensation of pain into the spinal cord and on to the brain. This is interpreted as inhibiting pain impulses that are transmitted through associated nerve fibers at other levels of the spinal cord. Acupuncture is also known to stimulate release of endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

The number of treatments depends on the patient's condition. For chronic conditions such as some forms of lower back pain, ongoing periodic treatment may be required.

What Happens During a Treatment?

Following the interview, the acupuncture procedure is discussed with the patient, what sensations might be experienced, how long the procedure will last. During treatment, typically between 4 and 10 "points" are "needled" during the session. The needles are usually left in place for 10-30 minutes. Needles may be stimulated by manual twirling or electrical current.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Acupuncture needles are extremely fine, and insertion of the needles may go unnoticed by some patients, while others may feel a slight "pricking" sensation when the needles are inserted. This may be followed by sensations of of numbness, warmth or slight "achiness" Most patients feel relaxed and some say they feel pleasant during treatment. When electrical stimulation is used, the patient usually feels a slight tingling of the low voltage flow of electrical current which may also effect a slight neuromuscular response manifest by twitching of the extremities, i.e., toes or fingers on the limb being needled. In the days following treatment many patients indicate some alleviation of symptoms and elevation of spirit, although this depends on the specific disorder and overall patient condition. For safety, only disposable needles are used.

Most patients are pleased to find that sessions are not uncomfortable and even look forward to them.

Tuina or Acupressure

Chinese massage, called Tuina or acupressure, is a gentle, noninvasive form of acupuncture. In acupressure, thumb or finger pressure is applied at these meridian junctures with the same aim, to effect beneficial changes and achieve harmony within the body's systems and structure.