Acupuncture: a traditional approach to health and wellbeing

Posted on: October 25, 2016

By Dr. Natalie Bernicky

So why choose acupuncture as part of your health care? Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world, originating in China about 2000-5000 years ago. In 1979 the World Health Organization (WHO) formally endorsed acupuncture, and listed 41 diseases amenable to acupuncture treatment. Since then, the WHO has sponsored worldwide training programs in acupuncture, primarily because of its cost-effectiveness.

More recently, both the Canadian and American military have turned to acupuncture as a means of managing chronic and acute pain in active duty members, where conventional medications and therapies were unsuccessful. To date, the results have been positive with members feeling improvements both physically and mentally. Acupuncture is a safe treatment and has been in the public domain in Ontario for decades.   

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine, and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. Most commonly associated with needles, acupuncture therapy can also include the application of heat, pressure, and electric current or laser light to different points on the body. With traditional Chinese medicine the goal of treatment is to correct imbalances in energy, known as de Qi (the chi) flowing through channels known as meridians.  

Health care practitioners may reference traditional Chinese methods, while combining the scientific, neurological and anatomical approach to the nervous system. This is known as biomedical acupuncture, where the goal of treatment is to cause local tissue activity to stimulate a healing response.

In biomedical acupuncture points are chosen based on the patient’s area of complaint, and combine all aspects of the nervous system. The aim of physical therapy is to stimulate healing via the nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, and controls the function of your entire body. Sterilized, single use, needles are inserted at the selected points, and left in place for 15 to 30 minutes. The practitioner will make adjustments to the needles halfway through treatment to re-engage the nervous system.

During treatment patients may experience a characteristic feeling, particularly in muscular points, known in Chinese literature as the “arrival of Qi” sensation. This sensation usually differs from the feeling of insertion itself, and may be described as a dull ache, tingling, heaviness or warmth. This sensation cannot be reproduced in every acupuncture point, and varies within individuals and between treatments.

Common benefits of acupuncture treatment include: increased mobility or range of motion, decreased pain, improved mood, improved sleep, increased circulation, and increased cell turnover or healing. Patients often report feeling happy and relaxed after an acupuncture treatment.

So why consider acupuncture? There are many reasons that people seek out acupuncture care. Here are some common health conditions the World Health Organization has researched and found acupuncture an effective health intervention: low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, tennis elbow, knee pain, arthritis of the shoulder, sprains, facial pain, allergies (including hay fever) headache, rheumatoid arthritis, nausea, and temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders. If you suspect you have any of the above conditions, speak with your health care provider, there are solutions available for your health and wellbeing.

Dr. Natalie Bernicky is a chiropractor and acupuncture provider at Smiths Falls Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre.