FAQ’s about Acupuncture and TCM

What types of treatment are used?

A TCM practitioner will determine what form of therapy is best for you upon completion of the initial intake process.  There are different techniques that a TCM has at their disposal, but they will often include acupuncture in its various forms, including traditional, medical or electro, massage, cupping, gua sha and herbal therapy. Typically, treatments will be composed of a couple techniques, with the most common being acupuncture and herbal therapy.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

One of the most striking aspects of acupuncture is the almost complete absence of adverse effects and complications from its use. Most patients find that the treatments are relaxing and cause minimal discomfort. Acupuncture is a safe technique, provided that practitioners are properly trained and follow appropriate techniques. Trained and registered practitioners of acupuncture use single-use, sterile disposable needles and have extensive training regarding precautions and contraindications to acupuncture. The York Acupuncture Safety Study, a prospective study of 34,407 acupuncture treatments found no serious adverse effects and only 43 cases of minor adverse effects, the most common of which were nausea and fainting.

It is important to inform the practitioner of your medical history, medications and if you are pregnant or could possibly be pregnant, as acupuncture treatment may have to be modified or may not be appropriate.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is the stimulation, by insertion of needles, of specific points on the body which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to bring about the body's natural ability to heal and regulate. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving neurohormones. Acupuncture also affects the functioning of the hormonal system, promotes a decrease in inflammation, increased circulation and relief from pain.

Therapeutic effects include:

  • Pain relief
  • Increased energy
  • Improved mood
  • Improved body function

There has been a tremendous amount of research done on what mechanisms drive the efficacy of acupuncture with theories ranging from endorphin release to the "gate-control" theory to the "nerve-reflex" theory. Ultimately, we know that a reduction in inflammation is a large part of it and also why it is applicable to such an array of conditions.

How many sessions of treatment will I need?

Many people start to see a significant difference within one to two treatments but some take longer to respond depending on the condition being treated. If no difference is felt by the end of the fifth or sixth treatment, the diagnosis of the condition should be reconsidered and further medical investigations may be needed.

Acute injuries are treated as soon as possible and sometimes even daily at first. Chronic conditions will often need repeat maintenance treatments to maintain the momentum after an initial period of frequent treatments. Post treatment exercise and discipline in diet is extremely important for continued improvement and recovery.

Generally, treatments every second day (Mon, Wed and Fri) or twice per week would be considered frequent. Maintenance treatments could range from weekly to monthly or when symptoms begin to recur.

What conditions can be helped with acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a gentle and safe treatment that’s suitable for all ages—children to seniors. It’s used to treat a wide range of conditions:
Injured workers return to work sooner when their practitioners include acupuncture with their treatments.
Competitive athletes use acupuncture before their events to enhance their performance. Post-event, it improves their recovery and helps to heal injuries.

Pain: Acupuncture is used to treat a vast number of painful conditions, with some examples being:
Acute injuries
Chronic pain
Sprains and strains
Back and neck pain
Tennis elbow

Psychological Disorders, including:

Ear, Eye, Nose and Throat Disorders, including:
Hay fever

Gastrointestinal Disorders, including:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Abdominal bloating

Gynecological/ Genitourinary, including:
Menstrual Problems

Respiratory Disorders, including:
Colds and Flu

Cosmetic Acupuncture
Combination of acupuncture, cupping and massage done on the face to help with wrinkles, fine lines and other imbalances.

This is not a comprehensive list. If you don’t see your condition listed here, speak to your practitioner.


Is acupuncture painful? What does it feel like?

Acupuncture is usually a very comfortable treatment. Needles are very fine, metallic and as thin as a hair, making them quite painless upon insertion. Everyone experiences acupuncture differently, but most feel no pain or very minimal pain as the needles are inserted. You may experience a mild aching sensation or warmth around the needle site. Needles are left in place for 15 to 30 minutes during which time the practitioner may manipulate the needles in order to strengthen or reduce the flow of Qi.

What activities should I avoid following acupuncture treatment?

Strenuous physical activities (including exercise) should be avoided for at least two hours after treatment.

A good feeling after acupuncture should not be mistaken for full recovery. Be sure that you have regained your strength and stamina before engaging in any activities that you were unable to perform before your acupuncture treatments.

What should I do before and after an acupuncture treatment?

Try to arrive rested and relaxed for your treatment.
Eat a light meal prior to treatment, and avoid consuming caffeine or nicotine for 90 minutes before and afterwards.
You should continue to take any prescribed medications on schedule.