Being both an instructor and a healthcare provider gives me a unique perspective on professional practice. Learning is very important to me, so whether you are a patient of mine, or a student, you may find some great information on this page, and there is a lot more to come! Skip down to new posts here.
First of all, Acupuncture is safe. All Registered Acupuncturists in Canada use sterile, single-use disposable needles. They are not at all like hypodermic needles. They are about as thin as a hair, or 0.2 mm in diameter. Plus, they are filiform - which means they come to a fine point - so they tend to push cells aside, rather than cause any real damage or pain. Second, It’s effective! It is very commonly sought for:
Pain of any kind
Injuries and surgical recovery
All of the research around the benefits of acupuncture show that the effects are cumulative. Meaning, that the effect of one treatment will mount on the effect of the previous. I think the biggest mistake that students and new practitioners make is not understanding how this relates to prognosis, or expected outcome. So, patients are often left to navigate this area on their own, and fail to experience all that acupuncture has to offer. What’s best is to commit to a course of treatment with the visits booked as closely together as possible – at least initially. This way, both the patient and the practitioner can get a sense early on of how to best move forward. People often find that when they come for treatment in this way, they reap the continued benefits of improved sleep and mental clarity, and reduced stress – even if they were coming in for something else entirely.
Modern research also shows us that acupuncture works by affecting a very broad range of systems in our body. The insertion of an acupuncture needle causes an increase in antibody levels and white blood cell count, and improves circulation, allowing for nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to get to where it needs to go in order to help you heal. Acupuncture modulates our endocrine and circulatory systems, and regulates our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system will ease muscle tension, lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and improve digestion. Acupuncture affects neurotransmitters like serotonin, which helps with anxiety and depression, and increases norepinephrine levels - naturally relieving pain and nervous tissue inflammation. Acupuncture uses your peripheral nervous system to communicate with your central nervous system, and therefore your whole system - body and mind.
So acupuncture is safe, effective, and comes with improvements in other areas of your life. It’s part of what I like to call “Big Medicine” - and acupuncture is actually just one tool of many in Big Medicine:
Mental health – Insomnia, anxiety, depression, addictions
Asthma and respiratory conditions
Every visit I will take your pulse, but also palpate your limbs - from your fingers to your elbows, and your toes to your knees. Channel palpation is a classical diagnostic technique not often taught in modern acupuncture schools in the west. Emphasized in the earliest acupuncture texts (Nei Jing/Nan Jing), palpation of the channels is extremely helpful for confirming diagnosis, refining point selection and improving clinical results.
Orthopedic, Motor Point, or 'dry needling'. This is Acupuncture - ancient medicine supported by neuroscience. Stimulation at the point of highest concentration of motor nerves (the motor point) excites the nervous system enough to twitch the muscle. This resets muscle spindle dysfunction at the root level of of the central nervous system. Motor point stimulation works for muscles in spasm from acute injuries, and chronic overuse injuries. It works best when combined with these other therapies.
Electrical Stimulation, or 'E-Stim'
E-Stim is a great way to provide continuous stimulation, without the use of manual manipulation. This makes it great for particularly stubborn or chronic pain, spasm, or paralysis. Electro-acupuncture machines are low-voltage, low-amperage devices that deliver current to acupuncture points by means of clips connecting pairs of needles. Directing an electrical current into the tissues changes the pH (sodium-potassium pump) in and around the cells, which can help normalize local inflammation, restore proper blood circulation and relieve pain by overloading the neural pain gate.
Auricular Acupuncture, or Ear Acupuncture
The Vagus nerve, which connects our central nervous system with all of our internal organs, is most superficial in the ear. Points stimulate specific areas of the vagus nerve, which then directly affects the associated body part. Much research has gone into ‘mapping’ the ear. I Use Auricular Acupuncture to treat: Addictions, Mental/Emotional disorders, and acute and chronic pain. Early in my career, I would treat at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, in their in-patient detox ward. I’d go in twice a week for 3 years, and pin the ears of all the patients there. I’d do it at out-patient recovery facilities, The Salvation Army, halfway houses, and at Our Place. I found it so incredibly rewarding.
Moxibustion - 针灸
The Chinese word for acupuncture (“zhen jiu”) contains both the word for needle (zhen) and moxibustion (jiu). “Moxa” is thought to have originated in the colder, northern regions of China, and has been an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine since antiquity. It is the burning of a plant called Mugwort, or Artemesia Vulgaris. It is dried and cured before being formed into “cones” or rolled into cigar-shaped sticks. The moxa burns, and radiates at a unique and direct infared spectrum. Mugwort is used to warm, and to promote blood circulation and alleviate chronic pain.
Cupping - 拔罐
Cupping actually has African roots. Early practitioners would use animal horns as a form of suction therapy. Later, bamboo or pottery cups were used. These days we use glass cups to lift and smooth tight muscles and fascia, and gently pull them away from their adhesions for some relief – it feels great! When done properly, cupping also painlessly breaks open the most superficial of capillaries on the skin. This 'micro-damage' kicks the body's white blood cell production into gear to boost immunity.
Gua Sha - 刮痧
‘Gua’ – to rub or scrape, and ‘Sha’ – redness. Gua Sha is sort of like cupping. When it is done properly, it painlessly ruptures just the most superficial and tiny blood vessels on the skin. This micro-damage casuses a cascade of immune response (stimulates mast cells and macrophages). Gua Sha and cupping can increase pliability of tissue for improved range of movement, increase local circulation, and allow for new, proper-functioning blood vessel formation.
Tui Na - 推拿
Tui Na ('twee-na') is Chinese Massage. It might be the oldest recorded kind of bodywork. Originally it included manipulations similar to chiropractic adjustment. I blend contemporary massage techniques with this ancient method to help maintain health and augment the therapies above. Tui Na is tailored to the individual, and can be invigorating or relaxing.