Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve its function.
This is accomplished by the insertion of needles at very precise acupuncture points. These acupuncture points are based upon ancient Chinese medicine and are situated on meridians along which qi (Ch'i), a "life energy" flows.
While acupuncture is often associated with resolving physical problems related to tension and stress, it has quite a wide range of applications. According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture can be used for the treatment of:
Muscular disorders: headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, tendonitis, lower back pain, and sciatica
How does acupuncture work?
The classical Chinese explanation of how acupuncture works is based upon the belief that there are regular patterns of energy channels throughout the body. These energy channels, or "meridians", are like rivers that flow though the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. Any obstruction of these channels will act like a dam; the backup of flow to one part of the body can also restrict the flow to other parts of the body. This blockage in the meridians can be relieved by needling the acupuncture points. With the blockage removed, the flow of qi through the meridians is restored.
From a modern scientific perspective, it is understood that needling of the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system. This causes the body to release chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain that can alleviate the pain or trigger further chemical and hormonal releases that influence the body's internal regulating system.
Are there any side effects to the acupuncture?
Most patients do not experience any side effects from acupuncture. However, a small number of patients do experience some mild side effects. These can include:
Pain during treatment
Minor bleeding or bruising after treatment
Existing symptoms may temporarily worsen immediately after treatment
Fainting can occur in certain patients, usually during their first treatment
Is acupuncture covered by health insurance plans?
Acupuncture is within the scope of practice of Registered Physiotherapists in Ontario and is therefore covered as part of their treatment by extended health care plans that cover physiotherapy.