Picture this: thousands of years ago, in the heart of ancient China, healers discovered something remarkable—a practice that could ease pain, soothe ailments, and restore balance in the body. That’s where our journey into acupuncture begins. Fast forward to today, and acupuncture isn’t just a distant memory; it’s a global phenomenon, embraced by people seeking holistic healing all around the world. So, what’s the fuss about? Well, in this blog post, I’m diving deep into the world of acupuncture—unraveling its history, unpacking its core principles, and exploring how it’s shaping modern healthcare. From ancient wisdom to cutting-edge research, acupuncture has a lot to offer in the quest for wellness and balance. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Origins of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a complementary treatment method originating thousands of years ago (3,000+) in China. Stone and bone shard needles and other artifacts found in archaeological sites suggest that primitive forms of acupuncture were practiced for therapeutic purposes.

The earliest recorded references to acupuncture date to the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon), a classic Chinese medical text believed to have been written around 200 BCE. This text outlines the theoretical foundations of acupuncture, including the concepts of Qi (vital energy) and meridians (energy pathways).

Over the centuries, acupuncture theory and practice were further developed and refined. Several classical Chinese medical texts, such as the Shiji (Historical Records) and the Nanjing (Classic of Difficulties), provided detailed descriptions of acupuncture techniques, meridian pathways, and the diagnosis of diseases.

During the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) and the Cultural Revolution in the 20th century, acupuncture faced periods of suppression and persecution in China. Read more here. Thankfully it survived through secret practice and experienced a resurgence in the mid 1900’s with the support of the Chinese government.

Now people all over the world seek acupuncture and it is considered mainstream in Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan where it is integrated into their modern medical clinics and hospitals. Each culture adapted acupuncture to suit its own medical philosophy and practices, leading to variations in technique and theory. In the 1970s it gained popularity in the western world and it continues to grow and evolve in Canada as the public becomes more educated on it’s benefits, as modern research uncovers it’s mechanisms of action, and as physicians increasingly recommend it to their patients.

 

Acupuncture Needles

The practice of acupuncture involves inserting thin, solid needles into various locations or acupuncture points on the body, limbs, head and ears. The fact that the needles are solid and do not inject nor extract fluids to/from the body allows them to be quite thin and therefore very comfortable with a quick insertion.  This also accounts for the term “dry needling” since the technique is void of fluids going in or coming out.

These stainless steel needles are single-use and are disposed of after removal.  You’ll see a sharps container in each treatment room where the needles are deposited. Long ago, patients would have their own set of needles they’d bring with them to their appointments, but now all practitioners use disposable needles. If you donate blood, you may see the question regarding acupuncture and disposable needles; rest assured if you are receiving acupuncture here at Thrive Acupuncture, you are being treated with fresh needles.

Acupuncture needles come in different lengths for different parts of the body.  If I needle into the wrists, ankles or ears I’d use a short needle and if I needle into the thigh, abdomen or hip I may use a longer needle.  Each acupuncture point has a textbook depth, so the length of the needle is chosen with that in mind.

Acupuncture needles are usually inserted using a plastic guide tube.  The tube is slightly shorter than the needle, so a tap to the needle inserts it quickly through the top layers of skin and the patient feels very little besides the tap to the top of the guide tube.  If there is any sensation of discomfort, I quickly rectify it to ensure patient comfort, which is my main concern.

 

Acupuncture Points and Meridians

There are 365 points described in the original literature and since then many points have been added as the modality has evolved.  An experienced Acupuncturist can locate personalized points based on the location of the patient’s pain which we call “ashi points”. These are found by palpating or pressing in the area of concern and locating safe places to needle, avoiding major blood vessels and nerves.

Most acupuncture points are located along meridians or channels through which our vital life force or Qi (pronounced “chee”) flows.  These points are locations where we can access the Qi and correct any imbalances in the flow by inserting acupuncture needles and stimulating them.

Many points are named for the meridian that they land on – this usually consists of an organ name like lung and a number (Lu-1).  There are a different number of points on each meridian.

These points are defined based on landmarks (like the elbow) and the location is adjusted to each person’s body proportions. So for example, a point called Large Intestine 10 (LI-10) is located here: with the elbow flexed, the point is on the dorsal radial side of the forearm, on the line connecting LI 5 (anatomical snuffbox) and LI 11, 2 cun below the transverse cubital crease. The measurement “cun” is approximately the width of the patient’s thumb but can change based on the area (the distance between LI5 and Li11 is 12 cun).

Acupuncture points often correspond with a depression in the tissues, they are slightly smaller than the size of a dime but more accuracy is needed to locate the precise location if you want the best results.  Often they are tender to press and some are used diagnostically (e.g. if SP9 is tender to press, we say there is dampness accumulation in the body).

Acupuncture points can also be massaged to stimulate them, although this does not give the results that needling does.  Pressing and rubbing in a circular motion for 30 seconds on both sides of the body (points exist as a mirror image on both sides of the body, with some only existing on the midline) can be helpful for certain complaints like nasal congestion, headache or indigestion and I often use this technique for children with great success.

There are twelve primary meridians, each corresponding to a specific organ system like Lung, Stomach, Heart, Kidney, etc.  There are eight extraordinary meridians, which have broader functions. Two of the eight extraordinary meridians have their own points (Ren and Du) and run along the midline of the body, the rest use points from the primary meridians.

Meridians connect the internal organs with the superficial tissues like our fascia, muscles and skin. They form a network that links the various systems of the body, allowing for communication and the exchange of Qi, blood and body fluids.  This ensures nourishment of the tissues and even distribution of nutrients and energy. Meridians also play a role in the body’s defense mechanisms, helping to protect against external pathogens and maintain overall health.

Each meridian has a specific direction of flow, determined by the natural circulation of Qi within the body. Some meridians flow upward, while others flow downward or in other directions. The balance and smooth flow of Qi along the meridians is essential for maintaining health and preventing disease. Imbalances or disruptions in one meridian can affect others, leading to patterns of disharmony that manifest as symptoms or disease. TCM diagnosis often involves identifying patterns of meridian dysfunction and addressing underlying imbalances. Needling acupuncture points alters the Qi flow and brings the body and mind back to balance.

Some have wondered if the meridian system was an early description of the nervous system. There has been some study into what anatomical structures these meridians might correspond with. The following study summarized some of the findings on the subject:

Measurement Reliability for Acupoint Activity Determined with the Prognos Ohmmeter – PMC (nih.gov)

“Voll (1978) first demonstrated that there are numerous locations over the body that have lower electrical resistance and greater conductivity than the surrounding tissue. Electrical impedance values have been determined to be approximately 0.8 MOhms at the acupoints and 1.4 MOhms at the surrounding tissue (Yung 2004). Other researchers have also confirmed that electrical resistance at acupoints was significantly lower than resistance at control points (Zhang et al. 2004). Furthermore, using sophisticated laser Doppler flowmetry, Hsin and colleagues (2007) demonstrated that acupoints have a significantly increased blood supply in the micro- vascular bed compared to that found in surrounding tissues. Lo (2002) was able to differentiate the acupoint system from surrounding tissue using the optical methods of the biophoton technique and infrared diffuse reflectance spectroscopy. While other research has demonstrated that light of certain wavelengths propagates more easily along the pericardium meridian compared to the non-meridian path and that the optical properties of meridians are significantly different from those of the surrounding tissue (Yang et al. 2007). Together, these studies support that meridians possess concurrent validity with functional biological measures that are commonplace in Western Medicine.”

In another fascinating study, scientists injected a radioactive substance called Technetium-99 into both real and fake acupuncture points. They found that when injected into the real acupuncture points, the substance quickly followed a specific pathway along the meridian, which is a traditional concept in acupuncture. However, when injected into fake acupuncture points, the substance diffused randomly around the area. This suggests that there’s something unique about the meridian pathways that isn’t explained by normal body processes like blood flow or nerve signals.

 

Key Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture is just one modality used by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. We use the key principles of TCM to guide our diagnosis and treatment strategy.  Generally this framework is based on the interconnectedness of the body, and that physical and mental disease results from an imbalance or blockage of Yin, Yang, Qi, Blood and/or Body Fluids. Here is a quick summary of the key principles of TCM:

Qi (Vital Energy):  As mentioned above, Qi is considered our vital life force that flows through the meridians of the human body and all living things. To be healthy, our Qi needs to flow freely in adequate supply while blockages or imbalances can lead to disease.

Yin and Yang:  Yin and Yang are complementary forces that represent the dualistic nature of the universe. Yin is associated with qualities such as darkness, cold, liquid, night, while Yang is associated with light, heat, day, and vigor. Health is believed to result from a dynamic balance between Yin and Yang within the body and its environment. Imbalances between these forces can manifest as illness.

Five Elements: Chinese medicine also recognizes the interconnectedness of the body with the natural elements—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element corresponds to specific organs, tissues, emotions, and seasons. The Five Elements framework provides a holistic understanding of health and disease, emphasizing the importance of harmony and balance among them.

Zang-Fu Organs: The foundations of TCM state that the organs of the body belong in one of two groups: Zang (yin organs) and Fu (yang organs). Each organ has specific functions and is associated with particular emotions, senses, tissues, and energetic pathways. As with the other key principles, when the organs are out of balance, disease is the result.

Zang organs: Spleen, Liver, Kidney, Heart, Lung

Fu organs: Gall bladder, Urinary Bladder, Large Intestine, Small Intestine

Jing, Qi, and Shen: These are three substances that are vital to life and contribute to our overall wellbeing. Jing is the essence we inherit from our parents and ensures proper growth, development, and reproduction. We know what Qi is!  Shen is effectively our emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our health.

Diagnostic Techniques: We Acupuncturists use various diagnostic methods when assessing a patient’s health. We watch you throughout your appointment, right from the moment you walk in the door.  We notice everything about you including your skin tone, your body movements, your attitude, patience, cooperation and tone of voice.  Are you sighing or laughing, are you loud or quiet – all of these variables factor into the diagnosis.  We may press certain points on your body, ask you to perform certain actions, or palpate your limbs. Traditional techniques such as tongue diagnosis and pulse diagnosis give us information about your constitution and your current state of imbalance.

Treatment Modalities: Other than Acupuncture, acupuncturists often use other TCM modalities in their practice. These include cupping, guasha, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, qigong (breathing exercises), tai chi (meditative movement), and lifestyle modifications.

 

Popularity and acceptance in modern healthcare

Once considered a fringe practice, acupuncture has surged in popularity within modern healthcare circles, finding its place alongside conventional treatments. This rise is largely attributed to a growing body of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy in managing a range of conditions, from chronic pain to stress-related disorders.

Here is a website dedicated to highlighting the research on  acupuncture: Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence | EBA (evidencebasedacupuncture.org)

As our understanding of acupuncture deepens with ongoing research, healthcare professionals are embracing it as a valuable addition to their treatment arsenals. They’re recognizing its ability to enhance traditional medical interventions and contribute to better patient outcomes, especially in realms like pre and post-operative care. But it’s not just professionals who are seeing the light.

Acupuncture’s integration into mainstream healthcare settings—think hospitals, clinics, and rehab centers—is proof of its growing acceptance. Patients, too, are increasingly turning to acupuncture as a complement to conventional therapies, attracted by its holistic approach and its knack for addressing root issues in the body. This surge in demand hasn’t gone unnoticed. Institutions are responding by incorporating acupuncture services into their offerings, providing patients with a more well-rounded approach to managing their health concerns. Whether it’s alongside fertility treatments or as part of a pain management regimen, acupuncture is finding its place in the modern healthcare landscape, offering hope and healing to those in need. I personally see many patients who were referred by Medi-centre doctors, family doctors and specialists. Fertility doctors recommend acupuncture before and after IVF transfers to improve success rates. Here’s just one study on the subject.

 

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Since I started practicing Acupuncture, there has been so much work done to come up with the scientific explanation of how acupuncture works. I remember writing a paper in school on the subject and all I could find at the time was the gate control theory of pain (aka neurogate theory). We’ve come so far since then!

Gate Control Theory:

  • First you must know that there are two types of nerve fibers in our body:
    • Short fibers
      • send information about temperature and pain to your brain
      • messages move slowly
    • Large fibers
      • send information about pressure and touch
      • messages move quickly
    • Large fiber stimuli get to the brain faster than the slow fiber stimuli and can actually block the pain signals from getting to the brain.
    • When there is more large fiber activity than small fiber activity, like putting your hand over a cut or scrape, you actually feel less pain. Read more here.

Acupuncture and the Immune Response:

The immunomodulatory mechanisms for acupuncture practice.  Front Immunol. 2023; 14: 1147718. Published online 2023 Apr 6. © 2023 Wang, Liu, Ge and Liu

Acupuncture affects the body’s immune responses in various ways. When acupuncture needles stimulate specific points on the body, they create signals that travel through nerves to the brain. These signals then trigger different pathways in the body, like the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, the vagal-adrenal pathway, the spinal-sympathetic pathway, and the brain-gut pathway. These pathways help balance the immune system by regulating both the innate (automatic) and adaptive (learned) immune responses.

In terms of the innate immune response (the body’s natural defense system), acupuncture can regulate the activity of immune cells and their ability to release certain substances called cytokines. It can reduce the activity of pro-inflammatory cells like M1 macrophages and increase anti-inflammatory cells like M2 macrophages, along with releasing anti-inflammatory substances like IL-10 and TNF-β. Acupuncture can also control the quantity and activity of neutrophils (another type of immune cell) and enhance the function of natural killer (NK) cells, which help kill abnormal cells.

In the adaptive immune response (the immune system’s ability to recognize and remember specific invaders), acupuncture influences the development and balance of different types of T cells. These cells play crucial roles in immunity, with CD4+ T cells aiding in humoral immunity (antibody production) and CD8+ T cells in antiviral immunity. Acupuncture helps regulate the balance between pro-inflammatory T cells (like Tregs and Th1) and anti-inflammatory T cells (like Th2 and Th17), maintaining a healthy immune system. By controlling the quantity and activity of certain T cells, acupuncture helps maintain immune balance and overall health.

Acupuncture and the Brain

This study looked at brain scans of people who received acupuncture and found that certain parts of the brain related to sensing and moving were consistently activated. Additionally, areas associated with emotions and processing pain were less active. The researchers also noticed similar but less pronounced changes when people received a different kind of touch. This suggests that acupuncture doesn’t just affect how we feel pain physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

Brain areas associated with acupuncture stimulation that exhibited increased (red) and decreased (blue) activity. ALE maps Chae, Y., Chang, D.-S., Lee, S.-H., Jung, W.-M., Lee, I.-S., Jackson, S., … Wallraven, C. (2013). Inserting Needles Into the Body: A Meta-Analysis of Brain Activity Associated With Acupuncture Needle Stimulation. The Journal of Pain, 14(3), 215–222.

 

Local Endorphins

When you’re in pain, your body releases natural painkillers called endorphins. These endorphins are secreted by cells in the tissue where you’re hurt. They also build up around the injured area over a few days. Acupuncture needles cause tiny injuries to the tissue, which may trigger the release of even more endorphins. This could be why some people feel pain relief a couple of days after acupuncture. Using many acupuncture points locally might enhance this effect. We also know that needling affects cerebrospinal fluid levels of endorphin and enkephalin. Read more here.

Acupuncturists use points in the local area of pain as well as constitutional points all over the body.  These are called local and distal points, respectively.  Using both types of points is considered good practice and represents a more holistic way of treating disease and pain that lasts longer because it creates incremental lasting change in the body unlike IMS (dry needling/trigger point needling) which aims to reset the muscles and usually elicits only short term relief.  Acupuncturists may use trigger point needling techniques in their practice as a small part of a complete, holistic treatment.

Acupuncture as Electrodes

Some theories suggest that acupuncture needles, acting like electrodes, can trigger changes in the fluid around your tissues. These changes may spread quickly along the layers of connective tissue, which conduct electricity well. Acupuncturists are taught to stimulate the needles in different ways depending on the state of the patient. We may spin the needle clockwise or counterclockwise, lift and spin or stay stationary while spinning, all with different goals in mind.  This may send different signals based on the stimulatory technique used.

Natural Corticosteroid Release

The presence of the needle could also stimulate the release of substances that affect blood vessels and the immune system, including those involved in inflammation. Studies have shown that levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) increase after acupuncture, indicating that the treatment might activate the adrenal glands and lead to the release of natural corticosteroids.

 

Conditions Treated by Acupuncture

Chronic Pain Management

  • Lower back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sciatic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Disc degeneration
  • Spinal stenosis
  • TMJd

Mental Heath

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Quit Smoking
  • Brain fog
  • Lack of motivation

Neurological

  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Tics, tremors
  • Stroke recovery

Digestive Disorders

  • IBS
  • Constipation/Diarrhea/Loose Stools
  • Colitis
  • Heartburn/GERD
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Gas/bloating
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Stomach pain/Indigestion
  • Gallbladder inflammation/Gallstones

   Women’s Heath & Fertility

  • Menstrual Irregularities
  • PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids
  • Repeated miscarriage
  • Low breast milk supply
  • Infertility
  • PMS
  • Perimenopause and Menopause support

Pregnancy & Labour Preparation

  • Pubic bone pain
  • Hip, back, leg pain
  • Carpal Tunnel, tendonitis
  • Migraines
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Sinus congestion
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Morning Sickness
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Breech Presentation
  • Labour preparation (softening cervix, promoting uterine blood flow, regulating nervous system)
  • Induction
  • Insufficient milk production
  • Post Partum Depression & Anxiety

Respiratory conditions

  • Allergies
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Sinus congestion
  • Asthma

Skin Conditions

  • Acne
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Hives (urticaria)

Other

  • Insomnia
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Cancer treatment side-effects
  • Surgery preparation and recovery
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sports Injury
  • Spasm
  • Muscular atrophy
  • Nerve pain (neuralgia), shingles,
  • Persistent hiccoughs
  • Edema, Lymphedema

 

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Session

Initial consultation and assessment

Here at Thrive Acupuncture, when we schedule a new patient, we book them for a consultation and treatment at their first visit.  New patients are asked to fill out health history forms prior to their appointment and when they arrive, we go over the forms in greater detail, getting to the root of the issue and formulating a plan for treatment.

Next, I take the pulse and look at your tongue if I feel it is necessary in your case:

  • Pulse: Here I place three fingers along your radial artery. I am feeling for the general rate of your pulse (slow, normal, fast) as well as the depth and quality of the pulse. I determine if the pulse is sluggish, energetic, tight, slippery.  There are many different types of pulses.  This serves as a data point on which to base my diagnosis. Read more here.

 

  • Tongue: I may ask you to stick out your tongue and relax it. This can feel strange and awkward! Your tongue shows me the condition of your blood and digestive system as well as your energy and fluid levels. The organs are mapped out on the tongue: heart is at the tip, liver/gallbladder on the sides, stomach in the middle, kidney at the back. We look for red dots, cracks and teeth marks. We check to see if there is a tongue coating and observe how thick it is and if it is yellow or white. Tongues that tremble or arc to one side are notable. A “normal” tongue is pink with no cracks, red spots, or teeth marks, it has a thin white coat and a bit of moisture. It not too thin or puffy, it does not hook to one side and is relatively still.  Read more here.

If an injury or pain is your main concern, I will ask you to describe it and I may palpate (press) the area. I’ll ask you to tell me how often it happens and what movements make it worse.  I might perform orthopedic tests to determine which structures and tissues are involved.

Acupuncture Session

When the interrogation is complete, I will ask you to change into your shorts and position yourself on the treatment table either face up, face down or on your side. I give you privacy to arrange yourself comfortably.  If you are pregnant, I have special bolsters to make you comfortable.  I also have many ways to keep you warm- a table warmer, a heat lamp, hypothermia blankets to cover cold toes.

I start by washing or sanitizing my hands then I wipe each point with alcohol using a cotton swab. I use a plastic guide tube to insert each needle.  You will feel a quick and firm tap as the needle is inserted quickly through the upper layers of skin; this technique ensures you feel only the tap and not the tip of the needle. These needles are disposable and used only once. They are incredibly thin and even bend.  I may use anywhere from 10-20 needles depending on the main complaint and the complexity of the case.

Once the needles are inserted, I may manually stimulate some of them and this my cause you to feel a nervy sensation we call “deqi” or the Qi sensation.  This is the feeling of energy arriving at the point, and it modern terms, the needle triggering the nervous system.  People who have plenty of energy may feel a stronger sensation, depleted people may not feel much, everyone is different.  If there is a sharp sensation, this means the needle has come in contact with a blood vessel.  We of course make every effort to avoid blood vessels but individual anatomy can vary slightly and it does happen.  I ask that you tell me and I will fix it immediately, reducing any discomfort. Sometimes the sensations are deep and heavy, indicating blood arriving at the point.

Next, I may decide to use electrostimulation with the needles. This means I attach a device that produces an electric current from a 9 volt battery. Essentially this is a tens machine with clips instead of pads. Usually I target 2-4 areas that need the most attention. I will ask you to tell me how intense the pulsations are and together we will select the best level for you and your comfort.  I use this augmentation for pain conditions most.

Now the lights are turned down low, the soft music plays, and I give you a call button to call me back if you need.  I let you rest anywhere from 25-40 minutes depending on your condition. Most people nap during this relaxing time.

When I return, I remove the needles which rarely bleed. Removing the needles produces little to no sensation. I close each microscopic hole with a swipe of a cotton ball.

At this point you may be finished, but some cases require a bit more. I will choose either cupping or guasha to finish the treatment.

  • Fire cupping is a technique where glass cups are briefly heated with fire and placed upside down on the skin. The suction created helps increase blood flow, relax muscles, and reduce pain and inflammation. Once the cups are placed, you are left to rest for another 10-15 minutes.

 

  • Guasha involves a tool, often made of jade, ceramic or metal, is used to scrape the skin to release tension, improve circulation, and promote healing. It helps alleviate muscle pain, stiffness, and inflammation by breaking up stagnation in the body’s fascial lines. This sounds painful, but it feels great! Plantar Fasciitis is one of my favorite conditions to treat with this is technique.

 

Treatment planning and frequency

When you are finished with treatment, I will present you with a personalized treatment plan.  I will give you lifestyle and diet advice, and recommendations on the best frequency for treatment going forward.

Acupuncture is dose dependant which means the efficacy is dependent on how frequent you receive treatment.  Acupuncture treatments are cumulative, each treatment builds on the progress made during the preceding treatment.  If you wait too long between sessions, it can be as if we are starting from the beginning.  If you would like to work toward a health goal (like regulating your period, conceiving, recovering from Bell’s Palsy, etc.) it is imperative to follow the recommended treatment plan to achieve the best results possible.  That said, I do have many patients that like to come once a month (or when they have time) to release stress and tension in their body, prepare for a trip, or unwind after a long/stressful day/week/month. In this case there is no goal, we are just doing maintenance.

Typically, I’ll want to see you for 10 sessions and then I will reassess.  Sessions are sometimes twice a week to start then weekly, sometimes they are weekly from the start.  When working with smoking cessation patients, I may want to see them more during the first 7 days. In the end, the frequency of treatment depends!

 

How to Prepare for your Acupuncture Treatment

To get the most out of your acupuncture session, follow these tips:

  1. If you need to workout the same day, do so as early in the day as possible.
  2. Dress in loose, comfortable clothing like pants that can be rolled up above the knee or bring shorts to change into. If you don’t arrive with these items for whatever reason, don’t panic; we have drapes to keep you covered during the treatment.
  3. It is important to eat healthy, regular meals before your appointment. Eating a meal (nothing too heavy) around 2 hours beforehand is great or have a small snack on your way over.
  4. Do not drink coffee or any other caffeine source before your appointment. You risk being jittery and dehydrated during a time that relaxation is the goal. The same goes for alcohol or recreational drugs.
  5. Give yourself plenty of time to find the clinic and settle in before your appointment.
  6. Turn off your phone and give yourself the gift of an uninterrupted break from the real world.

 

After Acupuncture Treatment Care

After acupuncture treatment, people feel relaxed, sleepy, and sometimes lightheaded or even dizzy. Acupuncture circulates your blood and causes your body to use resources like blood sugar and body fluids to manifest healing. Here are some general guidelines to help you savour the awesome effects of acupuncture.

  1. We do not generally recommend much strenuous activity after treatment.
  2. Stay warm and drink plenty of room-temperature or warm water.
  3. Eat a healthy meal with plenty of cooked vegetables.
  4. Relax as much as possible and go to bed early.
  5. No alcohol, no recreational drugs, limit screen time.
  6. If exercise is part of your health plan, a moderate 30 minute walk outside or on a treadmill is a good choice.
  7. Be ready for emotions that may pop up. Some people find it helpful to journal, meditate or talk to a friend or family member.

Take notes about how your condition progresses in the few days following your treatment and let me know at your next appointment.

 

Safety of Acupuncture

Potential risks and side effects

There are very few risks or side effects of acupuncture and that’s one of the many reasons why I feel in love with this medicine.  I love that we are not adding anything, just triggering the body’s own healing mechanisms. On the other hand, medications can cause so much harm and often the side effects are worse than the potential benefit.  With that said, here is a list of rare side effects of acupuncture:

  • Bruising
  • Minor bleeding
  • Haematoma: a swelling and pain caused by bleeding under the skin at the acupuncture site (the body slowly reabsorbs the tiny pocket over 24-48 hours)
  • Headache (usually due to the patient being in a deficient state prior to treatment)
  • Dizziness/light headedness (people who feel this way notice a benefit to eating before treatment)
  • Sleepiness (make sure you are fully awake before you drive off, have a snack and water ready!)
  • Fainting (this has only happened once in my 15 years of practice)
  • Mild soreness
  • Lasting nervy sensation at the point (this goes away as you move normally during the rest of your day)
  • Worsening of symptoms (vary rarely and usually in lower back pain patients, the pain can worsen at first then improve after a short period of time)
  • Urgent bowel movement (treatment can get your bowels moving even if that wasn’t the goal)
  • Strong emotional response (stuck emotions can get released during treatment)
  • Allergic reaction (a few patients with nickel allergies have noticed slight redness around the acupuncture sites that went away after a few hours)

Acupuncture is Safe During Pregnancy

Acupuncture is very safe during pregnancy. There are some acupuncture points that texts deem dangerous during pregnancy because they could initiate labour.  Rest assured all acupuncturists know these points and will avoid them appropriately.  Since these texts were written, there have been experiments done with unwanted pregnancies to try to use these points to abort the pregnancy and they were not successful.  We avoid these points anyway!  Many medications are not allowed during pregnancy so we are very happy to provide natural relief during this challenging time!

Qualifications of Acupuncturists and Licensing

Registration as an Acupuncturist requires:

  • Successful completion of an approved program of study or equivalent qualifications. Personally, I have a degree in Engineering from the University of Alberta (grad 2003) and a diploma in Traditional Chinese Medical Acupuncture from MacEwan University which was a 3 year program (grad 2008).
  • At least 500 hours of practice within the two years prior to application, or equivalent qualifications. This was completed in the MacEwan student clinic prior to graduation.
  • Successful completion of an approved examination with a written and practical component.
  • Acupuncturists in Alberta are governed under the Health Professions Act with physiotherapists, chiropractors, midwives, etc. (This took place in December 2020)
  • Acupuncturists in Edmonton (all of Alberta) are regulated by the College of Acupuncturists of Alberta, through which we must renew our registration each year. To do this we must:
    • prove that we have professional liability insurance,
    • have practiced as an Acupuncturist for at least 1200 hours in the past 5 years (and 600 hours in the past 3 years actually needling people),
    • have current CPR and first aid training, and
    • complete 15 hours of continuing competence training prior to renewal each March.
  • Here’s a fun fact: Acupuncturists in Alberta have the title of Doctor of Acupuncture!

Patient Experiences and Testimonials

Great patient care is important to me. I like to go above and beyond for my people. I like to make sure they are comfortable, warm (or cool!), happy and relaxed throughout their time in my clinic. My clinic is full of beautiful plants, local art, soft music and comfortable seating to make you feel comfortable and at home. We like to lift your spirits, share a story, give a hug, have a chuckle, share a good book title or restaurant recommendation. We are here for you and I hope you always think of Thrive Acupuncture when you need help with any part of your health.  Here is what my patients say about my Acupuncture services:

  • Andrea is amazing. She’s super personable and open to answering any and all questions. She always makes you feel comfortable and supported. Would recommend her to anyone.
  • Andrea is fantastic. She is kind and caring and very knowledgeable about the body. She helps treat my arthritis, IBS, and general health. If you are in need of some acupuncture then I highly recommend you check out Thrive Acupuncture.
  • Andrea marries such caring and knowledge in her acupuncture practice! It has been such a life-saver for me, and I know she can make such a difference for others as well! I recommend her whole-heartedly!
  • My family and I have been seeing Andrea for a few years now. She is such a bright spot for all of us and a valued member of our health care! I personally see her for arthritis in my hands and wrists and the improvements I’ve experience have blown me away. I especially notice when the seasons change how much better my mobility and strength is when I see her regularly. My husband and two sons (aged 8 and 10) also see her for general well-being and help with digestion as well. I can’t tell you how much my sons love going to see her. Her gentle demeanour and kindness matched with her extensive knowledge puts us all at ease and is overall just such a wonderful experience. I can’t recommend her enough!
  • Andrea is an exceptional acupuncturist. She listens so well and ensures that the treatment is really targeted to the issues. And she is so kind and considerate, making sure to address any fears or concerns you might have. I would highly recommend her to treat any issue!
  • Dr Andrea is always so calm and personable; she listens to your concerns and treats each patient as the individual they are. I would highly recommend Dr Andrea to anyone wanting acupuncture.
  • I had my first treatment today by Andrea. She is very pleasant, she seems very knowledgeable. Being my first appointment of course time will tell. I liked her clinic, it is a very nice space to be in, it make you feel very comfortable. A very positive first appointment.
  • Highly recommend Andrea at Thrive Acupuncture.
    She is very knowledgeable, thorough. I felt noticeable improvements after only a couple sessions with her. Great location as well- tons of free parking right outside the door!
  • Andrea is fantastic and I highly recommend seeing her for your acupuncture needs. I’ve seen her for so many different things from headaches and migraines, to shin splints and sprained ankles or just plain relaxation when needed. She is extremely knowledgeable, offers affordable treatments and is in an easy to get to location with great parking. Plus I love the online booking system! Would give more stars if I could.
  • I would absolutely recommend Andrea to anyone looking for a health care specialist who will listen to you and do her best to address pain issues especially. I first visited her almost 10 years ago and was so happy to discover she was close by when we moved back to Edmonton. Her treatments have provided great relief from a variety of issues, from plantar fasciitis to shoulder and neck pain.
  • Accessibility walking distance, the ambience is clean and relaxing, Dr. Andrea is very good she will ask you what concern of a patient and make sure to help and make sure you are comfortable. I will refer all my co-workers and family to this clinic.
  • I went to see Andrea at Thrive to get acupuncture to help induce labour. She was very kind, communicative and made me feel comfortable the whole time. And it absolutely worked for me! I went into labour in the evening after my treatment.
  • I absolutely love coming to see Andrea. Acupuncture has changed my life. I have been coming regularly since 2019. Andrea targets my chronic neck / shoulder pain. This helps relax me and relieves my headaches and shoulder tension. I am able to destress, it’s the most relaxing therapy. I cannot say enough great things. If you have any issue, Andrea can fix it.
  • I was impressed with Andrea’s deep understanding of acupuncture and other forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She is truly skilled at her craft. As a person, Andrea is kind, compassionate and very accommodating and I would highly recommend her and Thrive Acupuncture for anyone seeking an acupuncturist or looking to take a more natural approach to their health and wellness.
  • Love the atmosphere of this place. Clean, and relaxing. Dr. Was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions. Her technique was very gentle. Definitely going back!!
  • Highly recommended, I been there 3 times getting the electro acupuncture and the muscles are looser and the pain is really easing away, its really work. Thank u Andrea.
  • Andrea has a warm and inviting presence as well as space for you to come and relax in. She is very considerate of your needs and well being during each session. I’ve been seeing her for just short of a year now, both pre and post MVA and has met all of my expectations and then some. I’ve needed help with stress, hormonal fluctuations, muscle tension due to high intensity exercise and no matter the need she I always leave feeling immensely better. Thank you for the care and quality you bring to your practice Andrea.
  • I have been to multiple acupuncture sessions with Andrea at Thrive Acupuncture. I have nothing but great things to share and would highly recommend!
  • Andrea is very friendly, professional and very knowledgeable. I always look forward to our sessions. Since my first visit, I have noticed positive changes related to my health concerns. They are small but steady progress! Can’t wait for my next visit 🙂
  • Andrea was pleasant to talk to, welcoming, a good listener, went out of her way to make me comfortable during treatment and explained all procedures she performed. Her clinic is very clean, beautiful and very stylish. I definitely recommend her clinic.
  • Visit today best experience get from Dr. Andrea Wingrave. Very nice and clean place first time did acupuncture for my shoulder blade feeling very relax. Thanks Andre!
  • What a great experience! It’s was a very calm and peaceful clinic! I felt relaxed and comfortable being there! The Doctor was very knowledgeable and professional!
  • I have been seeing Andrea for many years for my migraines. Andrea is so knowledgeable and is so caring to her clients. Her head massages after the acupuncture treatments are the best! My whole body is completely realigned when I am finished with a session, and I feel so relaxed. Andrea is a 5 out of 5 stars!
  • Andrea was great, she provides a very calming atmosphere, passionate about her clients’ wellbeing taking in consideration of their injuries, she also helps you understand why she puts the needles in particular spots. I highly recommend Thrive Acupuncture.
  • Andrea is an outstanding acupuncturist. I see a chiropractor and osteopath, but I would not be pain-free without Andrea. Not only does she provide regular maintenance to keep my headaches away, she’s also worked miracles when I have the occasional acute challenge. Mostly recently, she cured my low-back jam in 3 treatments, after I tried chiro and stretching for weeks. Also … she’s cool and nice!
  • Was very sore this morning. Never been here before however had acupuncture in the past. They took me in right of way. Fantastic job Andrea. Thanks Again!! Highly recommend.
  • Andrea is incredibly kind and she is truly invested in your health journey. I highly recommend her, it’s been an amazing experience thus far!
  • I have been going to see Andrea for a few years, she is so wonderful. She is professional and kind. I love the new clinic. It’s really easy for me to get to and there is always parking available. I highly recommend!
  • My first experience with acupuncture was with Andrea. I’m not at all afraid of needles, but was definitely a bit nervous about having a bunch of them poked into my skin at one time. Her obvious capability and warmth immediately put me at ease, and the results of the treatments have been a cornerstone in my particular health journey. My husband actively *is* afraid of needles and after I managed to convince him to try a treatment with Andrea, he now talks about acupuncture as though it’s always been a non-issue, and of course it’s a great treatment, and he’d be comfortable going any time. This is a) hilarious and b) just serves to illustrate her skills and the positive experience he had.
  • Andrea is wonderful. She is so thorough and helpful without being aggressive. She’s knowledgeable and can address any/all of your concerns with acupuncture. If it’s something beyond her expertise she will make suggestions that have helped.
  • Andrea is exceptionally professional, knowledgeable and friendly – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my treatments with her. Her experience, especially with pregnancy, is obvious in her practice. You will always feel welcome and comfortable in her care.

I hope you will feel the same way and I will do everything in my power to treat you with the care and respect that you deserve.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the multifaceted practice of acupuncture stands as a profound testament to the intricate relationship between mind, body, and the natural world. Through centuries of refinement and adaptation, acupuncture has evolved into a holistic therapy that not only addresses physical ailments but also nurtures mental and emotional well-being. Its efficacy, backed by both thousands of years of evidence and scientific research, underscores its significance in modern healthcare systems all over the world.

Exploring the principles of acupuncture reveals its profound connection to Traditional Chinese medicine, rooted in the concept of Qi and the balanced flow of energy throughout the body. By stimulating specific points along meridians, Acupuncturists aim to restore balance and alleviate a wide array of conditions, ranging from chronic pain to psychological distress.

Moreover, the modern understanding of acupuncture has expanded beyond its traditional roots, with modern medicine increasingly embracing its therapeutic potential. Research has helped us understand the mechanisms underlying acupuncture’s effects, including modulation of neurotransmitters, regulation of inflammatory responses, and enhancement of circulation. As we continue to unravel its complexities and harness its potential, acupuncture stands as a beacon of hope, paving the way for a more integrated and compassionate approach to healthcare for generations to come.

If you have any questions, would like to learn more about acupuncture, or book an appoint, feel free to contact us.