Archaeological discoveries in recent decades indicate that the practice of acupuncture began in China more than 2500 years ago. It spread to neighbouring Asian countries, but it was not until the 1970s that it gained popularity in North America.
Acupuncture is a major component of traditional oriental medicine. It is interested in and addresses the so-called “energetic” aspect of the human being. Indeed, Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to the evaluation and treatment of energy or “Qi” (pronounced: “chi”). This energetic organization is probably the electromagnetic dimension of the human body.
The classic acupuncture treatment consists of stimulating, by means of fine needles, certain specific areas on the body, called acupuncture points. All the sites thus stimulated during the same treatment constitute a prescription of points that the acupuncturist applies for the purposes of the treatment and that he modifies according to the evolution towards a better balance of the patient’s state of health.
In addition to the needle, the acupuncturist can use heat, pressure, a fine electric current or light ray (soft laser).
Acupuncture is a therapeutic approach based on the establishment of an “energy diagnosis” or energy opinion. This assessment requires a clinical examination to assess the condition of the person who is consulting.
The authors agree that acupuncture is a true therapeutic method, a medicine in its own right, which focuses on the various health disorders of living beings.
“Energy” (or electricity) flows through a network of channels called “acupuncture meridians”. Each organ or system has at least one specific meridian. In addition, meridians carry energy throughout the body to supply the brain, organs, muscles, bones, nerves, glands and all other systems to allow the body and mind to function properly.
These meridians also connect the organs to each other, but also establish links between depth and surface.
This “internal-external” correspondence is of great importance, because it can not only facilitate the global understanding of a particular health problem, but above all, it allows treatment from the inside from the outside via these same meridians.
To treat constipation, the acupuncturist will use, among other things, the meridian of the Large Intestine (GI).
The superficial path of this GI meridian begins at the tip of the index finger, moves up the arm on its outer surface, passes through the tip of the shoulder, then through the top of the shoulder blade, then through the base of the neck, returns in front above the collarbone, climbs along the neck and ends very close to the nose, next to the opposite nostril.
It will therefore not be surprising to note sometimes, in a patient who already has a problem with the large intestine (constipation, inflammation or other), shoulder pain and/or chronic nasal congestion (either allergic or infectious resistant to antibiotics) and/or a skin disorder (e.g. eczema) located along the path of this meridian (GI).
A global acupuncture treatment can then treat both the internal organic problem (constipation), but also its more superficial manifestation (allergy, sinusitis, arm or shoulder pain, eczema, etc…).
In fact, the energy of the large intestine belongs to an even larger system called “Yang Ming”.
This Yang Ming system includes the digestive system (large intestine and stomach, but also, according to the work of Dr Maurice Mussat, serotonin (neurotransmitter playing a role in sleep and mood), thyroid, type A immunoglobins (IgA), etc…
Traditionally, according to the law of 5 movements (or 5 elements), the energy of the large intestine is linked to autumn and sadness emotion.
In short, like the electrical circuit of a house, the body is traversed by a complex electromagnetic network.
“For heating, lighting or appliances to work in the home, they must receive enough energy and connections must be good. Similarly, in the body, all organs and tissues also receive this energy, this vital force, to properly perform their functions.
Pain, or disease, results from an obstruction of circulation in one area of the body, resulting in insufficiency in another area. This could be compared to an irrigation system used in agriculture. If part of the system becomes blocked, not only will some plants not receive the water they need to survive, but the rest of the system may suffer from excess pressure, which would normally have been distributed throughout the field. Acupuncture treatment helps to loosen the obstruction and encourage the harmonious circulation of vitality in the body, bringing the individual back to his optimal level of balance and well-being. ” (from http://acupuncture-beloeil.com/lacupuncture/)
Acupuncture stimulates the proper functioning of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, glands and organs, positively affecting the functioning of the immune, nervous, hormonal, circulatory and digestive systems. It also has a positive effect on brain activity and blood pressure.
Acupuncture is usually performed in two ways:
Process the leaf and/or treat the root:
“Treat the leaf” (or treat the symptoms): i. e. emergency treatment, more superficial action, to quickly relieve a discomfort or acute condition such as: pain, colds, flu, headache, anxiety attack, nausea of pregnancy, sinusitis, etc…. Usually, there is rapid relief after one or a few treatments.
“Treat the root” (or treat the cause): i.e. the “in-depth” or “in-depth” treatment of a chronic health problem such as: the above-mentioned ailments if they tend to become chronic, but also, for example: fatigue, asthma, weakness of the immune system, allergies, menstrual disorders, infertility, chronic migraines, etc. This approach will have a more curative and preventive effect on the origin of the problem as well as on other possible associated problems. And this treatment of deep and global action on the body will normally have a lasting effect. Usually, it is done over a longer period of time and requires a greater number of sessions (often 12 or more). To this type of approach, it may be appropriate to add, once the problem is solved, intermittent preventive treatments (monthly or seasonal).
A recognized therapy
Acupuncture is an effective therapeutic approach for a wide range of diseases and ailments. The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of conditions for which acupuncture is recognized as effective. Other organizations, such as the National Institute of Health and Mayo Clinic in the United States, also recognize the benefits of acupuncture for many diseases.
Acupuncture, a natural and integrative medicine
In short, acupuncture is a medical approach that is both curative and preventive. It can be used either as an alternative to conventional medicine or as a complement, depending on the case. Acupuncturists are recognized as front-line workers and have always treated general medical problems.
The acupuncturist acts a little like a detective who seeks to know, to discover, the most symptoms, clues, particularities, possible characteristics in the patient who consults him. The aim is, of course, to understand, according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the energy imbalance(s) at stake.
In addition to the questions directly related to the reason for the consultation, he or she will use the “four stages of the examination” which are: questioning (about discomfort, conditions of onset of symptoms, food preferences, etc.), palpating (locating painful areas, taking the pulse), listening and feeling (listening to particular sounds, feeling certain smells), observing (posture, complexion, emotional state, language characteristics, etc.).
He will highlight the weaknesses and strengths of his patient using the theories of Zang-Fu (Organs and Entrails), Meridians (energy paths running through the whole body), Fundamental Substances (Xue, Qi, Jing, Shen, JinYe), 8 Principles (Yin, Yang, Internal, External, Plenitude, Emptiness, Hot, Cold) or the Law of 5 movements (associated with the 5 states which are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water). Using all this information, the acupuncturist will establish an energy opinion or “diagnosis”.
He will then be able to choose a therapeutic strategy, i.e., a prescription or combination of points to stimulate.
Once the analysis of the situation is completed, it is time to perform the treatment. Depending on the patient’s preference, but also depending on the type of problem, the acupuncturist may use needles, a laser, electricity, finger pressure, suction cups, etc…
The acupuncture technique consists in introducing very fine needles on precise points of the body, themselves located on paths (meridians) where Qi (energy) circulates. In fact, it has been demonstrated using ammeters that meridians are low intensity electrical currents. The meridian path would correspond to the end, at the cutaneous level, of the inter-muscular cleavage plane (the space – or valley – located between the muscle surfaces); in this space circulates a lubricating fluid containing electrolytes responsible for an “electro-ionic” current.
All the selected points, as well as their combinations, have an effect on a specific organ, region, or function of the body and act, as explained earlier, on the manifestation (symptoms) of the problem and/or its cause.
The insertion of a needle is generally painless; otherwise, the sensation is very brief and is comparable to a mosquito bite. Needles usually made of steel and copper (which makes them mini batteries or dipoles), are very thin (comparable in size to the diameter of a hair) and leave no marks. When the needles are in place, the patient often feels relaxed.
First, the needles are not introduced into the nerves or veins, but rather into the intermuscular space or directly onto the muscles. Depth has no effect on sensation. In general, it is between a few millimeters to 1 centimeter.
In addition, each stitch has precise indications as to the depth and insertion angle of the needle. For thousands of years, these criteria have been passed on to acupuncturists so that they can practice their art effectively and safely.
Classically, thermal toning of certain points using moxibustion (which consists of heating a point or a needle with a herb called “mugwort”) was sometimes recommended.
An electrical stimulation on certain needles, for an increased effect, allows a comparable effect to be obtained without the inconveniences associated with moxa (odour, unpleasant smoke and risk of burning).
The laser can be used instead of needles. The effect is similar for most people. It is particularly indicated for patients who fear needles, as well as, because of its rapid action, for children and those with limited time.
In Quebec, acupuncturists are subject to regulations, imposed by the Ordre des acupuncteurs, requiring them to use only sterile single-use needles. This makes it virtually impossible for a needle to transmit disease.
The NIH (National Institute of Health) reports that acupuncture produces very few or no side effects and that this represents a significant advantage over some treatments offered by official medicine.
Although minimal and occasional, some side effects are possible. Normally, these reactions dissipate on their own or are corrected during treatment and rarely pose a problem for the client. These effects may include slight bleeding, small bruises (bruises) and/or tenderness at needle insertion sites.
If the laser is used instead of needles, there is no risk of side effects such as hematoma or bleeding.
It is complex to state formal contraindications to the application of acupuncture, since the main effect of this therapy is to allow the body to regain its balance and restore the body dysfunction that caused the disease. Its action therefore aims to regularize, harmonize and rebalance the body’s energy rather than just combat disease.
For safety reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2001 the “Guidelines for Basic Training and Safety in the Practice of Acupuncture”. This document specifies conditions or conditions that are contraindicated or require certain precautions:
However, an experienced acupuncturist may intervene, with discernment, despite the contraindications involved. For example, despite contraindications to pregnancy, and taking into account developments and research results, experienced acupuncturists in many countries monitor pregnancies until delivery.
The number of treatments depends on the severity of the disease, its evolution, its age and especially the vitality of the patient. In acute cases, close sessions are necessary. In chronic cases, treatments are spaced more apart and are given until the disease improves or stabilizes. The acupuncturist will be able to better specify this at the time of the first consultation.
Treatment is not covered by the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec. However, more and more insurance companies are reimbursing part of the cost of treatment. Ask your insurer and insist that they add acupuncture to your insurance policy.
The Association des acupuncteurs du Québec (AAQ) is a private non-profit organization formed by a group of acupuncturists. Its mission is to disseminate and promote Chinese medicine in Quebec and to defend the socio-economic interests of the profession. Membership in the AAQ is voluntary and governed by the acupuncturist’s interest in participating in this mission.
The Ordre des acupuncteurs du Québec (OAQ) is a professional order in the same way as the other professional orders in Quebec. It has been mandated by the State to regulate and monitor professional activities that involve risks of harm to the public.
Make sure he is a member of the Ordre des acupuncteurs du Québec (OAQ). Membership in the OAQ is mandatory in order to practice acupuncture in Quebec.
To learn more about the OAQ or to check the official status of your acupuncturist, you should contact the OAQ at: (514) 523-2882 or 1-800-474-5914.
Once you have chosen an acupuncturist, it is essential to develop a relationship of trust with him/her. Another important aspect is that you feel comfortable in his presence and especially that you can relax. There is a greater chance of being relieved by the treatments if you can relax.
Note that a physiotherapist who uses needles is not an acupuncturist, unless, of course, he or she is a graduate of both fields (and is registered with the Order of Acupuncturists). Only an acupuncturist (Ac) has the complete training and experience required to perform acupuncture treatments in a holistic manner.