The Benefits Of Acupuncture in Hamilton
A special thanks to Tahani Al-Rifai, D.C., a Hamilton, ON Chiropractor, for providing this article.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest traditional Chinese medicine techniques that involves inserting very thin needles through your skin at specific points on the body. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a philosophical concept that diseases are considered a sign of imbalance between forces within the body and vital energy (Chi/Qi) circulates throughout the body along specific pathways known as meridians. Acupuncture allows a flow of Chi through the meridians and therefore brings balance to the human body.
Many respected western health associations approve acupuncture to be an effective treatment for many conditions. Acupuncture is used to help manage a variety of diseases and conditions include headaches, stroke rehabilitation, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, post-chemotherapy nausea/vomiting, and dental pain.
There are 361 acupuncture points located on these meridians that believe to restore balance in the body. When the needles are inserted successfully, the patient experiences the sensation of Chi, which is described as a feeling of fullness, numbness, tingling, and warmth with a possible soreness on the insertion point. Western medicine uses acupuncture to treat pain by inhibiting the central nervous system, therefore blocking the perception of pain and stimulating the production of endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine which are considered the body’s natural pain killers. Acupuncture also reduces inflammation, decreases trophic changes, and prepares soft tissue for manipulation.
Acupuncturists also use trigger points which are found by eliciting tenderness at the site of the most pain. Some practitioners also use electrical acupunctures, in which an electoral stimulator is connected to the acupuncture needle to induce manual stimulation of the needles.
Just like any other treatment, there are risks associated with acupuncture treatment.
These risks include:
- Tissue bruising or bleeding
- Broken needles
- Temporary worsening of symptoms
- Perforation of organs
To avoid the above-mentioned risks a trained practitioner must:
- Perform a complete assessment and know all the pre-existing conditions the patient may have
- Provide the patient with education about the procedure and the risk factor
- Know anatomy well
- Handle the needles safely
- Wash hands thoroughly
- Use single-use sterile needles
- Clean the patient’s skin with an alcohol swab
- Dispose of use needles in disposal containers
- Use needle holder to remove broken needles successfully
- Use cotton swabs and applying pressure to the bleeding area
- Position the patient appropriately
- Use appropriate points
- Monitor patient during the treatment
- Keep open communication with the patient
You are considered not a good candidate for acupuncture if you have a bleeding disorder, using blood thinners, have a pacemaker, or pregnant as that acupuncture is believed to induce labor.
Initial treatment may take up to 60 minutes during which the practitioner will assess the painful part of your body. After that, the practitioner will discuss the plan of treatment. Studies have shown that six or more treatments are associated with successful or positive outcomes. Treatments are usually performed two or three times per week. Each treatment time is at least 15 minutes up to a maximum of 30 minutes. Needles can be manually or electrically stimulated. Electrical stimulation with low-frequency stimulation provides immediate effect, long-lasting and cumulative benefits. High-frequency stimulation provides an immediate but short-lasting effect.
Depending on the area of treatment, the needles are generally inserted about 1cm or half an inch. Deeper insertion is usually used to ensure the needles are inserted inside the muscle to activate specific muscle fibers. However, deeper insertion must be performed with caution. The angle of insertion is also considered important to avoid deep insertion and to protect the organs in high-risk areas.
There is no standard rule to the number of needles used. However, it is necessary to use a combination of local points to stimulate local neurotransmitters and distal points (often used in acute conditions). It is recommended to pick 2 or 3 local points, influential points based on the times of the problem (bones, nerve, and muscles), and 2 or more five-she points based on the meridian of pain. In acute conditions or pain, vigorous stimulation, deeper insertion (if possible), and longer treatment time are recommended. In chronic conditions or pain, gentle stimulation, superficial insertion, and shorter treatment time are recommended.
Overall, practitioners should perform a detailed initial assessment to reach an appropriate diagnosis and prepare a customized treatment plan. The practitioner should decide on the number of treatment sessions required to reach realistic goals, the duration of the treatment, the stimulation mode required, the depth of the insertion, and the style of acupuncture treatment.
To prepare for your acupuncture treatment you need to choose a good practitioner who has the proper training, credentials, and experience. It is encouraged to interview the practitioner before the treatment to determine the acupuncture treatment that is most appropriate for your condition. It is recommended for practitioners to have Hepatitis B vaccine as well.
By Dr. Tahani Al-Rifai, D.C.