What is TCM Acupuncture?


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture has been practiced in China for over 3000 years.  TCM acupuncture gained attention in North American after U.S. President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972.  Since then interest in TCM acupuncture has grown, due to its impressive healing power.   Although TCM acupuncture is often regarded as alternative medicine in Western countries, it has been surprisingly successful in the treatment of many ailments where more conventional approaches have failed.  In 2006, the government of Ontario approved the Traditional Chinese Medicine Act.  The law was enforced in April, 2013 and the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO) was established.  TCM acupuncture now is a regulated health profession in Ontario.


TCM acupuncture, as practiced by the members of the College, is a holistic approach based on the systematic body of knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine.  It is different from the more recently developed Western-style or medical acupuncture, which is predominantly practiced by doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and many other health care professionals in the province of Ontario.   Medical acupuncture is based on the knowledge of human anatomy and the diagnosis of Western medicine.  The principles of TCM treatment and acupuncture needling techniques are completely different from Medical acupuncture.


The basic theories of TCM Acupuncture


TCM acupuncture has its roots in ancient Chinese philosophy.  It is based on the belief that the human body is integrated as a whole and cannot be separated into parts physically, emotionally,   physiologically and pathologically.  According to TCM one part of the body functions well only when it’s interconnection with other parts of the body works in harmony or is balanced; any ailments or disease indicates that the relationship of the body parts is interrupted or is imbalanced.


The healthy body depends on the body’s motivating energy, known as Qi, moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of channels and collaterals, called Meridians.  Meridians are like a network connecting all body parts together.  Meridians carry and provide Qi to the internal organs, the sense organs, the tissues, such as vessels, bones, tendons, muscles and so on.  There are 14 main Meridians beneath the skin and each of them is associated with an internal organ.  There are 365 regular acupuncture points located along the Meridian lines.  By inserting fine acupuncture needles into the points, it stimulates the body’s own healing response and helps to restore its natural balance.  


Modern scientific studies have some theories as to why acupuncture could help to control pain.  One of them is called hormonal theory: acupuncture treatment might stimulate the body to release endorphins which are the biochemical compounds produced by the body.  Endorphins travel through the blood stream to the brain, where they activate the mechanism that blocks the pain message.    


The benefits of TCM acupuncture


The benefit of acupuncture treatment to the body is that there are no side effects and it is not addictive.  TCM is based on the belief that the body itself knows best what kinds of “internal painkillers” should be produced and how much they should be released without any harm to the body.  Acupuncture treatment helps to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms. 


TCM acupuncture is not just for pain, it can help with a wide range of problems, such as digestive disorders, ulcerative colitis, constipation, irritable bowel syndromes, asthma, chronic bronchitis, blood pressure disorders, insomnia, anxiety, depression, stress, chronic fatigue, PMS, menstrual disorders, infertility, eating disorders, addictions, Raynaud’s disease, side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, stroke recovery and so on.


TCM acupuncture preventative therapy is effective for promoting general health, protecting and maintaining the body’s immune system, as well as balancing the body’s physical and emotional states. 


The treatment procedures of TCM acupuncture


In order to understand a patient’s individual requirements a TCM acupuncturist would ask a series of questions related to a patient’s complaints before the treatment.  He/she also needs to collect information about the patient’s personal life style, for example, what kinds and the amount of fluid and food being taken every day. They will also need to ask about emotional characteristics, how the body responds to changes in the external environment, such as the weather or seasons, and so on. 


The treatment plan is tailored to meet the individual’s needs and their TCM diagnosis.  The person’s age, body type and the stage of illness are all factors that need to be considered by a TCM practitioner for selecting the acupuncture points for the treatment.  Those who have the same Western medical diagnoses may have a different TCM treatment plan and different acupuncture points, because every patient’s condition is different.


Most people experience very little discomfort during the acupuncture treatment.  Occasionally mild discomfort might occur as the acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin.  During the treatment the patient might feel some sensations, such as tingling, heaviness in the needling area, and sometimes the patient could feel the sensations travel along the nerve pathway.  These sensations are called “acupuncture needling sensations”.  Actually, feelings of needling sensations indicate the treatment is working or the treatment is taking effect.


A lot of people ask: how long does the acupuncture treatment take to work?  It depends on several factors: acute complaints, such as headaches, toothache, menstrual cramps, etc., may improve immediately.  Chronic conditions would take a longer time, perhaps one or two months of weekly treatments, to see the result.