Q: What is Acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture has been used for various conditions in China for thousands of years. It involves inserting hair thin, sterile needles into specific points in the body; these points are referred to as acupuncture points. In traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these points are located along channels or meridians. When these acupuncture points are compared human anatomy, they fall along small nerve bundles and blood vessels lying among fascial tissue. These nerve bundles can be sensory nerves, motor nerves or both. When acupuncture points are needled, one will feel a sensation of warmth, pressure or tingling.
Acupuncture is used to encourage natural healing, improve mood and energy, reduce or relieve pain and improve function of affected areas of the body. Physiologically, acupuncture boosts immune function, increases peripheral circulation, improves skin and blood flow, and regulates the autonomic nervous system, digestive system and reproductive system.
Q: How Does Acupuncture Work?
A: There have been many clinical studies conducted explaining the effects of acupuncture on various systems and symptoms. Its effects has been reported primarily in the following locations:
- Local Effect. Locally acupuncture can cause acute pain relief by affecting Nerve Conduction. Needle penetration or manipulation in classical or electrical acupuncture will evoke small local muscle twitches. These local muscle twitches produce micro stretch effects on the adjacent shortened muscle fibers. These fibres undergo varying stages of denervation- the pain signal between muscle and brain is disconnected. This reduces the mechanical traction effect produced by these shortened muscle fibers on pain sensitive structures.
- Central nervous system: Neurotransmitters/neurohormones: endomorphin-1, beta-endorphin, ecephalin, and serotonin levels increase in plasma and brain tissue in acupuncture treatments. These overall result in analgesia, sedation and recovery in motor functions. They also have an immunomodulator effect on the immune system. These mechanisms explain why acupuncture has been very effective in pain syndromes like: migraines, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, trigeminal neuralgia; GI disorders, psychological illnesses: depression, anxiety, panic attack. and more.
Combined, the local and central effects of acupuncture work well to treat a variety of conditions.
Q: What is Tongue and Pulse Diagnosis?
A: The aim of pulse diagnosis, like the other methods of diagnosis is to obtain more useful information about what is going on inside the body, the cause of disease, and give direction as to what might be done to resolve the condition. According to the Chinese understanding, the pulse can reveal the nature of an illness in the body: whether it is deficient or excess, hot or cold, what organ system is dysfunctional. In your visit, Dr. Lee will determine this by taking your pulse in three positions along the wrist on top of the radial artery and utilize this information for treatment.
Tongue diagnosis is also a useful tool to gather more information about what is going on inside the body. The tongue has many relationships and connections in the body. During inspection, Dr. Lee looks at various areas of the tongue body, its shape, colour and coating.
Q: Where can I find more scientific research about acupuncture?
A: There has been much scientific research around the mechanism of how acupuncture works. A great resource to find more research on acupuncture include:
- The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
- Cochrane Review
- American Journal of Medicine
Most of these journals can be accessed through PubMED
Q: As a Naturopathic Doctor can you perform acupuncture?
A: Yes, Acupuncture is one of the core competencies taught in the Naturopathic Doctorate Degree Program and it is under the ND scope of practice. Melissa is also a Registered Acupuncturist and has undergone additional extensive training to refine her acupuncture skills. She works with Dr. Poney Chiang as an Instructor for the York University Integrative Acupuncture Program and for the Neuromeridian Integrative Acupuncture Program.
Q: Does insurance companies cover acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture is covered by most insurance companies. Please call your individual insurance company to double check.
Q: How long is each treatment?
A: Each treatment is about 45 minutes. From entering the door, to exiting, please plan for 1 hour time.
Q: Do you use disposable needles?
A: Yes. We use disposable needles and clean needle technique. This is an essential competency in safe needling to ensure the safety and health of our patients and practitioners.
Q: What else is involved in the treatment?
A: With the acupuncture treatment, Melissa uses various techniques to increase the efficacy of the treatments. These include indirect moxibustion (a type of heat therapy), heat therapy, electro-acupuncture, and breathing techniques. These are applied on an individualized basis. If you have any concerns, please feel free to ask more questions.
Q: Do the treatments hurt?
A: This is often a common misconception that Acupuncture hurts. However pain is not the right effect we are usually looking for. We are asking for specific sensations, and pain is not one of them. What you typically do feel in acupuncture are the following:
- Heaviness: as a needle is inserted, it can feel like a weight is being placed on the area. Sometimes this feeling of pressure expands, spreading throughout the body part where the needle was placed. This heaviness is calming rather than oppressive.
- Dull Ache: this sensation can accompany the heavy sensation. Its more of a dull ache at the needling site, which disspates within a few minutes. This is normal but can be intense depending on the point being needled. If it feels too strong, let Melissaknow so she can adjust the treatment accordingly.
- Tingly: sometimes a tingling sensation can be felt at the acupuncture site. Points can intermittently tingle.
- Warmth: a dispersing warmth often surrounds the acupuncture point where the needle has been inserted. This usually occurs over a minute or two and is often described as a pleasant feeling.
Q: Are there any side effects of acupuncture? What other effects should I feel from the treatment?
A: As with any type of medical treatment, alternative or conventional there is risk of developing some unfavorable effects. Acupuncture can sometimes elicit reactions like
- Fainting: This happens when an individual has a great fear of needles, has low blood pressure or came into the session on an empty stomach.
- Light headed: Most people feel relaxed after the treatment and when they immediately stand up can feel slightly light headed.
- Some small bruising around the insertion site of the acupuncture point is not common, but an happen.
- Some people may experience dull aches, fatigue or emotional reactions during the treatment session. Or symptoms may intensify slightly during the course of the treatment. These reactions are indicative of the body re-calibrating and regulating itself back to homeostasis which is a positive sign.
Q: What should I do the day of the acupuncture treatment?
A: It is advised that right before the treatment, do not eat a heavy meal and be full, and on the hand, do not be starving. After hte treatment take it a little easier. Ensure you are hydrated and avoid alcohol, caffeine and excessive/intense exercise.
Acupuncture & Fertility
Q: How is acupuncture different with Dr. Lee compared to other acupuncture clinics in the treatment of Fertility?
Acupuncture has recently gained popularity and has been clinically studied as an adjunctive therapy to infertility treatments. Melissa implements an acupuncture system based on an individualistic approach which incorporates the two medical systems of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and modern western medicine. She combines the principles and philosophies of TCM with updated clinical techniques and research to obtain the greatest treatment effect.
Acupuncture can be done as an adjunctive treatment during the following phases:
- IVF cycle
- IUI cycle
- IVF with ICSI
- Oocyte Retrieval
- Cycle Monitoring
- Preconception Care
- General Health
Q: How does acupuncture increase my chances of success with IVF or IUI?
Recent research has indicated that the benefits of acupuncture can vary depending on the duration of treatment: short term or long term. Short term treatment refers to receiving acupuncture only during an IVF cycle, whereas long term treatment involves patients undergoing acupuncture treatments even before their IVF cycle.
In short term treatment, the benefits of acupuncture include: improved blood circulation to the uterus and ovaries, lowered stress levels and relaxation, and amelioration of side effects from the IVF medications (For example: abdominal bloating and discomfort, fluid retention, headaches and mood swings).
In long term treatment, patients notice benefits overall when receiving acupuncture from pre IVF, during an IVF cycle and into pregnancy. When acupuncture is received with the right treatment frequency and duration, it can induce regular ovulation through modulating the sympathetic nervous system, endocrine system, and neuroendocrine system. These treatments can also be beneficial for pre-existing conditions (endometriosis, PCOS, adhesions, ovarian cysts, or fibroids) and work synergistically with biomedical prescriptions.
Whether short term or long term treatment, one of the most significant benefits of acupuncture is its influence on the central nervous system. For instance, acupuncture given before and after an embryo transfer has been shown to decrease urinary adrenaline and noradrenaline. We also see lower serum levels of cortisol when acupuncture is given during gonadotropin stimulation in an IVF cycle. Overall we see a decrease in the concentration of stress hormones in the body and a subjective feeling of greater relaxation and stress reduction.
These benefits translate into increased clinical pregnancy rates and live birth rates in women undergoing IVF.
Q: What is acupuncture’s role during cycle monitoring or its role in regulating the menstrual cycle?
In each menstrual cycle, there are main events that occur. These include:
Day 1- 5: Estrogen and progesterone levels are low, and the pituitary gland starts to make FSH and LH, promoting follicular growth.
Day 7: One of the follicles becomes the main follicle and grows while producing higher levels of estrogen.
Day 7-12: Higher levels of estrogen then stimulate the uterine lining to grow. Glands in the cervix create fertile mucous.
Day 12 and 13: High levels of estrogen induce an LH surge which stimulates the production of lytic enzymes and prostaglandins in the main follicle.
Day 14: Egg is released from the main follicle.
Day 15-25: The empty follicle becomes the corpus luteum and produces progesterone. Progesterone stimulates the growth of the endometrial lining.
Day 25-28: When fertilization does not happen, the corpus luteum dies and the estrogen and progesterone production drop, allowing the pituitary to produce FSH and LH.
Our acupuncture treatments follow the four phases: follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstruations phases to facilitate these main events of the menstrual cycle. During each phase we use different combinations of acupuncture points with the overall goal of regulating the sympathetic nervous system, endocrine system, and neuroendocrine system. As these systems start to regulate, women notice slight differences such as: decrease in PMS symptoms (breast tenderness, moods, cramping), cervical mucous or menstrual flow.