Q. What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

A. The belief that the human body heals itself was the foundation of medicine in China 5,000 years ago. Chinese physicians regarded health as not merely the absence of disease, but rather the harmony and balance of the internal organs, glands and systems. This system of patient care has evolved and has been refined over the centuries into what we now call Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Differing from a Western approach to medicine, which often treats symptoms rather than addressing their root cause, Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on prevention and strengthening the patient’s natural defense mechanism, allowing the body to heal itself.

While Traditional Chinese Medicine is proven effective as a primary system of health care, it also complements and enhances the efficacy of today’s Western therapies.

Q. How does acupuncture work?

A. In classic Chinese medical book there is a saying, “If there is pain, there is no free flow; if there is free flow, there is no pain.” Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the belief that an essential life force called “Qi” flows through the body along channels called meridians that are like rivers within your body. Wherever a river flows, it brings with it water to nourish life, land and people around it. Likewise, meridians transport life-giving energy and circulation that nourish every cell, tissue, organ and system in the body, providing good health and pain-free living.

If you block a flowing river, it will cause an excessive amount of pressure on one side and restrict the water flow on the other. An obstruction to the flow of “Qi” is similar: When meridians become blocked, Qi cannot move freely, causing excess Qi to build up in another area. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including pain.

The insertion of hair-thin needles into specific points along the meridians is thought to help unblock the clogged energy channels. There are more than 2,000 such points on the body. Some practitioners use heat, pressure, friction, suction, or electrical impulses along with or instead of the usual needle, but the goal is always the same: to stimulate these points and allow Qi to flow freely.

Q. What causes Qi to become blocked?

A. Qi can become blocked due to a number of factors, including physical or emotional trauma, an inherited weakness, poor diet, or as a result of chemical, physical and emotional stress.

Q. Do acupuncture treatments hurt?

A. Acupuncture does not hurt as much as one might think, yet some people don’t believe it until they try it. People learn throughout their lives to be very careful and avoid sharp objects. They unconsciously transfer this fear to acupuncture.
Acupuncture needles are typically not much thicker than a piece of hair, and their insertion is practically painless. It is nothing like receiving an ordinary injection. In some cases, you will not even know the needles are in place. In others, there may be some tingling, warmth, heaviness, or a feeling of the Qi moving up and down the channels. Most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing and some even fall asleep during treatment.

Q. What should I expect during an acupuncture session?

A. Your first acupuncture session may last about an hour and a half, with follow-up sessions taking about 30 minutes to an hour. Generally, 3 to 15 needles are put in place and left there for several minutes. Getting stuck with needles may sound more like torture than therapy, yet most people say there is only a slight stinging sensation as the needles enter, and no pain at all after that. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid with a smooth point, not hollow with cutting edges like hypodermic needles, so having them inserted is not as uncomfortable as getting a shot or having blood drawn.

Q. How many treatments will I need?

A. The number of treatments you might need depends on the duration, severity, and nature of your complaint. You may need only a single treatment for an acute condition, while a series of 5 – 10 treatments may be required to resolve many chronic problems. Some degenerative conditions may require many treatments over time. To help reduce the number of treatments, your practitioner may suggest dietary modifications, specific exercise regimes, relaxation techniques, self-massage, and/or Chinese herbal medicines, all of which may help to increase the efficacy of acupuncture.

Q. My doctor recommended acupuncture treatments for relief of my back and shoulder problems. I would like to know: who is entitled to receive medical coverage for the treatment?

A. Workers’ Compensation covers the cost of acupuncture treatment if:
1. The pain is a result of work-related injury.
2. You have a WCB claim.

3. The treatment is performed by a Registered Acupuncturist.

ICBC covers the cost of acupuncture treatment if the pain is a result of an accident-related injury. Your claim adjuster can give you more details on your coverage.
Your Extended Health Care plan may reimburse the cost of acupuncture treatments. Contact your company benefit officer or insurance provider and they will provide you with this information.
BC Medical Services Plan can cover acupuncture treatments, but unfortunately not for everybody. Low income people can receive benefits amounting to $23/session 10 times. Bring your Care card and we can check whether you can receive benefits or not.
Keep in mind, the cost of acupuncture treatments is a medical expense and it is tax deductible.