What is it?
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique involving the insertion of thin needles into the skin in specific locations on the body that has gained popularity across the world and become a more prominent adjunct to conventional care in North America. Acupuncture points are arranged in distinct pathways, otherwise known as “meridians,” throughout the body. Practitioners insert needles to improve the flow of Qi (pronounced “Chee”) along the meridians .
During an acupuncture treatment, certain points will be selected by the practitioner based on desired outcome, specifically tailored to the patient. To individualize the treatment, a practitioner will ask questions comparative to a more conventional medical inquiry but may also examine the tongue and pulse of the patient . The acupuncture treatment may vary based on the training and philosophy of the practitioner. The most common acupuncture treatment includes the insertion of needles, but may also include heat (moxibustion), acupressure, cupping, or electrostimulation .
Does it hurt?
Acupuncture needles are small and thin, designed to enter the skin without cutting into the tissue. The needles come in a variety of lengths and sizes, typically in the range of 26 to 40 gauge and 0.5 to 2 inches long  . These needles are much smaller than medical syringes and even smaller than a sewing needle! These needles have 5 distinct parts:
1. Tip – inserted
2. Body – inserted
3. Root – connecting the body and handle
4. Handle – held and manipulated by practitioner
5. Tail – held and manipulated by practitioner
The physical sensation of the needles being inserted into the skin is reported as minimal for most individuals, while the sensation of needles remaining in the skin can vary based on the individual. Feelings of achiness, pressure, warmth, increased energy, relaxation, numbness, tingling, coldness, and more are reported  . A typical session can range from 10-30 minutes of needle time, and sensations can change throughout the course of treatment. The practitioner will typically dim the lights and ensure the environment is comfortable and relaxing for the duration of the treatment. The treatment plan timeline may vary based on the complaint and severity, but typically involves 1-2 treatments per week.
Does it work?
Acupuncture is a well researched treatment method, with research being conducted in multiple countries, in varying populations, settings, and different indications. Within North America, acupuncture is most sought after for pain relief  . However, the research on acupuncture spans across both physical and mental illness states. Below includes some notable systematic reviews and meta-analyses on acupuncture, with many more studies, and reviews being published and confirmed each year.
- A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture benefited pain and
functionality in knee osteoarthritis and can be recommended as a beneficial alternative
therapy  .
- A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture was an effective
treatment for non-specific low back pain  .
- A 2020 overview of systematic reviews concluded that acupuncture may be an effective and
safe treatment for migraine headaches  .
- A 2020 systematic review concluded manual acupuncture reduced symptoms and improved
function in carpal tunnel syndrome  .
- A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture can be
recommended for the management and treatment of fibromyalgia  .
- A 2022 systematic review reported acupuncture improving IBS-D symptoms and quality of
life  .
- A 2020 systematic review supported the potential for acupuncture to alter gastrointestinal
pathophysiology in functional dyspepsia  .
- A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that acupuncture may improve
symptoms of insomnia following more than 3 weeks of treatment  .
- A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture may promote
recovery of the menstrual cycle in PCOS  .
- A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis supported acupuncture as an adjunctive or
single treatment for vasomotor symptoms experienced during menopause  .
- A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis suggested that acupuncture may reduce
menstrual pain and associated symptoms in primary dysmenorrhea. However, this review
highlighted limitations due to low quality and methodological restrictions  .
- A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded acupuncture improving nasal
symptoms and quality of life in allergic rhinitis  .
- A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis supported acupuncture as an adjunct to
conventional treatment in asthma for improvements in symptom response rate  .
How does it work?
Despite the large body of literature that is ever expanding on acupuncture the mechanism for how acupuncture is facilitating change is yet to be completely elucidated  . Hypotheses include influencing hormones, inflammatory markers, manipulation of tissue, neurobiological changes, and more [4,19] . Proposed mechanisms of action (MOA) for acupuncture include both the local physiological changes, such as
microinjury at the site of needle insertion, and facilitated healing, as well as regional neuropathway activations  . These hypotheses will evolve and advance as research continues to further understand this treatment modality.
As a foreign body is being inserted into the skin, even though complications are infrequent there is risk associated acupuncture  . Side effects including soreness and minor bleeding or bruising at the insertion site are the most notable  . However, more serious complications can arise from improper treatment or supplies  . It is important to speak with a professional to ensure proper treatment and evaluation for any contraindications for acupuncture treatments.
The Revamp Experience
Revamp Wellness offers acupuncture in Langley, BC! The Revamp Wellness team utilizes the classic Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment principles with a more modern, westernized approach combining knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology to create an optimal treatment plan. The practitioners at Revamp also utilize other treatment tools such as intramuscular stimulation or dry needling.
Here’s what to expect during an appointment:
1. Introduction and overview of treatment
2. Complete health history check-up
3. Full body assessment
4. Point selection and room set up
5. Sterilization of the treatment area and insertion of the needles
6. Relaxing treatment time
7. Needle removal
8. Discussion of experience
9. Follow up when necessary
The Revamp practitioners may have needles, but they are never prickly!