To The Point Acupuncture

Frequently Asked Questions

Instructions for patients

Questions and Answers about Acupuncture
Just the mention of “needle” can make some people flinch. But having an acupuncture treatment is nothing like getting a shot. The needles rarely hurt or draw blood, and they usually induce a state of deep relaxation. Acupuncture has been around for at least 5,000 years, with its roots in Chinese medicine.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about acupuncture and how to prepare for your treatments.

What to do before an acupuncture treatment

Have a light meal; if this is not possible, drink some juice.
Do not consume alcohol for 4 hours prior to the treatment.
If possible, do not take any pain killers or tranquilizers for 4 hours prior to the treatment.
Do take your usual medication.

What to do after an acupuncture treatment

Avoid strenuous activity for 2 days after treatment, even if you are now pain-free.
Rest for a few hours when you go home.
Delay taking any pain killers or tranquilizers for 1 hour after treatment.
Be aware that occasionally, the symptoms may become worse before there is relief.

How big are the needles and how deep are they inserted?
The stainless steel needles, normally about as thin as a human hair, are pre-sterilized and disposable. Unlike the hollow needles used for giving injections, acupuncture needles are solid. The acupuncturist will insert them to a depth of anywhere from a quarter of an inch to 3 inches, depending on the amount of subcutaneous fat that the needles need to penetrate. 

Will it hurt me?
Acupuncture should be painless, although some people experience a slight sharp sensation depending on how sensitive they are and where the needles are inserted. Once the needle is in place, it’s normal to initially feel a tingling sensation, numbness, mild pressure or warmth. If these sensations became too strong or are uncomfortable, alert your acupuncturist and they will adjust the needles. 

What exactly should I expect to happen during an acupuncture session?
The first treatment starts with a thorough medical history followed by a physical exam that notes skin tone, tongue condition and the qualities of your wrist pulse. These observations provide an indication of what’s going on in your body. After making a diagnosis, the practitioner will ask you to lie down and insert needles into key points. You’ll be allowed to rest with the needles in place, typically for up to 40 minutes.

How can it help me?
Acupuncture is mostly known in the West as a pain relief technique, but is also proven to be useful in numerous other indications. In 1979, the World Health Organization cited 104 conditions that acupuncture can treat — either alone or in conjunction with contemporary conventional medicine.  Acupuncture plays a huge role in preventive care, particularly as a form of stress management.  The underlying cause of most of the conditions is chronic stress, which affects multiple systems in the body, including the immune and endocrine systems.

Is it OK for me to eat before or after a session? What about exercise?
It’s good to eat a little bit before a session because low blood sugar could increase sensitivity to the treatment and cause you to feel faint. Don’t, however, eat a heavy meal. For exercise, the reverse holds true.  Prior to your session you can exercise as strenuously as you want. However, most acupuncturists advise only mild exercise within several hours after treatment. Eating too much or vigorous exertion can disrupt the corrective flow of energy that follows an acupuncture session.

How many sessions do I need in order to start feeling the benefits?
That depends on the severity of the condition. For some people, the effect of acupuncture can be quite dramatic — they may feel the benefits after one session. For others, the response may be more gradual. In general, you should notice at least small changes in your condition within 10-12 treatments. For fertility it can be 3-5 months. 

How can I be sure my acupuncturist is qualified?

Not all acupuncturists are created equally.  “Certified Acupuncturists” or “Acupuncture Specialists”, including some medical doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists, typically receive very few hours of acupuncture education with no hands on training, and many become "certified" over a weekend course or a few hours online.

Licensed Acupuncturists are the only practitioners of acupuncture who have been credentialed and licensed by the College and Association of Acupuncturists of Alberta.   Licensed Acupuncturists have completed several years of schooling and graduate with a degree. They also complete 1.5 to 2.5 years of hands-on, supervised clinical experience, treating between 300 to 500 patients before graduation in an out-patient clinical setting.

It is important to understand who is qualified to use acupuncture needles as a treatment in order to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness. The key is to look for “L.Ac.,” which stands for “Licensed Acupuncturist”.   Licensed Acupuncturists must successfully pass several  board exams. Don’t be afraid to ask a practitioner for their credentials; it is crucial that you feel confident in your provider’s qualifications and skill level.