Getting to the point — a look at acupuncture

December 27, 2021

Acupuncture has been practiced as part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years- but while this alternative treatment's popularity grows in North America, many people are still unfamiliar with how it works and what it can do for you. To learn more, we talked to Winnipeg traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Jing Liu to learn more.

What is acupuncture?

"Acupuncture is the use of fine needles to stimulate points along meridians (in traditional Chinese medicine, these are pathways in which energy flows), which connect to the organs and bodily systems," Liu says. "This allows for muscle relaxation and enables the unblocking of channels to promote circulation of blood and energy (Qi, pronounced "chee") thereby re-balancing the body and strengthening the organs. In addition, needles are used to treat various physical, mental and emotional conditions."

What can acupuncture treat?

"Acupuncture does not just treat muscle pain," Liu says. "It also helps to treat organs and organ systems and helps to promote and restore their functions."

According to Liu, acupuncture can also be used to treat:  

  • insomnia
  • infertility
  • smoking cessation
  • IBS
  • stress
  • migraines
  • menstrual disorders
  • menopausal symptoms
  • tinnitus
  • mood disorders (depression, anxiety, PTSD)
  • allergies

Prior to beginning any treatment, be sure to check with your physician to ensure it's right for you.

What can you expect during an acupuncture session?

"During the first session, the patient receives a consultation where the acupuncturist will check your tongue, pulse and a general exam to determine what needs to be worked on," Liu says. Following the examination, the acupuncturist discusses their findings and then proceeds with treatment.    

The number of needles and length of time needed depends on the treatment, Liu says.

"Some clients only need a few needles, while some clients with lots of muscle pain might need 20 or more," she says.  

For a normal session, Liu usually leaves the needles in for half an hour, but this can be extended if clients need front and back treatment or with certain health conditions, she says.

What should you look for in an acupuncturist?

While acupuncture is not regulated federally, some provinces started regulating it after 2006. Now, acupuncture is regulated in BC, Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.  

In unregulated provinces, practitioners can voluntarily join an association of their choosing, such as the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada (CMAAC) or Manitoba Professional Acupuncture Association (MPAA).

To be registered with these associations, members must meet specific educational and clinical requirements, as well as pass specific tests or exams and regularly complete continuing education courses. Both CMAAC and the MPAA require members to complete a minimum of 1,900 school hours plus 500 clinical hours.

To find a CMAAC-certified practitioner, use their member index.

To find an MPAA-certified practitioner, use their member search.

Manitoba Blue Cross may also recognize practitioners who are certified with other acupuncture associations, depending on their requirements. To find out whether a practitioner is recognized with Manitoba Blue Cross, contact customer service. To check whether you're covered for acupuncture, log into your mybluecross® account.

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