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What is acupuncture?

October 24 is International Acupuncture Day, a day to raise awareness about the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Overview with Jérome Aubin, acupuncturist at the Vanier Physiotherapy Clinic.


Acupuncture in Quebec

Acupuncture, and more broadly Chinese medicine, have a history of over 4000 years. In Quebec, it was in the 1960s that this practice began to appear with waves of immigration from China. If, at the time, the practice of acupuncture was done in hiding, it is quite different today. Acupuncture is one of the 45 professions governed by a professional order. The practice is framed by strict rules aimed at patient safety and the professionalism of practitioners. In order to obtain this license, a training of 2640 hours must be completed as well as postgraduate continuing education. Acupuncture practiced in Quebec is safe and well regulated.


The disorders treated

This therapeutic approach is gaining popularity in the West thanks to the clinical results obtained, and also to the few side effects. It works just as well in cases of pain as in internal pathologies, such as: allergies, stress, insomnia, hot flashes.

To help the public and the various health actors to find their bearings, in 2002 the World Health Organization carried out a meta-analysis (analyzes of existing supervised clinical studies) and reach the conclusion that acupuncture is an effective treatment in the following disorders:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Neck pain
  • Biliary colic
  • Nephritic colitis
  • Triggering work (delivery)
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Facial pain, including cranio-mandibular problems
  • Post-surgical pain
  • Primary dysmenorrhea (pain during ovulation or menstruation)
  • Side effects of radio and chemotherapy
  • Sprains
  • Gastralgia (peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, gastric cramps)
  • Primary hypertension
  • Primary hypotension
  • Leukopenia (low white blood cells)
  • Low back pain
  • Morning sickness
  • Osteoarthritis of the shoulder
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee and rheumatic pain
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • sciatica
  • Tendinitis
  • Fetal version


In summary, acupuncture:

  • has an effect on pain relief, sedative, soothing and relaxing
  • helps restore the balance of the body by influencing the endocrine and nervous systems
  • acts on the immune system
  • promotes the natural healing mechanisms of the body.


But how does it work?

There are different mechanisms of action when introducing an acupuncture needle into the body. The needle used is extremely thin: it is only slightly larger than the diameter of a hair. Its length can however vary according to the targeted place. All needles used are for single use and sterile.


Local action and musculoskeletal disorders

By “punctuating” directly in sensitive areas or affected tissues, it helps to restore local circulation, tissue irrigation and regeneration tissue / cell.

The work of Professor Hélène Langevin from the University of Vermont or Dr. Édouard Neal from the University of Portland is very revealing on this subject and can explain how acupuncture can accelerate the healing of tendinitis, for example. Tendons are poorly vascularized tissues so that little blood circulates. Langevin has demonstrated that by rolling a needle in the fibers of this connective tissue, we stimulate the cellular regeneration and accelerate its healing.

From a mechanical point of view, we can undo, using the needle, a stagnation or a contraction node in the muscle fiber. Thinner than a finger and allowing intramuscular work, acupuncture can help greatly in cases of myofascial disorders (“trigger points”).


Internal regulation:

For internal disorders (stress, insomnia, allergies, etc.), research has shown that the stimulation of certain specific acupuncture points directly affects the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and adenosine, explaining relaxing and antistress impact of acupuncture and the role played in the management of pain.

Acupuncture acts on the general circulation in the body (blood, body fluid, energy, but also mucus and phlegm). The goal is the restoration of a dynamic circulatory balance. By punctuating this or that point, we can either stimulate the circulatory flow to better feed an organ or an area, or influence the direction of the circulation (example of a “counter sense”: gastric reflux) or, we can come to disperse a blockage.


Acupuncture as a preventive tool

You do not have to wait to get sick to see an acupuncturist. It is advisable to consult your acupuncturist during the changes of seasons and before or during a big period of stress at work, for example. Preparing your body for a change in environment, temperature, or even emotionally, is the best way to ensure an easy transition by minimizing adverse reactions or illness.


A discipline henceforth covered by the CNESST and the SAAQ

The CNESST and the SAAQ now cover acupuncture in patient care. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist. For this type of treatment, a medical prescription as well as the approval of the CNESST or the SAAQ are necessary in order to receive this care. For private sessions, a prescription from your doctor is not necessary. More and more insurance companies are covering acupuncture treatments, find out more about yours.


If you have any questions or questions about whether acupuncture could help you, do not hesitate to contact the acupuncturists of our clinics.

Physiothérapie Universelle offers several other points of service in acupuncture:


By Jérôme Aubin, Acupuncturist at Physiothérapie Universelle Vanier

  • Langevin, Hélène, Connective Tissue Fibroblast Response to Acupuncture: Dose-Dependent Effect of Bidirectional Needle Rotation
  • Neal, Edward, Classical Chinese Medicine and Contemporary Science: The Vascular Model of Disease Pathogenesis. A Common-Path Theory of Human Illness
  • Neal, Edward, Introduction to Neijing Classical Acupuncture Part II: Clinical Theory
  • OMC, Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, 2002.


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