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Frequently Asked Questions: Acupuncture

  1. What is Acupuncture?
  2. What is medical acupuncture?
  3. What conditions does medical acupuncture treat?
  4. What are the benefits of acupuncture?
  5. How do I choose an acupuncture practitioner?
  6. Is acupuncture safe?
  7. Does acupuncture hurt?

What is Acupuncture?

Simply put, acupuncture is a therapeutic intervention involving the insertion of fine needles into specific points in the body. Combining thousands of years of anecdotal evidence with modern biomedical research, acupuncture has proven to be a valuable therapy in the treatment of many conditions, both acute and chronic.

What is medical acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture is a biomedical approach to acupuncture that combines traditional acupuncture and acupuncture theory with modern, biomedical knowledge, practiced by Western-trained health practitioners (e.g. chiropractors, physicians, physiotherapists). Coupling traditional Chinese acupuncture methods, with our current concepts in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and pathophysiology, allows Western practitioners to better organize clinical information to generate safe and more efficient treatments for their patients using acupuncture as a sole therapy, or in combination with other therapies. With medical acupuncture, healthcare practitioners take a proper, thorough history, and perform a physical and neurological examination to arrive at a diagnosis. Selection of relevant acupuncture needling sites follows.(1)

What conditions does medical acupuncture treat?

Medical acupuncture may be used in the treatment of many acute and chronic injuries and conditions. Common problems that are responsive to acupuncture include:

The most common chronic condition treated (with excellent therapeutic effects) is osteoarthritis. It should be noted that acupuncture (nor any treatment) actually “cures” patients of osteoarthritis – but, rather, it is part of a pain-management solution, allowing for pain-relief, increased mobility, and ultimately, significantly improved quality of living.

In addition to the above-mentioned conditions, the World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of various other conditions:

What are the benefits of acupuncture?

The benefits of acupuncture have been widely studied. The main benefits can be summarized as follows (4):

How do I choose an acupuncture practitioner?

Since acupuncture is not regulated in all provinces, it is important to realize that not all acupuncture practitioners are equal in terms of qualifications. Therefore, it is important that you choose a practitioner who is trained according to World Health Organization standards, and who is fully certified through a reputable university or college-based program.  As well, it is of benefit that your acupuncture practitioner be a registered, regulated health professional. Health professionals have spent the hundreds of hours in a university setting learning anatomy, physiology, pathology, and clinical sciences needed to render a proper diagnosis. (Remember that only medical doctors, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, and psychologists are legislated to make a diagnosis). The expertise in the sciences of the human body that health professionals possess is also important when considering the precision and accuracy of the needles being inserted into the body. You may contact the College of Chiropractors, Physicians, or Physiotherapists, to find a qualified acupuncture practitioner in your region.

Is acupuncture safe?

In the hands of a properly trained and qualified acupuncture practitioner, acupuncture is one of the safest therapeutic interventions in existence.  Acupuncture has a time-tested record of millions of treatments with extremely few significant side-effects. Nowadays, the use of sterilized, single-use, disposable needles has eliminated any risk of infections from needles.

Does acupuncture hurt?

In the vast majority of patients, acupuncture does not cause any significant discomfort. The needles are very fine, and do not cause any damage to tissues when inserted. A minority of patients may experience momentary discomfort upon needle insertion, drowsiness, or localized bruising. For many people, acupuncture is considered to be a pleasant, relaxing experience, enhanced by the known therapeutic effects that follow treatment.


  1. Fargas-Babjak A, Claraco AE. Clinical Applications of Medical Acupuncture. The Canadian Journal of CME. September 1999.
  2. Ibid.
  3. World Health Organization (WHO) Consultation on Acupuncture, Guidelines. 1996.
  4. Neuro-anatomical Acupuncture Volume 1: Musculo-Skeletal Disorders. Wong JY. 1999.

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