Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc

FAQs About Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

It is important to remember that acupuncture needles are extremely fine. They are so fine that they can pass through the centre shaft of a regular syringe needle. The patient may or may not feel a very slight quick pricking sensation just as the needle is inserted into the skin layer but this should not be painful.

When the needle goes deeper into the muscle layer, the patient should feel a slight sensation as the needle contacts the Qi (energy). This is called the “Qi sensation.” This sensation can be described as numbness, tingling, dull pressure, a type of electric shock feeling, or a sensation of heat.

Acupuncture Session

In some cases, the sensation travels along the meridian pathways and can affect whole areas of the body or limbs. This sensation should not be uncomfortable. Generally, when the patient feels significant “Qi sensations,” the acupuncture will have a better effect. During the treatment, we may stimulate the acupuncture needle with gentle movement which will give more of a Qi sensation as well.

What is a typical session like?

The first visit will include a consultation involving questions about the main complaints of the patient, medical history, and also about other systems in the body (ie. digestion, sleep, urination etc.). To conclude the consultation, we do a tongue and pulse diagnosis, as both are very important diagnostic tools in Chinese Medicine. The consultation will take from half an hour to one and a half hours depending on the patient’s case. It is extremely thorough and quite often makes the patient notice symptoms that they never thought would be asked of them. After the consultation, we will talk to the patient about the best treatments appropriate for them which may be acupuncture, herbal medicine or some combination of the two.

On additional visits, the first five to ten minutes will be a follow-up consultation where questions are asked about the progress of the patient and if any symptoms have changed. If the patient is receiving Acupuncture, every treatment lasts about an hour. If there is sufficient time, we will perform an Acupuncture treatment on the first visit. The needles are inserted and generally retained in the body for 20-30 minutes. If the main complaint of the patient includes acute or chronic pain, Massage/acupressure will follow the acupuncture. In most cases, I will advise the patient on nutritional and dietary recommendations as well. In turn, on the second visit I will give the patient a list of guidelines that they can take home and use for referral.

How many treatments will I need?

The frequency and duration of treatments will depend on the individual case of the patient. For example, acute conditions such as a very recent sports injury, the patient may only need one or two treatments, whereas a more chronic situation will require more treatments. We usually recommend treatments to be one to two times per week, but as the course of treatments go on and progress is made, the treatments become less frequent.

Can I combine TCM treatment with Western Medicine? Are there any interactions?

It is fine to combine TCM with pharmaceutical medications but it is advisable, however, that the medications be taken at different times of the day (usually we recommend that the patient wait at least 2 hours between the time they take their herbs and the time they take their pharmaceuticals). This will allow for no interactions or side effects between the pharmaceuticals and the herbal medicine.

Will I have to get Acupuncture? I'm afraid of needles!

There are other alternatives to acupuncture which include acupressure massage and cupping. Many patients who are very afraid of needles may just receive chinese herbal medicine. On the initial visit, we always discuss the various treatment options that will be most beneficial and suitable for the patient.

Can I stop taking pharmaceutical medications when I undergo the TCM treatments?

With TCM treatment, pharmaceuticals can usually be reduced gradually as the patient’s health improves. This must be done in close consultation with both the patient’s western medical Doctor and TCM Doctor.

Is Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine covered by Insurance?

Acupuncture is currently covered by many extended health Insurance plans. Typically, most insurance plans will cover up to $500-600 worth of Acupuncture per year. Unfortunately, the herbs are not yet covered. 

Since April of 2008, MSP (BC Medicare) is also partially covering acupuncture treatments for patients under income assistance. Our staff will gladly assist you if you have any questions regarding coverage.

What are Acupuncture needles like?

Acupuncture needles are extremely fine (finer than even a pin) with a sharp point and made out of stainless steel. They come in different lengths and thicknesses according to which area of the body is to be treated. For example, a 0.5 inch long needle would be inserted into the scalp, ear, or face whereas a 3-4 inch needle would be used for the thighs/buttocks. We use pre-packed and sterilized disposable needles that are single use only. Once used, they are discarded into sealed containers.

What are Chinese herbs like?

The herbs we usually prescribe to patients are in a concentrated powder form which dissolve in hot water and made into a tea. This is easier than having to boil raw herbs and is still highly effective. We can also give the herbs in capsules for more convenient intake.

Are endangered species used?

At Dr. Maryam Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic, we do not carry any products which contain endangered species. It is true that certain parts of endangered species have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries because of their medicinal effects. Today, substitute materials are almost always used. However, there may be some patent products in Chinatown, for example, that still list certain endangered species on their labels. These can be easily spotted and avoided by the consumer.

What is Medical Acupuncture?

This refers to Acupuncture performed by MD’s, Physiotherapists, and/or Chiropractors who do not use TCM theories and approaches in their diagnosis and treatment. Many of these practitioners receive short-term training and use it as a tool to complement their regular practices, dealing mainly with acute and chronic pain disorders.

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