LISTEN: CKNW Health Series 2016 – All about acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine that aims to stimulate the flow of energy. Small needles are inserted into specific points on the body to trigger healing.
But does it really work? And what is it supposed to treat? And doesn’t it hurt?
CKNW’s Laura Baziuk went to find out, with help from Kathryn Stewart and Chad Bruhaug.
Pins and needles
To really get the measure of acupuncture, I decided I needed a first hand look and went to visit Dr. Eyal Lebel at his West Broadway clinic for a treatment.
Here’s how it works. You lie down on the table, under a sheet, and the doctor gently sticks needles into your body.
The needles are about the size of your finger and they don’t hurt.
“Each of those points is a very specific acupuncture point. And each one of them I would do because of a different reason. Are you feeling something?”
I tell him I’m feeling a little bit, but I wonder if that’s just me getting excited because it’s… then I feel one little more.
There is no blood. And you certainly don’t look like the guy from Hellraiser.
“That felt like nothing.”
The needles are meant to stimulate the flow of Qi.
As the treatment progresses, there are needles in my arm, on my stomach, in my heel, in my knee. There’s one going into my thigh, and one in my calf, I think. They’re all over the place. I ask Dr. Lebel how many.
“I am not counting.”
He even puts one in my forehead, right between my eyes.
You might feel a bit dizzy, a bit tired, a bit achy.
It differs from person to person.
But mostly, you’re pretty relaxed.
Acupuncture Canada says the practice is a safe and effective alternative to medication and, sometimes, surgery.
The needles stimulate endorphins at specific points on the body to encourage natural healing for things like pain, fatigue, indigestion, and anxiety and depression. (Those last two are why we’re here today.)
But Dr. Lebel says Western science doesn’t have much more of an explanation than that on how it actually works.
“For example, somebody with a headache. We’re going to put that person in an MRI and I’m going to put this point in, the area in the brain that relates to that headache and that would indicate that there is a process of getting the headache better lights up. And it’s not just with this point. It’s with nearly every important point in the body.”
Acupuncture can also be used as a secondary treatment for bigger health problems, such as the nausea that cancer patients feel after undergoing chemotherapy.
Its practitioners are regulated in B.C. through the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists, and the treatment is covered by many insurances plans.
Is it effective?
Back in the clinic, I don’t feel much in general, but there is something going on with my left hand.
There’s a needle at my wrist, and my arm feels worn out, like I’ve done a bunch of wrist curls at the gym.
“What does that mean if that’s the one I’m feeling the most?”
“That’s Heart 7. It’s the most important point in the body for sleep and anxiety. It’s very related the heart system and like I said before, the heart system in Chinese medicine is more mental/emotional-related.”
At the end, I feel a bit queasy, a bit out of it, but not really calmer.
The doctor says the first session might not stick because your body isn’t used to it yet.
So did it work? Not so much.
But I’d definitely be willing to try it again and see what happens, and would certainly recommend it to anyone who’s curious.