For the past 4 months, I have been studying on weekends at McMaster University learning an updated, modernized version of the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture. While we briefly learn about and honour the Chinese tradition, this version of acupuncture follows a neurofunctional approach. It might go by several different names including: medical acupuncture and contemporary acupuncture. I have been getting lots of questions asking me what acupuncture is and how it is helpful in the treatment of pain and musculoskeletal dysfunction so I thought I would respond with an FAQ blog post.
What is Neurofunctional Acupuncture, besides a big word?
The official definition of neurofunctional acupuncture is “a precise peripheral nerve stimulation technique, in which fine solid needles are inserted into neuro-reactive loci, and stimulated manually or with electricity for the therapeutic purpose of modulating abnormal activity of the nervous system.”
In other words, we stick needles in people (in a controlled, specific manner) to affect the nervous system (e.g. wake things up, calm them down or reduce pain signals). We also often include some electrical stimulation on the needles to further affect the nervous system.
There are many ways in which electroacupuncture affects pain. Locally, one of the biggest factors is the release of certain neurotransmitters that affect whether or not pain signals are transmitted up to the brain. Electroacupuncture also modulates pain signalling and perception at other levels of our nervous system, all the way up to the brain.
Is it safe?
In short, YES. Of course, with all treatments, there are some risks involved. However, in Ontario, acupuncture practitioners are all regulated healthcare professionals with extensive training in anatomy. In this specific course, we spent several hours discussing the safest way to needle and how to best avoid any adverse events. Your safety, comfort and health are my top priority!
Does it hurt?
Generally, NO. At the McMaster course, we are taught a ‘Painless Needling Technique’ which is aimed to avoid almost all discomfort for the patient. However, at times, a patient may feel a dull ache or a twitch in the muscle. Sometimes, this dull ache is actually a positive thing and means we are affecting our target in the muscle. If there is ever too much discomfort, it’s important to let your acupuncture practitioner know and things can be adjusted, or needles can always be removed. Your comfort, safety and health are my top priority!
What types of conditions can be treated with Neurofunctional Electroacupuncture?
Electroacupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Some of the more common conditions that respond well to acupuncture are:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Tennis elbow
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- Shoulder, hip and knee pain
- Many more!
If you have any questions or are interested in electroacupuncture, please get in contact with us at Lawrence Park Health Clinic. Both of our chiropractors are trained with the same approach and look forward to discussing whether acupuncture might be the right choice for your ailment.
Author: Dr. Allie Dennis, B.Sc. Kin (Hons.), D.C., Acu, CSEP-CPT, SFMA
Toronto Chiropractor | Acupuncture Practitioner | Personal Trainer | SFMA Practitioner
Elorriaga Claraco A, Fargas-Babjak A. Contemporary Acupuncture for Health Professionals. Handouts Unit 1-5. Fall 2016.