Frequently asked questions

What is Acupuncture?


Acupuncture is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of ailments. Acupuncture involves the insertion of single use fine filiform needles into particular points on the body. These points are located along acupuncture meridians, which roughly correspond to nerve, vascular and fascial pathways. Acupuncture is based on the notion of ‘Qi’, or vital energy that flows through these meridians. Qi regulates the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harmony of the body by keeping the energetic flows in balance. Imbalances and blockages of the body’s Qi are the root of disease processes. Acupuncture helps to bring about balance and support the body's capacity to heal itself.
From a biomedical perspective, acupuncture is able to stimulate the body’s own healing response through a cascade of reactions that reduce pain and inflammation, increase blood circulation and activate the immune system. Western science has become very interested in the mechanism of acupuncture over the last 50 years and through research has shown a number of ways in which acupuncture affects the body. When a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point there is an interaction with the nervous system that occurs triggering the release of natural pain relieving chemicals like endorphins and opiates as well as activating sensory fibers, blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. The needle also affects the local area of insertion which can promote blood flow and release tight muscles. There is interestingly a striking resemblance between the meridian pathways in the body and lines of connective tissue called fascia found throughout the body (see anatomy trains). Meridians can be likened to the empty spaces of interstitial fluid flowing within these fascial lines.




How many treatments do I need before I see the benefits?


Each person is unique and thus the number of treatments needed will vary. Among the determining factors is the type of condition, whether the condition is chronic or acute, and the health of the individual. Typically the more chronic the issue the more consistently you will need acupuncture to create lasting change. Giving acupuncture is a little bit like tending to a garden. Allowing your body the time and nurturing it needs to return to balance is an important part of the process.




Will insurance cover my treatments?


Many extended health plans provide coverage for acupuncture. If you receive coverage a receipt will be given for each treatment received which can then be sent on to the insurance provider for appropriate reimbursement. **Please note that I can only provide a receipt after the treatment has been given and thus if you are purchasing a package of acupuncture sessions the amount must be paid in full and receipts will be offered as each treatment is given. This means that you will not be able to claim the full amount all at once unless you save your receipts and submit them at the end of your treatment package. For MSP beneficiaries who have a family income less than $28,000/year and are receiving premium assistance, MSP contributes $23 per visit for a combined annual limit of 10 visits each calendar year for acupuncture. See fees for low income rates. Please visit the Health Services BC website for more information.




What does it mean when you look at my tongue and feel my pulse?


When I look at the tongue I’m looking at its length, size, shape, color, and any details about the coat on top of it. Each one of these things tells me something different and relates to a diagnostic pattern within Chinese medical theory. The tongue can also be viewed as a map of the body with different areas pertaining to different organ systems. I use this map when I examine the tongue to see if there is an indication of an imbalance in a certain area.
In Western medicine, the pulse is only a minor diagnostic tool, used mainly to determine heart rate, however it is very important in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I feel the patient’s pulse and notice not only the rate, but many other qualities. The pulse is diagnosed by it’s length, width, how deep and close to the bone, how close it is to the surface, the strength, and other qualities. The pulse, like the tongue has different areas that correspond to body systems and thus I use the pulse in a similar way to detect both the nature of the imbalance as well as where the imbalance might be focused.




Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?


Yes. Licensed acupuncturists are trained to know which acupuncture points are helpful during pregnancy and which points should be avoided. Many acupuncturists have recieved further training in treating women during pregnancy so it is best to look for someone who focuses in the area. There are certain points on the hands and shoulders, and around the lower leg, ankle, and low back that are contraindicated during most of pregnancy. It’s important to let your acupuncturist know if you are pregnant, or if you think you might be, so that these points are avoided.




Is acupuncture safe for babies and children?


Yes, Acupuncture for children is very safe. For most children we use a combination of very fine needles which we call “TAPS”, microcurrent and acupressure to stimulate the acupuncture points. When using needles on young children the needles are not retained. It is a simple in and out of the fine needle tip. We begin by preparing the child for acupuncture by gently massaging to desensitize the area to be needled, the needling technique that follows is quick and nearly painless. The most important part of doing acupuncture with children is to make sure the child feels comfortable and safe. If using needles is not comfortable for them, we have other techniques that we can apply. We try to create an environment for the child that is safe and relaxed. Some small children like to play with toys while getting treated, others like to be on mom or dad’s lap.




What training is involved to become a Registered Acupuncturist?


In British Columbia a Registered Acupuncturist must complete over 2000 hours of study over three years of Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, diagnosis & technique, biomedical sciences, professional development and clinical practice. A Registered Acupuncturist has to pass the Pan-Canadian Acupuncture Licensing Exam and be registered with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC to be able to practice. In order to complete my studies I met the following requirements: Acupuncture Theory and Technique: 585 hours Biomedical Sciences: 390 hours Holistic Nutrition: 45 hours Oriental Medicine & Diagnosis: 450 hours Professional Development: 150 hours Clinical Practice: 525 hours




What is the difference between getting acupuncture from a Registered Acupuncturist and a Physiotherapist or Chiropractor?


Acupuncture performed by Physiotherapists or Chiropractor is referred to as Anatomical Acupuncture, Dry needling, Medical Acupuncture and in some cases I.M.S. Acupuncture. Acupuncture performed by a Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac) or Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP) is known as Acupuncture, Traditional Acupuncture, or Chinese Medicine Acupuncture. An Acupuncturist is required to have three years of full time study (which amounts to over 2000 hours of training), have passed the Pan-Canadian Acupuncture Licensing Exam and be registered with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC to be able to practice. Practitioners of other disciplines do complete a high level of academic studies outside of Acupuncture training, and have an excellent understanding of functional anatomy and physiology, which is essential for the safe practice of Acupuncture. However, their overall required training in Acupuncture theory, diagnosis, treatment assessment, clean needling technique and needling technique is a minimum of 200 hours. Physiotherapists, Chiropractors or any other health practitioners that practice Anatomical Acupuncture, Dry needling, Medical Acupuncture or IMS are limited to treating pain and neuropathy only. While Registered Acupuncturists who practice Traditional Acupuncture have a much wider scope of practice including: digestive disorders, respiratory conditions, hormone imbalance, insomnia, emotional issues, chronic pain, skin disorders and much more.
Traditional Acupuncture always treats the patient as a whole, conducting treatments that address the patient’s chief complaint(s), emotional state, and overall body constitution. With the goal to not only relieve symptoms but also to address the root of the problem.




What does my TCM diagnosis mean?


If you have been for an acupuncture treatment before you may have been told that you have "Liver Qi Stagnation", "Kidney Yang Deficiency" or "Heart Fire". Many clients leave an acupuncture treatment wondering if the fact that they have been told they have "Heart Fire" means that something is very wrong with their heart. The answer is no, not necessarily. Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient medicine that has been developed and practiced for thousands of years. This means that the language surrrounding a TCM diagnosis does not necessarily translate directly into how we understand the physical body today. TCM incorporates all levels of the body, mind and spirit in its diagnosis. A diagnosis of "Heart Fire" may be given to someone with a particular pattern of insomnia and a person with Liver Qi Stagnation may come for treatment to work on their susceptibility to anger. Though their is some overlap with our Western understanding of organ function, a TCM diagnosis encompasses much more than organ dysfunction. The diagnostic system that Acupuncturists use can detect very subtle imbalances in the body and the syndrome patterns given refer to the relative balance of yin and yang, heat and cold, location and direction of energy movement through the meridian pathways. If you are unsure about your TCM diagnosis please consult your practitioner.




Are there any side effects of recieving acupuncture?


The most common side effects of acupuncture are things everyone wants: better sleep, more energy, mental clarity, better digestion, less stress, reduced pain etc. Other individuals report that acupuncture makes them sleepy and this is a result of the body being put into a state of rest and relaxation, it is your body's way of signalling to you to take it easy for the day, have a hot bath and nurture yourself. Less frequent side effects may occur in some individuals. Bruising or soreness can occur around the area the needle was inserted (especially in individuals who bruise easily). This is nothing to be worried about and will usually go away quite quickly. Some people feel worse before they feel better, this is sometimes referred to as a healing crisis and is your body's reaction to change and movement in your body which usually passes quickly. Dizziness can be experienced by some and is usually a result of having not eaten before treatment (make sure you eat before treatment!) or having got up off of the treatment table too quickly. Lastly, sometimes individuals experience an emotional release when receiving acupuncture. Acupuncture stimulates the movement of qi in the body and can stir up old emotions. Most often, an emotional release is a very good sign that the acupunture is doing its job.




Do I need to have a particular ailment to receive acupuncture?


No, Acupuncture works at its very best when used as a preventative medicine. Many individuals choose to come for monthly acupuncture tune-ups to keep their body in tip top shape and to catch imbalances at their very early stages. Acupuncture can be a great addition to any wellness plan, especially during times of transition both in life and with the seasons.




What can I expect from my first treatment?


Your first appointment will usually last about 1.5 hours. I will ask you to fill out the online intake form prior to coming for treatment. It is recommended that you wear loose clothing and have eaten an hour or two before coming in for treatment. We will review the intake form together and discuss your past and current health history, your lifestyle and your goals for receiving acupuncture treatment. I will also ask if there are any questions you might have about your acupuncture treatment during this time. I will then take your pulse and look at your tongue to complete my diagnosis and treatment plan. Following our consultation we will begin our first acupuncture treatment in which I will insert very thin needles into various locations on the body and allow you to rest for about 30-40 minutes with the needles in place. Depending on your condition complementary therapies such as cupping, moxibustion or gua sha may be used as well. For first time patients, I will explain the treatment step by step as I proceed. The needles are then removed and we will discuss any lifestyle suggestions that are deemed appropriate for your specific condition.
For most people receiving treatment is quite relaxing. When the needle initially penetrates the skin, you will feel a small pinch. After the needle is inserted, I will stimulate it to encourage the arrival of Qi to that acupuncture point. The arrival of Qi may feel similar to a dull or heavy ache, a tingling, numbing or warmth sensation. As a practitioner, I am in constant communication with my patients about the level of comfort they are experiencing to ensure a pleasant and relaxing acupuncture experience.




What is cupping?


Cupping is a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to open the skin pores, stimulate blood flow, remove toxins and balance Qi. In a typical cupping session, glass cups are warmed using a cotton ball which is soaked in alcohol, lit on fire and then placed inside the cup. Burning a substance inside the cup removes all the oxygen, which creates a vacuum. The cup is turned upside-down so that the practitioner can place the cup over a specific area (usually on the back). The vacuum created by the lack of oxygen anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the glass as the air inside the jar cools. Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will be left in place from 5 to 10 minutes. Several cups may be placed on a patient’s body at the same time. Sometimes a small amount of oil will be applied to the skin just before the cupping procedure, which allows the practitioner to move the cups up and down over particular meridians after they have been applied.




What is moxibustion (moxa) ?


Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials called "moxa" are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influences. Moxa is usually made from the dried leafy material of Chinese mugwort (Artemesia argyi or A.vlugaris), but it can be made of other substances as well.




Is my file confidential?


Yes. Your treatment will be completely confidential. The information in your file will not be given out to anyone without your written permission.




Is your acupuncture studio wheelchair accessible?


Unfortunately given the limitations of a home based studio the space is not wheelchair accessible. If you have a mobility limitation and would like to be treated by Malakai please contact her about home visit options.





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