How is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture different from Dry Needling, IMS and other musculo-skeletal acupuncture treatment methods?

“Acupuncture” is defined as the stimulation of designated points on the body, with fine, sterile, needles to elicit a healing response. Acupuncture as we know it today is used around the world and has evolved to include many needling methods, but was originally developed in China around 5000 years ago as part of a sophisticated system of medicine that also includes nutrition, botanical medicine, tai chi and qi gong, massage and other forms of bodywork, and a complex and holistic understanding of our bodies and health. In modern practice, Registered TCM Acupuncturists treat hundreds of conditions – including injury and pain, internal medicine, mental health, and addictions – following both the traditional East Asian and modern allopathic understandings of medicine.

Today, several kinds of health practitioners – including Medical Doctors, Physiotherapists, Naturopaths, Chiropractors, and even Registered Nurses some areas – can obtain training and certification in specific forms of needling. These needling techniques may be called Dry Needling, Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) or acupuncture. They are valuable additions to the wide variety of therapeutic options these practitioners can bring to your overall treatment plan. They are limited forms of acupuncture, in that a smaller number of acupuncture points and their actions and indications are taught to non TCM practitioners, and the focus is more about directing healing specifically to an injured or painful area of the body, whereas the broader TCM approach also encompasses potential emotional, psychological, environmental, and underlying constitutional factors that can play a part in any presenting set of symptoms.

A TCM Acupuncturist has extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of pain, mental health, and internal medicine according to both traditional East Asian and modern allopathic principals. They are also trained in pattern identification, with a focus on identifying underlying patterns to prevent further disease progression. When you visit a TCM Acupuncturist, you will be assessed and treated not just for your specific complaint (ie. an area of pain or injury, or symptoms like stress, insomnia, or digestive troubles) but any root cause that may have paved the way for your issue to manifest, may contribute to symptoms or inhibit healing, or may bring future complications. A TCM practitioner can also advise with regards to nutrition, botanical medicine, and lifestyle factors to support you in your healing.

How do I know if acupuncture, dry needling or IMS will work?

Some people feel they have tried acupuncture, dry needling, or IMS and they didn’t like it or it didn’t work. It is possible that the method used wasn’t the best fit for your situation, in which case the good news is that there are other options to choose from. It is also possible that the treatment method wasn’t correct for your particular situation, or that there weren’t enough treatments to sufficiently address the issue. Acupuncture can be beneficial for all people of any age, race, or religion, from babies to elders, for serious issues or ongoing maintenance. However, it is not a miracle or magic. Nowadays, we are offered prescription and over the counter drugs that mask symptoms and act as a quick fix without addressing the underlying cause. We may feel better, but are we truly better? Unchecked conditions often crop up later as something more serious. Most of the time our condition, whatever it is, didn’t arrive overnight. True healing takes time, patience, dedication, and sometimes a willingness to make changes to things like diet or lifestyle. Acupuncture isn’t able to change our environment for us, and it can’t necessarily reverse a diagnosis, but it can give our bodies a significant boost in our own healing. This is helpful to anyone, but how much it helps depends on several factors, such as what the problem is, how long it has been there, and what kinds of conditions around us influence our ability to recover or re-injure. Nevertheless, we all have the same parts, more or less, and we all have the same wiring. We all have the ability to heal.

How do I know which is right for me?

There is unmeasurable value in the decision to seek support in any healing journey, no matter what the issue or the modality. And there is healing potential with any therapeutic method provided by a qualified, accredited practitioner. If you are already under the care of a physiotherapist or one of the other kinds of practitioners that can also offer needling, this will be one of a great many tools in their toolkit, one part of an integrated healing approach, with the added advantage of that practitioner’s vast training and experience in their field.

If you feel that a holistic understanding of your condition and overall health using a lens that combines complex physical, mental and emotional aspects is suited to you, if you have an internal health issue that is beyond the scope of another practitioner, if you are looking for complimentary care involving a team of providers, if you are seeking herbal and nutritional support, if you have tried other forms of therapy without success, or if you are simply curious about what Traditional Chinese Medicine can offer, then you may want to consider consulting with a Registered Acupuncturist to see how TCM can serve you.