How to Choose?

In places like here in Toronto, Ontario, finding an Acupuncturist or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner can be a daunting task,   You might have some questions.

  • What can acupuncture and Chinese medicine treat?
  • How does acupuncture and Chinese medicine work?
  • Does acupuncture hurt?
  • Will I bleed?  You are working with needles after all.
  • How long will it take to see results?
  • What is the difference between an Acupuncturist, a Chinese Medicine Practitioner and a Chinese Medicine Doctor?
  • What is the difference between seeing an Acupuncturist and seeing someone who practices acupuncture like a Chiropractor, Naturopath, Massage Therapist, or Physiotherapist?
  • How do I know who is qualified?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How do I know which practitioner to choose?
  • What types of questions can I ask a practitioner to ensure I will be getting the care I require?

All of these are very good questions, let’s take them one by one.

What can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine treat?

When most people think of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, they think about pain relief.  Many people who have had acupuncture will tell a story of how acupuncture cured their back pain, relieved their headaches, or unfroze their shoulder.  And they’re right, Chinese medicine is excellent for relieving pain conditions.  But what people don’t know is that it can help with emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, gynecological disorders such as infertility and menopause symptoms, skin disorders like acne, psoriasis or eczema, sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, addictions, and many more.  It can even be used in conjunction with radiation or chemotherapy to help moderate their side effects, it can even be used cosmetically for improving skin tone and texture – safely and naturally.  If you have any questions about treating a specific disease, please contact us to see how Chinese medicine can help.

How does Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine work?

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine helps the body to help itself.  Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific acupuncture points along meridians that stimulate their related organs and meridians to either give more energy or take some energy away in order to relieve any uncomfortable symptoms you might have.  Herbal teas or remedies influence the body to behave in a wse Medicine Worksay that restores a metabolic balance within the body.  For more information please see our blog post on What Chinese Medicine Is and How Chinese Medicine Works.

Does Acupuncture hurt?

A tricky question, the best answer is yes and no.  When an acupuncture needle is inserted there can be a ‘sensation.’  For the first time acupuncture patient, this can be interpreted as pain since the body has never felt this type of sensation before, but after the first needle or so the body can classify the sensation more accurately.  Sensations might include a small pinch, a slight burning, a little ticklish, pressure, distention, like something radiating in the area, and occasionally a small shock like sensation.  So, is there pain?  Typically there isn’t, though sometimes there is a sensation that comes along with the insertion of a needle.  Often times there is no feeling at all

A note on needles:  practitioners should only be using one time use needles, they come pre-sterilized.  As a process of good practice, needles should not be re-sterilized and reused.  The needles that are used are a fraction of a millimeter thick, generally ¼ of a millimeter or less and are filiform (solid – no hole in the middle).  This is compared to a syringe.


Will I bleed?  You are working with needles after all…

Every once in a while you might have an acupuncture point bleed a little after the withdrawal of a needle.  Typically not more blood than a small drop.  According to Chinese Medicine, bleeding out of a point releases heat and stagnation from the body.  There is no need to be alarmed, even if you have a tiny bruise for a couple of days after.  That being said, if you bruise or bleed easily, your Chinese medicine practitioner should be advised.

How long until I see results?

Another tricky question.  Results vary.  Generally, if you are seeking to address an acute condition or a condition that you’ve only had for a short time you should see results faster, maybe even in one or two treatments.  If you choose treatment for a chronic condition or a condition you have had for a long time, results tend to come slower.  You should see some changes in your overall chronic condition in about 6-10 weeks with regular weekly visits.  There are many factors that go into healing the body from underlying conditions to emotional states and changes, to diet and lifestyle, making it difficult to make any accurate predictions on how quickly a condition can be treated.

How to choose between an Acupuncturist (R.Ac) and a Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP)

Since regulation, there are only two designations that are allowed.

The general difference between these three is the level of education and type of medicine practiced.  Acupuncturists provide full acupuncture treatment and may choose to provide some diet or lifestyle counseling.  Generally their education includes 2-3 years of full time instruction.  A Chinese Medicine Practitioner provides full acupuncture treatment, diet and lifestyle counseling and herbal treatments.  Their education includes 3-4 years of full time instruction.

Although this is no longer a usable title, those who used to be referred to as a Chinese Medicine Doctor, along with providing full acupuncture treatments, diet and lifestyle counseling, and herbal treatments has education in the classical Traditional Chinese Medicine textbooks and also integrating Chinese and western medicine.

A note on the Chinese Medicine Doctor title: as of now, Ontario does not recognize the title of Doctor of Chinese Medicine and it may be quite a few years until they do.  In the spring of 2013 there should be regulated titles in place for Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine Practitioners.  That being said, some practitioners educated in China, the United States, or even in British Columbia who have received diplomas and passed regulating exams and choose to use the title of Doctor in a way that a Chiropractor or Naturopath might.  There are practitioners in Ontario though, whose education is that of – or surpasses the educational requirements to become a Doctor of Chinese Medicine in China, British Columbia or the United States.  Even if their educational requirements are fulfilled in Ontario, the title may not be used.  It is best to speak to your (potential) practitioner about their level of education.

What is the difference between seeing an Acupuncturist and seeing someone who practices acupuncture like a Chiropractor, Naturopath, Massage Therapist, or Physiotherapist?

As stated above, an Acupuncturist should have 2-3 years of education and be well versed in Chinese Medicine terminology and diagnosis.  There may be a few alternative healthcare practitioners that have completed such courses, though their acupuncture education is generally not as long and geared towards resolving musculoskeletal pain.  Acupuncturists can help with a wide variety of conditions, please see the first question of this post for further details.

How do I know if the Practitioner or Acupuncturist is qualified?

A qualified practitioner should have some sort of educational diploma or certificate.  But this is not always the case.  InChina, many doctors passed their knowledge down from generation to generation within the family.  This does not mean that their knowledge is less seeing as they have grown up surrounded with Chinese medicine as a way of life – it is just different.  The best thing that you can do is to ask.

When it comes time for Ontario to have Acupuncturists and Practitioners licensed there will be a certain amount of time allowed for grandfathering in practitioners that have been practicing for a certain amount of time and meet the other requirements set out by the province, in which case they will not have to write the licensing exams.

How much does it cost?

Here again, it is difficult to say.  There are practices in Ontario that charge as little as $20 for an acupuncture treatment and some that charge closer to $200 per treatment.  Some charge extra for the use of heat lamps or ear seeds, while some include it in the price.  Generally the price ranges from $60 to $100.  But isn’t that expensive!?  Depending on what is included in the treatment, how much time the practitioner spends with you, the level of your practitioner’s education, their level of experience, and how much you’re getting out of the treatment, more than likely it is a pretty good price!  Keep in mind that to have one ultrasound done in the United States (for those without insurance) often costs about $750!

How do I know which practitioner to use?

Based on the above information, you should be able to choose a qualified practitioner.  Ask your potential practitioner questions about their level or type of education, their area of expertise, or anything else you might be concerned about.  Tell them a little about what condition you would like to work on and ask them if they can help.

What types of questions can I ask a practitioner to ensure I will be getting the care I require?

  • What type of education do you have?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What is your area of expertise or interest?
  • Have you ever treated my condition before?
  • Are you a member of any Chinese medicine associations?
  • Anything else that will make you feel comfortable with the practitioner.

If you have any other questions or concerns about Traditional Chinese Medicine, Herbs, Acupuncture, treatments or treatment methods, please do not hesitate to contact us.   We are more than happy to speak with you and answer and questions you may have in order to choose what is best for you.

Caroline Prodoehl, R.TCMP