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What is Acupuncture?

Dr. Kaitlyn Jacklin, DC.
May 29, 2024

You may have heard about different forms of acupuncture, or needle use as a therapeutic

modality. There are three main ideologies for therapeutic needling: traditional Chinese

acupuncture, electrical stimulation, and dry needling.

Traditional Chinese Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese acupuncture relies on specific combinations of points out of the possible

365 points along 14 meridians. This practice is often delivered by an Acupuncturist, someone

who has gone to school to learn about traditional Chinese medicine with over 2,000 hours of

practical training. Traditional acupuncture principles follow rigid guidelines for needle

placement according to points mapped along meridians that course through the body. Needles

are inserted along meridians to direct the flow of Qi or energy through the body to stimulate

the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Electrical Stimulation Acupuncture

Needling with electrical stimulation uses a variety of techniques. Needles are inserted

surrounding the painful tissue and low frequency electricity is applied for general analgesia

causing an endorphin release that takes up to 45 minutes to feel the effect. Higher frequency

might be used for a faster release of endorphins. Individual needles might be stimulated using a

pen-like device that helps to release trigger points and facilitate motor nerves.

Dry Needling Acupuncture

Dry needling is more anatomical based and focuses on needle placement according to points

where limitations and pain is focused. Your practitioner will assess movement patterns, muscle

tension and joint mobility to determine where these restrictions are. Needles are inserted into

the tissues as needed and are sometimes only left for a few seconds. The practitioner might

manipulate the needle, pulling it part way out and inserting it back in a different direction to

break up adhesions and scar tissue that might be causing the restrictions.

There are many ways to use acupuncture needles. I practice functional integrated acupuncture

which is an integration of various acupuncture and dry needling techniques that are combined

in a systematic way. It utilizes scientific understanding of local and central effects of pain and

dysfunction and incorporates strategies to normalize them. Targets for this practice include

muscles trigger points, peripheral nerves, and other soft tissue targets such as ligaments or

joint capsules. Needle insertion results in vasodilation or increase in oxygen to the tissues, and

receptors are activated resulting in a local reflex of muscle relaxation and pain modulation.

What are other benefits of acupuncture?

Needling can also cause central nervous system effects – calming the sympathetic nervous

system. The sympathetic nervous system is our ‘fight or flight’ system that keeps our body in a

state of high stress to react to life-threatening situations. Pain, especially when it becomes

chronic, can cause this system to go into hyperdrive. Needling can calm this to create benefits

such as better sleep, better food choices, and better social behaviour.

What does an acupuncture treatment look like?

Depending on the soft tissue target, the treatment will last a few seconds to 20minutes. The

skin of the treatment area must be exposed and sanitized. Single use needles are inserted into

the tissue and manipulated as appropriate according to your treatment plan. You might feel

sore the day of the treatment, but you might also feel immediate effects of pain relief or

increased mobility. Heat application can be done to soothe any persistent aches. Depending on

the chronicity of your pain, you might need 1-10 treatments to get your nervous system calmed

down and pain relieved. As a chiropractor, often I will also provide a manual treatment after

using needling techniques to stretch the tissues and address any joint restrictions I might have


If you think you might benefit from an acupuncture appointment, book with me here.

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