It is a common occurrence, as an Acupuncturist, to have people ask what acupuncture can and cannot treat. The simple answer is, if you have symptoms, acupuncture can almost always help! This article is going to examine what makes Acupuncture a unique approach to health care, and why that unique approach allows us to treat so many different illnesses, conditions, and concerns.

Making the individual person the focus of our treatments is one of the most important aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In other medical paradigms, the focus of treatment is the illness: what type of illness, which variation of the illness, how severe is the illness, how does this illness behave, et cetera. In TCM, we focus on how this particular individual ended up with these particular complaints; What is going on with this person mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually that has led them to seek me out for help?

This can give Acupuncturists a huge head-start in starting to help someone as we are not bound by test results and imagining studies in order to diagnose a patient, and/or begin appropriate treatment. Focusing on the illness can be troublesome if the illness in question is hard to diagnose, if it mimics other illnesses, if it is an uncommon or rare condition, if there is more than one illness the patient is coping with, or if the illness isn’t showing up on standard medical tests. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had patients tell me (often in tears) that they have been informed that “there is nothing wrong with you” because all of the tests they took came back clear. Talk about frustrating!

In TCM we diagnose and treat patterns of symptoms, so if a patient has symptoms, then there is a pattern to treat. For example, if a patient told me they were having digestive issues resulting in urgent trips to the bathroom every morning, accompanied by sharp cramping in their lower abdomen and a feeling of weakness in their lower back.… I would be able to go ahead and treat this patient without needing much more information. And, any additional information I might need would come straight from the patient. I wouldn’t need to rely on a Western diagnosis to begin treatment, which could be a huge benefit to the patient.

As Acupuncturists, we rely heavily on questioning our patients, observing their physical state and demeanour, reading their tongue, and reading their pulses in order to gain a full and clear understanding of their current state of health. We don’t need to send our patients for tests, or put them on a wait list for imaging, or rely on specialists to confirm or deny what we might already suspect is causing our patient’s discomfort. We have all the diagnostic tools we need so long as we have a patient to treat.

Now, don’t get me wrong! Imaging studies and medical tests are incredible medical tools! No matter how skilled an Acupuncturist I may be now or ever could hope to be, I will never be able to look through my patients’ skin and muscle to clearly view their bones or their nervous system- so, thank goodness for x-ray machines and CT scans! Likewise, I can’t look at someone’s tongue or read someone’s pulse and discover the same information you get from a blood test or a urine analysis….and those can be very valuable test to run! My point is simply that we are not reliant on these tools in order to gain the information we need to start helping our patients.

TCM is also wholistic in nature, which gives us another advantage over other modalities that focus only on one aspect of the person. The mind, body, and soul are all intrinsically connected and cannot be separated from one another. If you have ever been so stressed out that you felt nauseous, or if your never-ending back pain has ever put you in a terrible mood, then you are already aware of the intimate link between our physical selves and our non-physical selves.
In TCM, the link between the physical and non-physical is not just recognized as existing, it is honoured as being key to good health and well-being. Can we really say we have helped to restore someone’s health if we haven’t taken the entire person into account? Would you really feel “healthy” if your body was in great condition but you were suffering mentally or emotionally? Or if you were mentally and emotionally sound but suffering physically? Of course not!

So far I hope I’ve painted a clear picture of just how awesome TCM and Acupuncture are….but, it wouldn’t be a fair discussion if I didn’t make sure to mention that as amazing as acupuncture is, it is not a miracle cure-all. While there is very little that acupuncture cannot help, there are lots of conditions that it cannot “fix” or completely cure. Multiple Sclerosis is a great example: Acupuncture for MS can help relieve pain, increase mobility, help prolong periods of remission, it can relieve the emotional stress and frustration that often accompanies chronic illnesses, and generally help the person feel better. But! Acupuncture absolutely cannot cure someone of MS, no matter how educated or experienced the acupuncturist may be.

Likewise, any Registered Acupuncturist in B.C. is trained to recognize medical “red flags” – in other words, we are trained to recognize when TCM and acupuncture are no longer appropriate forms of treatment, and that the patient requires emergency Western medical intervention. For example, we are trained to know the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack, and when we have enough evidence to call 911 no matter what we think might be happening to our patient. Acupuncture is a truly amazing medical tool, but it is not always the most appropriate tool to use in any given situation. That being said, there is a lot an acupuncturist can do to help stabilize a patient while waiting for emergency intervention to arrive.

So, now we know that TCM is wholistic, it is not reliant on outside equipment or testing for diagnosis, and that it relies on identifying patterns of symptoms rather than specific illnesses, we can begin to see how acupuncture can be used to treat a wide array of conditions. You can use acupuncture for…

  • Digestive Complaints
  • Migraines and Headaches
  • Reproductive Health and Hormonal Imbalances
  • Fertility, Pregnancy, and Postpartum Support
  • Menstrual Pain and Dysfunction
  • Insomnia and Sleeping Difficulties
  • Stress, Anxiety, Frustration, Anger, Fear
  • PTSD, Trauma
  • General Mental and Emotional Well Being
  • Allergies, Stuffy Sinuses, Chronic Rhinitis
  • Physical Pain of All Kinds
  • Fatigue and Burn Out
  • Common Cold and Flu
  • Asthma and Respiratory Conditions
  • High Blood Pressure, Low Blood Pressure
  • General Cardiovascular Health
  • Dizziness and Vertigo
  • Stroke and Bell’s Palsy Recovery
  • Nerve Damage
  • Neurological Conditions
  • Edema, Water Retention, Swellings
  • TMJ and Teeth Grinding
  • Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue
  • Menopause, Hot Flashes, Night Sweating
  • Disharmony of the Five Senses
  • Foggy Thinking, Inability to Focus/Concentrate
  • Depression
  • Lack of Appetite, Weight Loss
  • Addictions Management
  • And just about anything else you can think of…….

So, the next time you wonder to yourself, “Can you use acupuncture for…..”, the answer is most likely a resounding YES! If you still aren’t sure if acupuncture is right for you, feel free to book a 15 minute free consultation with one of our Acupuncturists.

-Written by Caroline O’Hara, Registered Acupuncturist at Remedy