Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles through the skin at specific points to treat various health problems.
Based on research from controlled clinical trials, the World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for over 100 medical conditions including:
Acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) body pain
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
Dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Male sexual dysfunction
Recurrent urinary-tract infection
According to Chinese philosophy, our physical health is dependent on the balanced flow of Qi (energy), the universal life force. The smooth flow of energy can be disturbed by a number of factors including:
outside influences such as:
Based on practical clinical experience since prehistoric times, the Chinese people have evolved a complex theoretical framework to restore the balance of the flow of Qi. A trained acupuncturist is guided by this framework and inserts needles into energy channels called meridians. By doing so, an acupuncturist aims to stimulate the body's own healing power to restore the innate equilibrium and harmonious state of balance. This balance of the physical and emotional aspects of a person constitutes good health and wellbeing. There is no set number of treatments required to treat any given disorder; each person responds differently. The practitioner will discuss how you felt after each visit and re-evaluate then.
Acupuncture has been practiced in China and the Far East for thousands of years as an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is a safe and effective system of healing that can be used to treat people of all ages with a wide range of illnesses.
Acupuncture needles are very different to the hypodermic needles used for medical procedures, such as vaccinations. Hypodermic needles are thick and hollow since they must remove or inject fluid, whereas acupuncture needles are thin, solid and not designed to be inserted deeply into the skin. Sterilized, one-use, disposable, surgical-grade stainless steel needles are always used.
Acupuncture needles are very thin (usually 0.14 mm to 0.30 mm in diameter) and are inserted no more than 15 mm to 25 mm into the body. These needles come in a pre-sterilized sealed package and are discarded after the first use.
Does it hurt?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most people do not find acupuncture painful, as the needles are very thin. Many describe it as relaxing and fall asleep during treatment. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; most feel no pain at all. Any discomfort is usually minimal and brief. After the needle is inserted you may feel one or more of the following various sensations: (These feelings are all desirable and normal)
nothing at all
Will you work with my doctor?
With your consent, we will share information regarding your care with your doctor or other healthcare professionals. Acupuncture can help people who have not been successfully treated using conventional western medicine.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments varies from person to person. Most health conditions take more than one treatment to be resolved. It depends on many factors including duration and severity of the complaint. For example, if your condition is acute (short-term), 2-5 treatments may completely resolve symptoms. However, if you have been dealing with your symptoms for many years, addressing them effectively will take longer. As your health improves, visits can be reduced.
Is acupuncture covered by OHIP?
OHIP does not cover acupuncture, however, many extended health insurance benefits do cover acupuncture treatments. Contact your insurance provider to obtain details on the extent and conditions of coverage.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient art/science that is currently used in over 90 different countries around the world and provides improved health to about 2 billion people. It is currently the 2nd largest medical system in the world.
“As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of my greatest achievements is providing relief for people suffering with chronic, stubborn, difficult to treat illnesses. By using the TCM theories and treatments that have been established over the past 2,000 years, I regularly achieve this goal. In my experience, Chinese Medicine provides great insight into many health problems not addressed completely or satisfactorily by modern medicine.” (Rob Helmer)
TCM is a non-invasive healing modality that facilitates the body’s natural ability to heal itself by restoring harmony and balance to the entire individual. This time-tested professional medicine treats and assesses each person as a unique individual, therefore, treating the cause of the disease instead of just the symptoms.
Some Chronic Health Problems That TCM Treats Effectively:
Premenstrual Syndrome/Painful Periods
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The conditions listed above are just some examples of those to which Chinese Medicine offers substantial clinical benefits for patients who have been unresponsive to other forms of treatment. The TCM treatment of these diseases very rarely has side-effects, and is often curative, not palliative, as it aims to eliminate the pathology of the disease instead of controlling or suppressing the symptoms. In most chronic diseases, modern medicine can at best, only offer temporary symptomatic relief using various medications. Unfortunately, modern treatments also offer possible side-effects, either repeated or long-term.
What to expect at an appointment:
Rob will gather information about your medical health history and family health history. In addition, he will record any medications currently taken, and any current symptoms by inquiring about your energy levels, sleep patterns, appetite, thirst, sweating, chills or fever, and any complaints of body pains, bowel habits, urine, and menstruation.
Listening and Smelling: Rob will listen to the sound of your breathing, voice, and the quality of cough. He will also observe any breath odour.
Touching: Rob will perform a palpation of the body to discover body temperature, body moisture, pain, and strategic acupuncture points.
Tongue Diagnosis: Rob will make observations of your tongue by examining the colour, coating, and shape. He will also observe your face, eyes, etc.
Pulse Diagnosis: Rob will take your pulse. This is an important aspect of diagnosing illness, and in some cases, can indicate a problem or weakness before symptoms occur. Each wrist has three positions along the radial artery that represent each organ of the body. There are 28 different pulse characteristics pertaining to position, depth, rate, width, strength, quality, and rhythm.
Diagnosis and Treatment Plan
Diagnosis combines a detailed analysis of signs and symptoms with the unique system of pulse and tongue assessment to develop a detailed picture of the course and process of disease. Based on this, Rob will provide a TCM diagnosis on the imbalance in the body using the theories of yin and yang and the five elements.
A detailed explanation of the diagnosis will be given to you and you will be given Chinese Herbal medicine or acupuncture to remove what is excessive and/or replenish what is deficient in the body.
Patients who are unwell are delighted when they see how quickly they benefit from this practical, logical, and time-tested medicine. TCM is user-friendly, gentle, and free from side-effects, making it an excellent option and a wise decision to treat your chronic health problem.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the five causes of all illness and imbalance in the human body are:
constitution (i.e. genetics)
is a regulated health profession, just like massage therapy, which means that we are bound by the Ontario government to do no harm to the public by being highly educated, using an evidence-based practice, and following strict standards of practice
is a style of Chinese medicine taught at 30 provincial medical colleges in China
is the oldest, continuously practised professional medicine in the world
has approximately 30,000 volumes of existing Chinese medical literature written before the 20th century and thousands since then
journals in China publish 100,000 TCM articles per year. Most of these articles are clinical audits on the effectiveness of certain treatments for certain diseases.
is a highly sophisticated, literate medicine
treats and assesses each person as a unique individual (not based entirely on a disease or symptom)
Allergic rhinitis affects 10–20% of the population, and evidence suggests that the prevalence of the disorder is increasing. South of the border, Americans spend over $3 billion annually on prescribed antihistamines. Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of this condition has risen dramatically in industrialized countries, with England, Sweden, and Australia reporting a doubling in rate. This is a trend similar to that which is witnessed with other allergic conditions such as eczema and asthma.
While this disease is not life-threatening, it is definitely life-altering and, if left uncontrolled, allergic rhinitis can seriously impair a person’s quality of life. Research shows that allergic rhinitis interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform tasks and results in ten million lost days of school or work every year (in the U.S.). Depending on the individual, allergy season will begin in early spring and last through to the first major frost of autumn. So depending on where you live in Canada, you could suffer with allergies from March to November every year.
Allergic rhinitis literally means “allergic nose inflammation.” Rhino means “to do with the nose” and “-itis” simply refers to inflammation. Allergic rhinitis is further defined as an inflammation of the nasal mucosa which is triggered by an allergic reaction. People with a family history of allergies are more likely to develop allergic rhinitis, particularly those individuals with other atopic (allergy-related) conditions, such as eczema and asthma. The onset of allergic rhinitis is common in childhood, adolescence, and the early adult years. Though the average age of allergic rhinitis onset is 8-11 years, it may occur at any age. In 80% of cases, allergic rhinitis develops by 20 years of age. Allergic rhinitis occurs in all races and in both genders (though more common in boys during childhood).
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
– itching of the nose, mouth/palate, eyes, throat, skin, or ears
– clear runny nose (rhinitis)
– impaired sense of smell
– sneezing (may be frequent, prolonged and violent)
– nasal congestion
– increased tearing
– post-nasal drip
– persistent cough (often rattling)
– sore throat
– crease across the top of the nose from constant wiping
– dark circles under eyes
– edematous nasal mucosa (usually pale or violet in colour)
SEASONAL AND PERENNIAL RHINITIS
There are two categories of allergic rhinitis: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) is commonly known as “hay fever.” Despite its name, hay fever is almost never caused by hay and this medical condition does not cause an elevation in body temperature. The term “hay fever” originated in England in the early 1800s when doctors noticed that some rural residents experienced sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing after being exposed to cut hay or grass. This condition was also dubbed a “fever” because it caused nervousness which is one of the old English definitions of fever.
In seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), an allergen initiates symptoms around the same time each year. Spring attacks are usually due to tree pollen. Grass pollens dominate in the summer and weed pollens in the autumn. Most people with allergic rhinitis are sensitive to more than one allergen. On the other hand, perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR) occurs year-round. This condition is most common in people with allergies all year round. Naturally, people who are allergic to house dust mites or their own pets tend to suffer regardless of the season.
SAR is distinguished from PAR by determining whether the allergic rhinitis is present during the same time every year. Moreover, while SAR induces red eyes, perennial rhinitis tends to ignore the eye area. SAR can also cause a minor blockage of the ears. Additional symptoms of allergic rhinitis include headache, irritability, loss of sleep and fatigue. Unfortunately, the above symptoms interfere with cognitive tasks, therefore impairing work performance and resulting in work absences.
CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE
As a result of modern medicine’s inability to provide an effective long-term treatment for allergic rhinitis, many sufferers turn to Chinese medicine, which offers both immediate and lasting results.
Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the most sophisticated herbal medicine systems in the world. Typically, combinations of 10-16 ingredients are used in formulas correlated to an individual’s pattern of disharmony. The formulas are crafted together to act synergistically and every ingredient is designed to accomplish a part of the overall process of restoring balance.
Chinese herbs include roots, barks, fruits, berries, twigs, stems, leaves and flowers from the plant kingdom. As well, Chinese herbs may also encompass ingredients from the animal and mineral kingdoms. Chinese herbal medicine is great for both the preventive and remedial treatment of illnesses. There are a number of formulas that have been used by Chinese doctors for 2,000 years. Preventive herbal formulas may be used to treat acute symptoms of allergic rhinitis as well as for the prevention of onset prior to allergy season. The dosage and type of formula is modified as the person’s illness changes.
There are a number of ways that Chinese herbal medicine can be dispensed for children. There are pills, powders, tinctures and teas. In clinical practice I prefer to use the traditional method of tea decocted from raw herbs. When prescribed and dispensed by a qualified practitioner of TCM, Chinese herbal medicine is safe with no side effects.
Over the last 23 years I have discovered effecting ways of treating allergic rhinitis in my clinical practice based on classical formulas.
I assert that the traditional protocols taught in TCM colleges neglect the fundamental importance of clearing heat. This theory was developed as a result of my own clinical experience which found that patients with allergic rhinitis usually (if not always) possess an underlying “hot” constitution. The observation of this underlying constitution led me to be very hesitant when it came to applying the most common “textbook” treatments. As a result, I continued to search for an effective treatment which was influenced by Dr. Zhu who is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Hangzhou, China. Ultimately, this approach to treating allergic rhinitis often achieves satisfactory results in a very short period of time. Please note that, in stubborn or severe cases, I also rely on the use of acupuncture and/or external herbal nose drops for symptomatic relief.
In treatment of acute allergic rhinitis, heat and phlegm / dampness are two key elements that must be addressed. The “hot” constitution experienced in my allergic rhinitis patients brought me to the conclusion that clearing heat was important. As I delved further into this notion using the theories of Chinese medicine, I found support for my theory.
As mentioned earlier, patients with allergic rhinitis often experience a history of other atopic diseases, such as urticaria, asthma, and/or eczema. In clinical practice, these conditions (especially eczema and asthma) typically manifest with an accompanying element of heat.
Concerning children, heat patterns are increasingly evident due to their “pure yang constitution,” causing depression to transform into heat more easily. Moreover, heat patterns in general (for most diseases) are commonly found in the Western i.e. modern patient population due to diet, lifestyle, and stress. Ultimately, the age of the patients who commonly suffer from allergic rhinitis is of fundamental importance when considering the dispelling of heat. For instance, the prevalence of allergic rhinitis has been reported to be as high as 40% in children (who have more yang) and less likely in the elderly. This observation is very simplistic, yet its importance must not be disregarded.
Phlegm-dampness is also a key component of allergic rhinitis. Pathological fluid is also a key component of both asthma (phlegm) and eczema (dampness). There are two statements of fact in Chinese medicine that are important to consider when treating allergic rhinitis: “In children, the spleen is insufficient,” and, “The spleen is the source of phlegm production.” Phlegm and dampness are key components of many childhood diseases. In relation to adults, the spleen is often weak due to an improper diet and lack of physical exercise. Although phlegm-dampness is not mentioned as a distinct pattern of allergic rhinitis in textbooks, many TCM practitioners believe that allergic rhinitis (like asthma) does not exist without “hidden phlegm.”
All Chinese medical practitioners concur that, if you have allergic rhinitis, you also have weakened defensive qi. This weakness of the body’s defensive qi or weak immunity allows for an external pathogen to enter the body. Therefore, an individual with allergic rhinitis presents a mixed vacuity-repletion presentation. To treat this disease, you must address both mixed vacuity-repletion simultaneously. What follows is one case example of how a child with severe allergic rhinitis was successfully treated by combining the TCM theories of clearing heat, resolving dampness, supplementing the qi and securing the exterior at the same time as addressing the main symptoms:
Patient: Jason, age 15.
Main complaint: Severe seasonal allergic rhinitis for the last three years.
The patient presented the following hay fever symptoms: itchy watery eyes (he continuously rubbed his eyes during the visit), runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy throat, sneezing, coughing, and nosebleeds. These symptoms severely affected his sleep and daily activities (especially his school work). Kevin was taking prescription medications internally as well as a nasal spray and eye drops prior to the initial visit but experienced limited success. This patient also had a history of other atopic diseases including urticaria and eczema. In addition, David was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder in 2002 but was not currently taking any medication. The patient also had abdominal pain and cramping, bowel movements every other day, excessive weight, and a history of neck and back pain (effectively treated by massage therapy). His pulse was slippery and his tongue was pale and swollen with red dots on the sides and tip.
Diagnosis: Phlegm-dampness and heat obstructing the nose and an underlying spleen-lung (defensive) qi vacuity.
Treatment: Clear heat and resolve phlegm-dampness, dispel wind and open the nose, supplement the spleen and lungs.
Results: The patient was prescribed a customized Chinese herbal formula and within three days, the patient’s allergic rhinitis symptoms were reduced by 50%. He had regular bowel movements and no abdominal discomfort. After three weeks of treatment, Kevin’s condition was resolved completely. Follow-up one year later showed no significant recurrence
Asthma affects people all over the world and of all ages – in Canada, it is the third-most common chronic disease (behind only arthritis and hypertension).
Our clinic offers acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine services, and these forms of medicine have a long and successful history of treating asthma effectively. The empirical success of these therapies is also supported by modern research and Rob’s own clinical experience.
These modalities are used by both adults and children and can be used in conjunction. They are often used as an alternative to an individual’s current asthma medication. The treatments he provides are customized to manage and treat all types of asthma including: allergic, exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB), reactive airway disease (i.e., asthma that only occurs during colds) and miscellaneous types (heartburn or reflux asthma and stress-induced asthma).
Rob has completed post-graduate training in the treatment of asthma using Traditional Chinese Medicine and is committed to improving and maintaining high standards of care in the area of respiratory health, as well as sharing this wealth of knowledge with others.
On the Rise
There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of asthma in the late twentieth century and it is now the most common serious chronic illness in children.
Asthma affects more people throughout the world, particularly in more developed countries, than at any other time in evolution and it is estimated that 100 to 150 million people in the world are now affected by it, but it is not a recent phenomenon. The highest incidence of this disease appears in the - UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of Ireland followed by North, Central, and South America. [1998 International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC)].
At present, almost 3 million Canadians are living with asthma, or roughly 9.5% of the total population of Canada. In 2005, 8.3% of Canadians ages 12 and older had asthma. In 2000, almost 16% of children age 4 to 11 had asthma.
Nine percent of US children below 18 years of age had asthma in 2001, compared with just 3.6% in 1980. In addition, 8% of the Swiss population suffers from asthma today, compared with just 2% some 25–30 years ago. Other reports, suggest that the incidence of asthma in Western Europe has doubled in the last ten years
Globally, asthma is responsible for around 180,000 deaths annually. Some children outgrow their asthma and half of these children will see a lessening of their symptoms as they move into adolescence. Unfortunately, fifty percent of this group will see their asthma return, often when they are in their 30s and 40’s.
Does Modern Medicine Treat Asthma Effectively?
According to modern medical research the majority of adult’s and children’s asthma is NOT under control! Poorly controlled asthma leads to an increase in asthmatic symptoms during the day and night, absenteeism (i.e. school or social engagements), exacerbations (i.e. more frequent acute attacks), an increased need for 'rescue' medication, and a lower tolerance for physical activity. Poorly controlled asthma is a burden to the asthma sufferers and their family as well as healthcare systems as these patients are more likely to require urgent care and hospitalization. Although statistics show that more than 50% of these children are suffering with poorly controlled asthma, 88% of parents continue to believe their child's asthma is controlled 'very well'. Moreover, 77% of general physicians and 90% of specialists surveyed also believe their asthma patients are optimally controlled even though statistics demonstrate otherwise. Ultimately, improperly treated asthma may lead to a lifetime of asthma.
Asthma and TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] is a form of Asian medicine that is the oldest and second largest medical system in the world today. TCM is currently used by 1/4 of the entire world's population in over 90 different countries. TCM is a non-invasive healing modality that facilitates the body's natural ability to heal itself by restoring harmony and balance to the entire individual. This time-tested professional medicine treats and assesses each child as an individual therefore treating the cause of the disease instead of just the symptoms.
The current TCM approach to the treatment of asthma was first discussed in great detail by a famous TCM doctor named Zhu Dan-xi (approximately 600 years ago). Since this time, the treatment of this disease has been refined and improved upon by many generations of Chinese doctors. The most important modalities used in the treatment of asthma with TCM are Chinese Herbal Medicine and acupuncture.