What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medical treatment which involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body (along certain pathways called meridians) that connects nerves, muscles and organs to affect the body’s blood flow.

How does acupuncture work?

The insertion of the acupuncture needle creates a positive physiological response in the body. Depending on where and how the needles are inserted, various outcomes can benefit the patient. Needles are strategically inserted to achieve the desired physiological effect which may include: the release of endorphins to relieve pain and alleviate stress; reduced inflammation of swollen tissues by vasodilating blood vessels; increased nerve conduction and healthier cerebral blood circulation; improved immune system; improved digestion; and even improved hormonal balance to assist with fertility.

How has Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture evolved?

The Chinese medical system has existed for 5,000 years. Its scope involves acupuncture, herbal medicinals, Tuina Massage, and Qi Gong meditative breathing techniques. The physiological effects of these treatments, including acupuncture, have been meticulously documented throughout the millennia. As with Western medicine, acupuncture began with the dissection of cadavers. Like pharmacological medicine, Chinese medicine has been used to understand the proper dosages of plants with which to treat common colds and manage pain, stress, immune and digestive disorders. Acupuncture needles have evolved from a stone needle, to hair-thin steel needles that are sterile, disposable, smooth, and virtually pain free during insertion. In 1996, acupuncture needles were classified as Class 2 Medical devices by the FDA’s Department of Health and Human Services. Historically, acupuncture was used to treat injury on the battlefield. Today, it is considered a sophisticated medical treatment used in all major sport leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MMA, and on marathon and tri-athletes. Acupuncture is now practiced all over the world, in every Asian country and also in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2004, a survey of over 3,000 insurance firms recorded that 50% of the firms offered some type of acupuncture insurance or benefit coverage. There is still much greater opportunity for the wider application of acupuncture.

Are there different acupuncture systems?

There are several complete acupuncture systems that have branched from the original Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of acupuncture. Whilst all use the essential principles of TCM, there are differences to be aware of. The following is a brief description of some of the more common systems.

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  • TCM acupuncture

  • The original system that has developed over 5,000 years and is considered one of the first holistic medical systems in the world due to its focus on balancing the body’s organ systems as well as treating specific ailments.
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  • Japanese acupuncture

  • The Japanese system has evolved over the last 1,500 years and is characterized by light needling and the use of fewer needles. Clayton Shiu has had extensive training in Japanese acupuncture with the most prominent teachers in the U.S. and Japan.
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  • Korean acupuncture

  • The system is based on the relationship of specific hand points that affect the whole body.
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  • Acupuncture sports and orthopedic system, neuromuscular acupuncture, sports medicine acupuncture

  • These systems focus on understanding the source of injury, repairing affected tissue, as well as improving the patient’s mobility and sports performance. Targeting the muscles, tendons, and connective tissue related to the peripheral nervous system (PNS), these styles combine Western medicine terminology and sports training concepts with advanced acupuncture needling techniques. Clayton has studied under the most prominent American sports acupuncture educators.
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  • Dry needling

  • In recent years dry needling has developed as a subcategory of acupuncture in the physical therapy profession to treat pain. Although dry needling utilizes specialized Chinese acupuncture needles, it is a relatively new technique that is not yet well-researched and therefore is not considered an advanced form of needling by certified TCM practitioners. Dry needling certification courses require about 30 hours of training as opposed to the Master of Science of Traditional Oriental Medicine which requires approximately 2,000 hours of clinical training.
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  • Medical acupuncture

  • The system is a certification course that allows a Western Medical Doctor (MD) to provide acupuncture care. It is recommended that the MD is certified under the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) as it requires a minimum of 200 hours of training as opposed to the Master of Science of Traditional Oriental Medicine which requires approximately 2,000 hours of clinical training.
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  • Xing Nao Kai Qiao (XNKQ) Stroke Therapy Acupuncture System

  • The system is a complete method that has been researched over the last 50 years to treat stroke disorders. Unlike the acupuncture sports orthopedic systems which focuses on the peripheral nervous system, the XNKQ system can specifically be applied to central nervous system diseases. It is now being researched and applied to other cerebral disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS.

What does an acupuncture session entail?

The acupuncturist typically begins with an exploratory process where the patient’s first chief complaint is assessed and its root causes are determined in addition to its symptoms. The practitioner determines which acupuncture points will best treat the chief complaint as well as the underlying conditions that caused the issue. The needles are expertly inserted and then reside in the patient for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, depending on a range of factors. Overall it is a gentle, painless and relaxing experience. Following treatment, the practitioner will determine an ongoing care plan which may include referral to other medical specialists. Clayton does not hesitate to call upon other experts to treat the patient as long as this is what is necessary for the patient to regain their health. A successful integrative therapy approach relies on practitioners of all disciplines to trust one another’s expertise and communicate seamlessly.

Will acupuncture help with my stroke rehabilitation?

In China, acupuncture is the leading modality to treat post stroke disorders. It is cost effective and can easily be customized to treat the diverse forms of stroke disorders. Acupuncture is commonly integrated to enhance other forms of therapies to improve patient outcomes.

What ailments can acupuncture treat?

In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:

  • low back pain
  • neck pain
  • sciatica
  • tennis elbow
  • knee pain
  • periarthritis of the shoulder
  • sprains
  • facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • biliary colic
  • depression, including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke
  • headache
  • dental pain
  • tempromandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • induction of labor
  • correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
  • morning sickness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • acute bacillary dysentery
  • primary dysmenorrhea
  • acute epigastralgia
  • postoperative pain
  • stroke
  • essential hypertension
  • primary hypotension
  • renal colic
  • leucopenia
  • adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
  • allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
  • peptic ulcer
  • acute and chronic gastritis

The report also contains three other very important lists of conditions:


  • Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed.
  • Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult.
  • Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture may be tried provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment.