Header image header image 2  


A Natural Way To Health

As seen in the Toronto Star, on September 14, 2002
Acupuncture gaining favour for pain relief

More patients and doctors see the point of ancient practice

By Tracy Hanes

Until two years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone more skeptical about acupuncture than Barbara Montague.

She was a registered nurse with years of hospital work to reinforce her western ideology. She had doubts about an ancient Chinese remedy having any modern usefulness.

Then she badly injured her neck and rotator cuff in a car accident and also began to experience migraine headaches. Soon her daily regime of anti-inflammatory drugs was causing stomach ulcers.

Still dubious but keen to get off the drugs, Montague signed up for a one-day workshop at Durham College given by Isabella Yan, 44, of Golden Needle Acupuncture Clinic in Oshawa.

That workshop forever changed Montague’s outlook on Chinese medicine Now she goes for acupuncture treatment once a week, during which Yan inserts thin steel needles through her skin into certain points of her body for nearly an hour.

Unlike injection needles, acupuncture needles are barely thicker than a hair and have solid, rather than hollow, points, which cause minimal discomfort. “I don’t take pills any more and while my neck and back are permanently damaged (from the accident), I’m not in the pain I used to be,” says Montague. “I think Isabella is God’s gift…”

Yan’s experience as a healer spans 20 years and is remarkably broad. For three years, she was head physician of the Yangzhou Hospital, a traditional medicine center, in the Jiangsu province of China, where she treated as many as 40 patients a day.

She has a degree in traditional Chinese medicine from the Nanjing Traditional Chinese Medicine University.  She and her scientist husband moved to Canada seven years ago. Because she is not recognized as a medical doctor in Canada, she opened an acupuncture clinic.

“In China, herbal remedies and acupuncture are the main tools we use to treat people in hospital,” sys Yan. “It’s not the type of medicine doctors here know, but they are starting to be more accepting of it. I think modern medicine depends on a lot on what is visualized by doctors. Fur us, it’s more what we feel.”

Acupuncture has been in existence for 3,000 years but has taken some modern twists: the needles used now are sterile and disposable and some practitioners like Yan use low DC currents to help stimulate the energy flow through the body. It is believed energies of the human body circle through paths called meridians and acupuncture points are typically located along the meridians.

Traditional Chinese healers say the meridians are like rivers flowing through the body, transporting energy (Qi) to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these meridians backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others, causing pain.

Acupuncture needles stuck into the points of the meridians can stir up the Qi, unblock the obstruction and re-establish the regular flow.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the autonomic nervous system to release chemical substances, such as endorphins, that will either change the experience of pain or trigger the release of other chemicals or hormones which influence the body’s internal regulation system. This process acts to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional wee-being.

Most people don’t notice a dramatic difference after one acupuncture treatment, says Yan.

Patients go to Yan for pain and stress relief, to treat various chronic diseases or to help with weight loss and to quit smoking.

During the first visit, Yan takes a client’s pulse, gives them a thorough quiz, and then tailors a treatment for them individually. She charges $60 for an initial consultation, then $40 per treatment after that.

“Everybody has a different, a different disease, is of a different age or has a different lifestyle,” she says. “I emphasize the link between the mind-body connection and that we have to treat the whole person.”

For example, says Yan, she may help someone lose weight, but she also tells them they are the same person they were before the weight loss and they’ll have to address negative thinking or behaviours.

Nicole Hale of Ajax came to Yan after trying more conventional routes such as her doctor, physiotherapist and a chiropractor. A fall she took in November caused a disc bulge in her lower vertebrae and pinched sciatic nerve. She was in constant agony despite being on painkillers and found it difficult to care for her two young children.

Hale’s mother, who was interested in Chinese medicine, recommended she try acupuncture. After her second treatment she was able to stop taking painkillers and after six weeks, Hale said she felt 90 percent better. “The remarkable part of about acupuncture is that it works so quickly. I honestly didn’t believe Isabella when she said it would take two or three weeks to ease my pain, but she was right. Physically, acupuncture doesn’t take the disc bulge away, but it relieved the pain and allows the body to heal itself,” says Hale. While both the public and the medical community are becoming more receptive to acupuncture and some benefit plans will cover some of the treatment costs, one lingering problem is that the profession is not yet regulated in Ontario.

Professor Cedric Cheung, president of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada (of which Yan is a member), says his group has been lobbying provincial governments since 1983 for regulation of the profession.

The association has been successful in getting acupuncture regulated in British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta.

On Aug. 29, Cheung was among six delegates who met with health minister Tony Clement who informed them that relation of acupuncture in Ontario has received caucus approval but needs to go through seven government processes before it is in place.

“He couldn’t give us a timeline and I’m not quite satisfied. This organization has been lobbying the Ontario government for 20 years and in 1994 submitted a petition with 10,000 signatures calling for its regulation,” says Cheung.

Cheung, born in China, and with 36 years’ experience, is the third generation in his family to practice Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

The public can contact the CMAAC in London, Ont., which can verify members’ training. Call (519) 642-1970 or visit the web site www.cmaac.ca.


Link to thestar.com archive