What is Acupuncture?

This treatment is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM): acupuncture is a needle insertion technique that is highly effective in promoting healing, decreasing pain, and increasing overall functions. The needle points are selected with a focus on the restoration of your body’s nervous system balance and inhibiting pain pathways.

Physiotherapists use acupuncture for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain by combining their knowledge of acupuncture with learned anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology.

How Does It Work?

In traditional Chinese medicine, the network of the meridians, which run up and down the human body carrying life-energy known as “Qi” (pronounced “Chee”), plays an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of one’s bodily issues. By applying acupuncture to certain points, It is thought to improve the flow of “Qi”, thereby improving overall health.

In western medicine, the stimulation of acupuncture points along this meridian sends new sensory messages along nerves to the brain, activating control centers and the nervous system. Acupuncture has a natural analgesic effect and releases endorphins which people with chronic pain have been found to have low levels of in their spinal fluid. These levels rise after treatment.

A physiotherapist performing acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment

Your First Acupuncture Treatment

Upon reviewing the client intake form to gain insight into your medical history and any previous injuries, a comprehensive physical assessment of the injury or condition will be conducted. This will be followed by a discussion about your objectives for the acupuncture process, including any prior experiences with needling or dry needling.

An individualized acupuncture treatment plan will be devised and presented to you for your informed consent. Prior to the treatment, the therapist will provide a detailed explanation of what to anticipate before, during, and after the session. It’s important to note that, in line with the concept of Qi flow, acupuncture needles will likely be inserted in areas distant from the specific injury or problem site.

Aftercare instructions will be recommended based on the individual’s response to the treatment. Additionally, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled if deemed necessary to ensure continuity of care. Typical numbers of treatment to have an effect is 4 to 6 treatments.

I had a great experience at Vital Life, I would highly recommend this clinic. David Lee was very knowledgeable giving me extra stretches I could do at home after my acupuncture session. The staff were very friendly, and made me feel safe with their safety measures put in place due to covid. Will defiantly be going back!

Jordan Sparks

Acupuncture has a solid scientific basis; it has been proved to stimulate the endorphin system, and the wide ranging effects of these peptides may account for many of acupuncture’s clinical effects, other than analgesia, which have been documented throughout the world.

The response rate to acupuncture treatment is high, especially in patients with pain of musculoskeletal origin or headaches. The complication and side effect rate is extremely low. Both these facts make acupuncture a desirable treatment of first choice in some conditions, rather than a last desperate attempt to help the patient when all else has failed.

Dr. Linda M. Rapson
Acupuncture: A Useful Treatment Modality
Can Fam Physician Vol 30: January 1984 pg 109 – 115

acupuncture treatment


There are many benefits to acupuncture with the main one being that it allows the painless relief of someone’s symptoms without the need for drugs. It also improves the balance of bodily energies leading to the prevention of illness, and the elimination of the presented problem.

Because acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system and releases endorphins It is known to reduce stress, give you energy, boost your immune system, relieve headaches, and help you sleep.

What Conditions Will Acupuncture Help With?

Acupuncture can help with many different conditions or disorders within the body, and a registered acupuncturist will be able to use acupuncture to help the following:

  • Mental Emotional: anxiety, depression, stress
  • Sleep disorders: Insomnia, sleep apnea
  • Disorders of the mouth and eyes
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Respiratory disorders
  • and more…

As physiotherapists, we use acupuncture on our patients as a modality for musculoskeletal pain relief only whether that be chronic or acute pain.

Some conditions physiotherapists use acupuncture for are:

  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines and headaches 
  • TMJ Disorders
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sciatica 
acupuncture needles

A Note on Needles

To reduce the possibility of infection from acupuncture, all needles are sterilized, one-time-use needles made of surgical stainless-steel. There are many different brands of acupuncture needles, our clinic normally uses TeWa acupuncture needles which are coated with a micro-layer of medical-grade FDA approved silicone which reduces friction on insertion, enabling practitioners to reach target depth while minimizing patient discomfort.   

After each treatment they are disposed of as medical waste, and your physiotherapist has had training in clean needle technique/disposal. 

Case Studies

Case Study: Acupuncture for Chronic Condition

A patient who is very active and enjoys running and biking developed a slight bunion (hallux valgus) which caused enough pain in their big toe to prevent them  doing the things they loved. 

Although acupuncture couldn’t fix their hallux valgus, it does give them sufficient ongoing pain relief to allow them to continue running and hiking.

The patient’s maintenance treatment is scheduled for every 3 to 4 weeks and that is working well. 

Case Study: Acupuncture for Acute Injury

The patient rolled their ankle and fell a few days ago. Their treatment included ultrasound and laser locally on the ankle to reduce the swelling.

Acupuncture was used on their hands and around both ankles and knees to reduce pain and speed up the healing process. Note: In some cases treating the same area on the other side will help with pain as well. So if the patient rolled their left ankle, needles can be used on their right ankle to achieve pain reduction.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

ear acupuncture (TCM)

Ear Acupuncture (Auriculotherapy):

Precisely targeting points on the ear influences corresponding areas of the body. This modality is particularly effective for pain management, addiction treatment, and stress reduction.

Cupping Therapy:

Cupping therapy, involving the placement of cups on the skin to create suction, may leave temporary marks or bruises on the treated areas. These marks are not harmful and usually fade within a few days to a couple of weeks. The discoloration is a normal response to the increased blood flow and release of tension.


This technique involves burning dried mugwort (moxa) to stimulate acupuncture points. This scent is a natural byproduct of the burning process and is an integral part of the treatment. Moxibustion is known for its effectiveness in pain relief, managing digestive issues, and enhancing the immune system.

Gua Sha:

Involving the gentle scraping of the skin with a tool, Gua Sha promotes blood circulation and reduces inflammation. During the treatment, you may experience mild redness or petechiae (small, red dots) on the skin. These marks are temporary and typically fade within a few days.


More Modalities Within Acupuncture

Our physiotherapists offer the following acupuncture related techniques

Dry Needling and IMS

Intramuscular Stimulation, also known as Gunn IMS, is a needle technique based on the work of Dr. Chan Gunn, president of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain (ISTOP). It uses a fine, flexible needle to treat peripheral nerve dysfunction, which causes pain and altered function. This nerve dysfunction results in tender and shortened muscle bands causing pain in muscles, tendons, their connective tissue attachments, and joints. Unlike acupuncture, needles are inserted directly into the source of the pain in the muscle to release tension and are immediately removed. These nerve dysfunctions are detected by performing a full musculoskeletal examination, and IMS is offered when appropriate.

Learn more about the differences between acupuncture and IMS

acupuncture with electric stimulation

Acupuncture with Electric Stimulation

Electro-acupuncture is a modern variation of acupuncture that utilizes electricity to enhance the benefits of this ancient treatment. Acupuncture needles are still placed in the same spots but unlike traditional acupuncture, small clips are attached to the needles which connect to a machine that produces a small amount of electricity. 

When you get electro-acupuncture, it activates your sympathetic nerve fibers. By activating these fibers, your body releases chemical hormones such as endorphins, which help to reduce inflammation. The activated nerve fibers may also help to reduce feelings of persistent pain. This makes it a good treatment for chronic pain and stress

Acupuncture FAQ

Is an Acupuncture Treatment Painful?

Typically acupuncture is not painful. Acupuncture needles are very thin, many people don’t feel the insertion of the needle at all and if they do the discomfort is minor.  The needles can cause temporary soreness at the site of needle insertion.

What to Expect

All bodies are different and people will experience different things depending on the body and the condition. Some people obtain relief immediately, some notice improvements after a few hours, or a few days. Some may even require several treatments before responding, and some do not respond at all.

Occasionally symptoms can become worse before they improve, this usually lasts only 1 – 2 days. You can continue to take pain pills or other medications as directed by your doctor.

Before Your Treatment: 

  • Have a light meal
  • No alcohol, barbiturates or tranquilizers for 4 hours before treatment
  • Do not smoke tobacco for 1 hour before treatment
  • Be well rested, if possible 

After Your Treatment:

  • Rest for 2 hours after you get home, if possible
  • Avoid strenuous activity for two days after treatment, even if you are pain-free
  • Do not drink any alcohol or caffeine for 2 hours after treatment
  • Do not smoke tobacco for 1 hour after treatment

Treatment Cost

Please refer to our Service & Pricing page.   Fees can be directly billed to extended health insurance under your physiotherapy coverage. 

As this is more of a specialty treatment our physiotherapists provide, we have a user fee of $30 per session if you are coming in under an ICBC claim. This is paid out of pocket and cannot be refunded by ICBC.  

How many sessions are needed?

The number of treatments required varies with each person and condition. Our clinic recommends receiving acupuncture for at least 4 – 6 sessions to see improvement. An average of 10 sessions along with a home rehabilitation program will frequently result in dramatic progress.

After a car accident ICBC will cover up to 12 Acupuncture treatments – Learn more about ICBC Coverage & Acupuncture Treatment

Take the next steps to feeling better…

If you have questions about whether this treatment is right for you please give us a call (604) 474-1276

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