ABCs of acupuncture

Wholistic Health

It is 10 a.m. and acupuncturist Sharon Conroy has a full day ahead of her.

This is typical for the ten-year veteran of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as acupuncture has become one of the most popular modalities of alternative or complementary therapy utilized in the treatment of chronic pain and injury. Years ago, the treatment was connected to rehabilitation for athletes. Now, it’s recognized as beneficial in treating everything from disease, musculoskeletal complaints, insomnia, anxiety, migraines, arthritis and is even used to circumvent the onset of certain conditions.

Conroy became interested in the practice after receiving treatment for her own knee pain. She was so impressed the outcome of the therapy she changed the focus of her career to pursue TCM in its various forms, including acupuncture.

I can appreciate her enthusiasm. I was in need of special treatment when I came to her for therapy, over two years ago. I was a faded husk of my former self, suffering from adrenal fatigue and endless digestive issues. Conroy explained that my situation is actually quite common, that most of us are like ‘hamsters on a wheel’ balancing life and career. This incessant striving without the proper attention to rest and recuperation is very hard on our adrenal glands, which rest just above the kidneys and are responsible for producing, among other steroids, adrenaline – our self preservation hormone. At this rate of overdrive, most of our bodies are operating under the assumption we could be eaten at any moment.

This morning I feel no inclination to take flight, as the atmosphere in the treatment room is blissful.  We have already discussed the approach for today’s session: for fatigue and digestive issues she will stimulate several points on the legs and ankles, the top of my head, between my eyebrows and points on either side of the stomach. As she places the needles which are approximately the width of a hair, I feel increasingly at peace, the process has a natural sedative effect on the nervous system.

The human body is essentially a bio-electric computer with circuitry running in a rhythmic alignment. At those times when the flow becomes blocked we develop physiological manifestations – disease or pain.  In TCM, our life energy is called ‘Chi’ and the moto is, “Where there is pain, the Chi is not flowing”.  This is why acupuncture is so useful. It stimulates and clears blockages, relieves the pain and corrects the flow. It accomplishes this through a series of ‘micro-traumas’, the insertion site of the needles. These simple placements increase blood flow to the site and with this comes a shot of endorphins as well as an increase in oxygen, nutrients and lymph fluids to encourage pain relief and the regenerative process.

Needle placement is based on the Meridian System, a network of electric or energetic pathways which traverse our entire body. ‘Meridian’ means ‘net’, or ‘connection’, an apt description for these channels transporting Chi through the body as our veins and arteries carry blood. Each meridian represents an organ and each organ works together to create a viable homeostatic environment to maintain our health. When treating an issue, TCM looks at its relationship to the entire body, that is why this vitalizing medicine is termed “holistic”. Instead of merely treating a symptom or ignoring the root cause the individual case is assessed; many people present with migraines but they may have them for different reasons.

Conroy says before your acupuncture session you should eat lightly and make sure you have scheduled time to rest afterwards. She suggests drinking water to help the detoxification process. When considering treatments of any kind it is important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. In order for our bodies to benefit we have to be receptive to the therapy, and that means feeling heard and at ease with your practitioner.

Catherine Knott is a journalist, health professional and reiki counsellor/practitioner with a passion for natural therapies and holistic studies. She currently lives in the Annapolis Valley, studying integrative naturotherapy. You can reach her at