Pacific Wellness Institute Clinic: Bloor-Yorkville Toronto

Q&A by Toronto acupuncturist



Neck Acupuncture Points w Needles

Acupuncture – Effective Solution for Neck Pain and Occipital Headache

Acupuncture in General

Is acupuncture only good for pain?

Many people, including some medical professionals, assume that acupuncture is a method of temporary pain-relief only. This misconception may have resulted from acupuncture being popularized in North America since the 70s as a form of analgesia. It is true that acupuncture is commonly utilized as a form of pain control, especially when performed by physicians, chiropractors, or physiotherapists. The main concept of acupuncture as practiced in China or Japan, however is to harmonize internal body systems and address the cause of illness. Therefore, temporary relief of pain is only one aspect of acupuncture.  Acupuncture is a safe and effective method to deal with a variety of health conditions other than those causing pain. The WHO listed a variety of health conditions which can be treated by acupuncture, including organic illness. This is because acupuncture helps to regulate our physiological functioning. Acupuncture primarily affects our autonomic nervous system, which controls virtually our entire visceral function.

Is there any scientific proof that indicates acupuncture works?

In recent medical practice, the doctor’s personal preference or belief has played a diminishing role in selecting the medical procedure for their patient. Instead, much more emphasis has been placed on evidence from rigorous research. This is called evidence-based medicine (EBM). This trend has also influenced the practice of acupuncture and over the last decade, acupuncture has been put through serious testing according to western scientific research standards.

In 1997, the US National Institute of Health conducted a large conference where panels of expert scientists discussed the efficacy and safety of acupuncture based on current evidence. Following the meeting, NIH issued a report entitled the “NIH Consensus Statement on Acupuncture”, which acknowledged the effectiveness of acupuncture in a variety of health conditions. Furthermore, they recommended that US insurance companies cover acupuncture for treatment of some conditions. Our research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience was one of the studies reviewed by the NIH and contributed to this positive outcome.

I have tried acupuncture somewhere else before and did not feel any improvement.

It is true that not everyone responds well to acupuncture, however, it is important to remember that failure to respond to the treatment from one acupuncturist does not necessarily mean that your condition cannot be helped by acupuncture. As indicated, currently in Ontario, acupuncture is provided by various individuals with a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Our acupuncturist from the Pacific Wellness Institute has qualifications and extensive experience not only in acupuncture but also in a wide range of alternative therapies and applied physiology fields. Therefore he can, in many cases, offer a unique insight into a variety of health conditions that previously were non-responsive to conventional medicine or other alternative approaches.

Does all acupuncture work the same way?

No, acupuncture does not work the same way even when exactly the same point is used.  Acupuncture is not as simple as inserting needles in acupuncture points matching conditions listed in a textbook (unfortunately, that is how some acupuncturists are being educated in schools in general).  Physiological response from acupuncture varies greatly based on various factors such as practitioner’s skills. In fact, an acupuncture needle inserted in the same acupoint produces a different reaction depending on a variety of other factors such as depth of the insertion, type, intensity, and amount of stimulation.  Some studies further demonstrated that the exact same acupuncture stimulation applied to the same acupuncture point produced a significantly different response depending on the respiration phase and position of the patient during needling.  Experienced acupuncturists carefully consider not only points to be used for each patient but many other vital factors mentioned above in order to provide safe and effective treatment.

Do I need to believe that acupuncture will work in order for it to be effective?

Significant results have been obtained when acupuncture is used for very small children and animals, both groups being less likely to be affected by the degree of their beliefs. These studies suggested that acupuncture produces a significant physiological response regardless of belief or faith in acupuncture. However, I cannot emphasize enough your role in your recovery. If you maintain a positive attitude with a firm belief in the treatment you are receiving and have a desire to recover, it can only help.

The powerful synchronizing effect between the action of acupuncture and your attitude makes sense since the cure comes from your own body, regardless of the form of therapy you receive. Even conventional medical practitioners are beginning to recognize the importance of the patient’s attitude towards treatment. Consequently, a growing number of modern hospitals are incorporating hypnosis or psychotherapy as a routine part of pre- and post surgery conditioning. It certainly works.

Are there any side effects of acupuncture?

As with any medical treatment, there is a chance of developing unfavorable reactions after acupuncture treatment.  Adverse effects of acupuncture reported in the literature include infection, nerve damage, and puncture injuries to vital organs. These serious complications, however, are exceptionally unusual, especially under the care of qualified acupuncturists. In very rare instances, fainting may occur especially among individuals who fear needles, have very low blood pressure, and attended the session with lack of sleep and/or empty stomach.  Tiny bruises around needling sites are not very common but occasionally occur. These usually diminish completely within a week. There is a very small chance of burn associated with the application of heat by moxibustion or heat lamp.  You are asked to notify us immediately in case you notice any discomfort or unusual symptoms during the treatment.  Compared with medical and pharmaceutical intervention, acupuncture is considered an extremely safe treatment with minimal chance of serious complications.

About the Treatment at The Pacific Wellness Institute

Do you use disposable needles?

Yes, we have been using only disposable needles since the opening of our practice in fall 1990. Each needle is discarded into a medical hazard container after each single use.

Are there different grades or qualities of needles?

Yes, there are a number of different grades of disposable needles. We use only the highest quality needles on the market. They are manufactured in Japan. The average cost per needle is approximately 5 times higher than common brands. Superior quality pre-sterilized needles are guaranteed for 100% non-contamination. Additionally, the ultra-fine needle tips provide smoother insertion, ensuring much less discomfort during treatment.

Is acupuncture painful?

Even patients who have had a previous experience with acupuncture before coming to Pacific Wellness are pleasantly surprised at how much more comfortable and painless our acupuncture treatments are.  The main reasons why our acupuncture treatments are so painless are the quality and size of the disposable needles that we use and our specialized insertion and gentle stimulation methods.  On rare occasion, especially very few individuals with high sensitivity to pain may still feel some painful sensations.  The treatment will be adjusted according to each individual case.

Is painless, gentle acupuncture less effective?

Some acupuncturists believe that in order to produce a significant effect one must insert needles deeper and administer a much stronger stimulation; however, we do not believe this is necessarily true. Many Japanese practitioners clinically observe significant improvement in their patients’ conditions using an extremely gentle superficial needling technique. Furthermore, our scientific study (Tanaka, et al., International Journal of Neuroscience in 1997) indicated that a very gentle superficial needling stimulation produces an immensely favorable response in the human physiological system. The study demonstrated that a very small amount of superficial stimulation produces significant responses in the body when applied skillfully with consideration of the patient’s physiological condition. Our goal is to deliver the most effective treatment for a patient’s condition while providing the most comfortable treatment experience.

In which part of my body do you put the needles? Do I need to undress for the treatment?

The exact location of the needles varies between each individual, however, in general, needling points are chosen on the entire body regardless of your health condition and the location of your symptoms. The acupuncture system at The Pacific Wellness Institute is a holistic treatment system rather than temporal symptomatic remedy.  We consider your symptoms to be a manifestation of your body’s disharmony.   Some of the commonly utilized body balancing points are located on the forearms, legs, back and abdomen.

We ask you to undress for the treatment.  You may undress to the level of your comfort and if you would prefer you may keep some clothing on.  We need to inform you that some clothing precludes the use of certain acupuncture points and obstructs the efficient blood, lymphatic, and energy flow of your body, which may interfere with your obtaining the full benefit of the treatment.  You will be draped during the treatment and only the part of your body being treated is uncovered.   Please refer to the instructions and guidelines displayed in each treatment room.

What else is involved in the treatment session?

Acupuncturists at The Pacific Wellness Institute may incorporate application of heat or ice, electrical stimulation, massage/acupressure, application of therapeutic cream, and breathing exercise during treatment.  Nutritional supplements may be suggested.  Lifestyle education such as dietary changes and home exercises may be suggested to compliment your care.

How long is each treatment?

Although the treatment usually lasts about 40 minutes, please be prepared to spend an hour in our facility.

When should I not receive acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be done safely and effectively under most circumstances.   However, if you have a high fever or are experiencing any acute or unusual symptoms, you are advised to consult your medical doctor or local emergency department first.  If you are having a cold or other infectious disease that may spread to other clients, we advise you not to come to the treatment.  Please call us prior to your appointment if you have any concerns.

Can you tell me about your policy on late arrival and cancellation?

We respect our patient’s time and we are almost always on schedule.  Please understand that if you arrive late, your treatment will be shortened accordingly, to respect the time of our next patient.  Please refer to our policy on late arrival and cancellation for details.  It is a good idea to always try to arrive 5-10 minutes early so that you have enough time to settle yourself prior to the treatment in our relaxing and entertaining waiting lounge.

What about taking herbs or supplements?

Nutritional/herbal supplementation may be recommended.  These can provide a tremendous synergistic effect with acupuncture.

Do you have further information specific to my health conditions?

If you are seeking acupuncture treatment for the following conditions, please be sure to read the following pages:

If you have fertility concerns:

If you are suffering from pain:

If you are suffering from migraine headache:


I would like to start acupuncture treatment at The Pacific Wellness Institute.  How do I get started?

Please refer to this page

I live very far away.  Do you have any other location?

We only have one location at 80 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

Because of our reputation and the quality of acupuncture service we offer, many of our patients are not from our neighborhood, but in fact, come from very far.  Whatever the reason, if it is difficult for you to come to our clinic in Toronto, you are most welcome to see a practitioner in your local area.  Here are some resources and tips to find an acupuncturist in your area.

Questions you may have following the Treatment

The treatment was absolutely relaxing.  While I did not feel a thing on most points, a few points I noticed were a bit more sensitive with the needles.

Certain acupuncture points tend to be more sensitive than others.  In addition, sometimes a patient will feel an unusual sensation (e.g., heaviness, dull ache, twitching, etc.) around the needle.  We call this a de-qi or “arrival of qi” sensation.  This response during needling is usually considered a very positive response.

You often put a needle in my wrist while I’m sitting and ask me to breathe deeply.  What is this for?

This technique is called SES and has been studied extensively in Japanese and Canadian research facilities.  The studies showed that SES produces a significant, positive effect on various systems including the musculoskeletal, nervous, circulatory, and digestive systems and induces a prolonged relaxation response.  The key to inducing a proper response is synchronizing the needle stimulation with your respiration and therefore we carefully observe your breathing while stimulating the point with acupuncture.

What else is necessary besides the treatment itself?

You will be in the treatment room for approximately forty minutes to an hour.  How you spend the other 23 hours of the day also influences your recovery and therefore, requires some attention.  You might be advised to do or not to do certain exercises, apply heat or ice packs, and/or in some cases, altering your occupational and recreational activities may be necessary.

What should or shouldn’t I do the day of the acupuncture treatment?

It is not recommended to have a treatment with an empty or full stomach.  In addition, alcohol and vigorous exercise is not recommended on the day of the treatment.  You should also avoid caffeine and hot baths shortly after the treatment.

When will I notice improvement of my condition and how often do I need to come for acupuncture?

Your response to the treatment varies according to the nature of the condition and your physical constitution.  Required number of visits and frequency of treatment is dependent upon the nature and severity of your condition.  I will assess your condition and recommend a treatment schedule that I feel is most effective based on my clinical experience.  It is important that you follow the schedule in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcome in the most efficient manner.  Everyone understands the importance of following one’s doctor’s recommendations in terms of dosage, frequency, and duration of prescribed medication in order to obtain the expected benefits.  Acupuncture is no exception in this regard and the difference between success and failure often depends upon the patient’s compliance to treatment recommendations.

Besides improvement of my symptoms, what other responses should I expect following acupuncture?

Most patients feel very relaxed and refreshed after the treatment.  You may also feel slightly drowsy, light-headed, or temporarily less focused.  This is usually associated with a deep relaxation response from the treatment. These sensations should pass shortly after the treatment.  Some individuals may experience fatigue, dull aches or emotional reactions during or after the treatment.  In some cases, symptoms may relapse or intensify temporarily during the course of treatment before relief is attained.  These temporary reactions are usually positive signs indicating that one’s body is in the process of healing and re-balancing (Please read this page if you have a pain condition).

It is important to note that many symptoms, especially those in chronic illness, typically fluctuate from day to day from various influences such as stress, food, weather, etc.  Any negative or positive changes which occur following the treatment may or may not be directly associated with the treatment itself.  You are encouraged to communicate with the acupuncturists concerning any physical and emotional changes.


Back to Acupuncture Main Page