How does acupuncture feel?

Acupuncture can create local, radiating or distal sensations of heaviness, dullness, mild ache, prick or electricity. Needles can trigger muscle fasciculations especially in tight muscle tissue. Most patients report that initial needling sensations quickly fade and are replaced by a feeling of peace and relaxation.

How safe is acupuncture?

Acupuncture from a properly trained and qualified practitioner is very safe. There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a licensed practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that can sometimes occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.

When you receive treatment from a registered acupuncturist you can be confident that your wellbeing and safety is at the heart of everything your practitioner does. The following assurances are CTCMA standard:

  • Your acupuncturist uses only pre-sterilized single-use needles which are safely disposed of after your treatment
  • All treatments are carried out in accordance with exemplary professional standards developed by the CTCMA and detailed in the CTCMA Safety Program Handbook and Jurisprudence Handbook
  • The treatment room and all equipment conform to CTCMA standards and nearly all cases have also been approved by local authority environmental health officers
  • Registered acupuncturists have full medical malpractice and public/product liability insurance coverage

What education and training do acupuncturists and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners have?

Before entering Chinese Medicine school, TCM Practitioners first complete a minimum of 2 years at university, often completing a bachelor degree. They then enter a rigorous, 3-year (acupuncturists), 4-year (TCM Practitioners), or 5-year (Dr. of TCM) full-time diploma program at an accredited college of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine programs consist of a minimum of 3,250 hours of study over 5 academic years, including a minimum of 1,050 hours of clinical instruction of which at least 825 hours must be in supervised practice. In the first two years, curriculum is focused on TCM foundations and diagnosis, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pathology, differential diagnosis, and clinical diagnosis as well as the therapeutics methods of acumoxa, Tui Na massage, Qi Gong and Chinese botanical medicine. Throughout the five years, there is also study of TCM diet therapy, psychology, counseling, phytochemistry, orthopedics and traumatology, dermatology, gynecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology and pediatrics. The last two years prepare candidates for clinical care and are spent studying TCM Classics and focusing on pharmacology, advanced TCM medical diagnostics, and modern herbal research. Dr. of TCM students also spend over 1050 hours in the teaching clinic, treating patients under the supervision of a licensed acupuncturist, TCM practitioner or Dr. of TCM.

How are Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine practitioners regulated in British Columbia?

Acupuncture has been a designated health profession under the Health Professions Act since April 1, 1996 and Traditional Chinese Medicine has been a designated health profession since December 4, 2000. The professions are regulated by the CTCMA in accordance with the Act, the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists Regulation and the bylaws of the College.

As of April 12, 2003, a valid registration (professional license) issued by the CTCMA is required to practice TCM and acupuncture in British Columbia. Currently, there are seven colleges in BC that offer the 3-year Diploma of Acupuncture, 4-year Practitioner of TCM Diploma and 5-year Dr. of TCM Diploma that is necessary to be able to sit the annual board exams to become a Registered Acupuncturist, Registered TCM Practitioner, or Dr. of TCM in BC.

To obtain a license to practice Chinese medicine in BC, you must:

  • Complete at least 2 years liberal arts or sciences in an accredited college or university.
  • Graduate from a recognized Traditional Chinese Medicine education program which requires 3 years for Acupuncturists, 4 years for TCM Practitioners and 5 years for Doctors of TCM.
  • Successfully pass two sets of Pan-Canadian Written and Clinical Case-study Examinations (, including jurisprudence and safety examinations. Doctors of TCM must pass an additional Written and Clinical exam.
  • Have your application accepted by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners of British Columbia (

Is acupuncture covered by MSP?

You may be eligible to receive $23 per treatment for up to 10 visits a year if you are a BC resident who qualifies for MSP Premium Assistance.

Many extended health insurance plans cover acupuncture services and treatments are often recognized by ICBC, WorkSafe BC, and Veteran Affairs. Please contact your employer or insurance plan provider to examine your coverage.

How many treatments will I need?

The frequency and number of treatments varies person to person. Some experience considerable relief in the first treatment. For complex or long-standing chronic conditions, 1-2 treatments per week for several months may be required. For acute conditions, fewer visits are typically required, around 6-10 visits in total. An individualized treatment plan that includes the expected number of treatments will be discussed during your initial visit. Bruises occur as the result of a blow to the body that does not break the skin.

Is a cupping mark a bruise?

Bruises are tender to the touch and turn blue-yellow as they heal.  Cupping marks, however, are created by lifting and suction.  They are painless and fade within seconds to 10 days.

What about herbs? Will they be expensive?

Raw Chinese herbs, granules or patents may be prescribed depending on the individual treatment plan for each patient. Just as some medications are prescription-only, some herbal supplements are only available to TCM professionals and are of pharmaceutical-grade quality. This system is in place to protect the general public from self-treatment. While Chinese botanicals may be necessary to restore health, they are not meant to replace drugs and you will not be required to take them for the rest of your life. It is our utmost goal to make health sustainable which will necessitate effort and change on your part, but should not mean lifelong supplementation.

Why must I adjust my diet and lifestyle?

Without a healthy diet and lifestyle, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine alone cannot heal or prevent the recurrence of chronic illness. Sun Si Miao, a renowned doctor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) said, “the superior doctor should first adjust the patient’s diet and lifestyle. Only if that does not eliminate disease should the doctor go on to administer acupuncture and herbs.”

What is the difference between Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

In Western medicine the body is studied as a sum of its parts, and every organ system of the body is assessed and treated separately. Hospitals are specialized by different departments associated with the diagnoses and treatment of different organ systems: one for the cardiovascular patients; another for the endocrinology; yet another for surgery.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is holistic, where the body is treated as a ‘whole,’ and every part of the body is seen as a reflection of a wider context. A particular body part is referred to only in relation to the whole body, and the body must also be seen as intimately connected with the spirit and the surrounding environment in which the patient lives before a doctor of TCM can understand how an illness has arisen and how it should be addressed.

Do you work with other health professionals?

In an exemplary healthcare system, all kinds of healthcare professionals would work as a team to provide the best care possible. Different medical professionals have specialized areas of expertise and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners are trained to refer patients when appropriate. We believe collaboration between healthcare professionals can build understanding and respect and would be pleased to work with your medical doctor, specialist, naturopath or other health professional at your request.

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.” —Lao Tzu


Chinese Medicine in the News

Effect of electro-scalp acupuncture on acute ischemic stroke: A randomized, single blind, trial —Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2018

Acupuncture Outmatches Drug For IBS —Health CMI 2017

Evidence and Expert Opinions: Dry Needling versus Acupuncture —The American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety (AAPAS) White Paper 2016

Acupuncture in the treatment of Menopausal Disorders —Menopause (journal) via
PubMed 2016