What is Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the longest existing continuous medical system practiced in the world, with well over 3000 years of history. TCM is a complete system of medicine with its own forms of diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and therapies. It views the body as an energetic system in dynamic balance with all aspects of the body working together as a whole.
TCM defines the physiological components of illness using the concepts qi (vital energy), xue (blood), jin-ye (body fluids), jing (essence), and shen (spirit), as well as 12 main organ systems with 365 main acupuncture points on pathways called Meridians.
Traditional Chinese medical diagnoses are made using described patterns of balance and imbalance within the 12 meridians, as well as often with Yin Yang theory and the 5 Element Theory. A lengthy interview for information gathering is common, along with taking pulses (there are 6) and viewing the tongue. Armed with all this information, a diagnosis can be determined and a Treatment Plan can be designed to restore balance to the whole person, allowing the body to heal itself. The basis of treatment is to focus on root cause resolution. Treatment Plans can include any combination of acupuncture, herbal medicines, nutrition and some coaching, and possibly meditation practices.
TCM helps restore the body to a balanced state and works on an energetic level to affect all aspects of a person: mind, body and spirit. One of the beauties of TCM is that it can be used to correct imbalances that have become pain and illness, or even correct imbalances prior to the appearance of symptoms, thus preventing disease.
What is Functional Medicine (FM) and why combine it with Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Just like Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Functional medicine (FM) is holistic. Both medical paradigms view the body as a complex interaction of all systems rather than only component parts acting on their own. They are grounded in finding root causes, not solely by treating symptoms. Neither requires the presence of disease in order to have an imbalance, just as patients can feel unwell while still presenting as “normal” in lab testing or medical evaluation. Prevention is the ultimate goal of both TCM and FM, but at least re-establishing balance is the key to improving health.
FM uses comprehensive Western medical analysis through lab tests which can detail food allergies and sensitivities, malabsorption issues, adrenal fatigue, hormone panels for men and women, thyroid function, digestive imbalances and autoimmune shifts. Basic blood work can be done through your medical doctor, but other tests can be done through me at AcuPlus. Based on the results of the tests, I am able to develop personalized treatment protocols designed to solve many health problems. Once a patient has undergone treatment for a period of time, sometimes it helps to have medical testing redone to evaluate progress and efficacy of the treatments.
I combine FM, when needed, with your TCM diagnosis to determine the exact nutrients, herbs and nutritional changes needed to re-establish balance and restore health. Because both medical disciplines focus on holism, herbs and nutrition, they are an excellent match when used together for improving health outcomes.
Do you use both TCM and FM with every patient?
My main profession is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and that has been what I’ve practiced most during my career in medicine. However, because of my love of Western science, I’ve always studied aspects of Western medicine and applied them as I could in my practice over the years. Since beginning the certification training in FM, FM is playing a larger role in how I view and treat many of my patients.
Today, I still rely mostly on TCM for managing pain as it’s an excellent way to quickly get great results. But I combine TCM and FM when working to regulate reproductive issues, digestive dysfunction and autoimmunity issues as I’ve found both medical systems work very well together.
What is your educational background?
I achieved my Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Lethbridge here in Southern Alberta in 1996.
I became a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (DTCM) over 4 years at the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences in Nelson, BC, graduating in 2001. I specialized in acupuncture and herbal medicine with adjunctive studies in nutrition, Qi Gong, Tai Qi, meditation and some coaching.
Since 2001 I have taken too many continuing education credits to list here, but most included extra education regarding pain management, reproduction, autoimmunity, digestion, and Functional medicine and included both Chinese medical and some Western medical courses.
To maintain my license as an Alberta Registered Acupuncturist (RAc), I am obligated to earn a minimum of 50 continuing education credits (CEU’s) every two years.
What are your professional titles?
My official titles are: Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (DTCM), Registered Acupuncturist (RAc) and Biologist.
Is acupuncture a regulated profession in Alberta?
Acupuncture, as practiced using Traditional Chinese Medicine, has been a regulated profession in Alberta since 1988 by the College and Association of Acupuncturists of Alberta (CAAA). The title given to registrants is Registered Acupuncturist (RAc). Chiropractors, physiotherapists, naturopaths and medical doctors who train to use medical acupuncture must be licensed to practice acupuncture under their own licensing boards.
Why should I see a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (DTCM)?
To become a DTCM, academic and practical training typically requires 4 years at an accredited post secondary institution. A DTCM is different from someone who only practices acupuncture in that a DTCM’s training involved more academic and practical hours in school. In that extra training, acupuncture becomes more of a specialty and so does their proficiency with herbal medicine and treatment strategies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a medical perspective focused on finding root causes of illness and treating the whole body to help it heal itself. Through some detective work, determining what is most imbalanced in your body, and then using impressive pattern differentiation to describe a unique diagnosis for your particular issues, TCM treatment tools; especially acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition, can then be implemented to bring the body back to a healthier balance. TCM is useful for managing symptoms of disease, such as pain, but it shines in its ability to find root causes and treat those for more complex health issues.
You may like to visit a DTCM if this way of viewing the body is appealing to you and you would either like to feel much healthier or prevent getting unwell. Having a DTCM on your Health Team can be very helpful for long term health management. I work closely with any other health care providers a patient may have, if they are also willing, so you get well rounded care.
What types of services do you offer?
At AcuPlus Wellness Clinic, I offer a broad range of services to assist with resolving most health issues.
Traditional Chinese Medicine:
My main therapies include acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition. However, there are various adjunctive therapies I offer that are used along with acupuncture, including moxibustion, TENS, cupping and laser therapy. Choice of therapies during treatment are based on TCM diagnostic theory and your individual imbalances.
Tools in Functional medicine include testing for hormones, electrolytes, some infections, candida, genetics, etc using blood, urine and saliva samples. Once I receive the samples, I FedEx them to laboratories in Canada and the US for processing which can sometimes take from one to two weeks. The results are used to aid in diagnosing conditions and designing treatment plans.
For more information about each therapy, please check out the Services section of the website.
How does Acupuncture Work
Acupuncture is a major modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and has been in practice for many centuries. Acupuncture is based on a fundamental philosophy of complex, recognizable relationships and patterns between all aspects of the body that when not communicating effectively, lead to imbalance and disease. Once the specific imbalances are determined by an acupuncturist trained in TCM, acupuncture, using specialized needles, or acupressure, using hands, is used at any of the hundreds of acupuncture points to promote shifts in Qi (energy/life force) flow and biochemistry to normalize the imbalanced systems. As communication improves within the body, health improves.
How does Chinese Herbal medicine work?
Most people are familiar with the more common herbs such as ginseng, licorice root, gingko biloba and ginger. There are actually thousands of Chinese herbs documented for their medicinal properties and usage. Around 450 of these herbs are more commonly used in clinical practice today. Chinese herbs are carefully prescribed to each patient depending on their different constitutions, taking into account their signs and symptoms. The herbs are not usually taken individually, but rather prescribed in a formula using between 4 to 20 different herbs.
The herbs used at AcuPlus are offered in various forms. Typically, I prescribe formulas in granular form, but also use tablets and tinctures.
Herbs are medicines. They are not synthesized individual chemicals, but rather complex mixtures of parts of plants that interact to shift your biochemistry to help regulate body functions. At AcuPlus, I do not use animal parts in any of my herbal formulas. I also do not usually recommend patients taking single herbs. They work best in combinations, but must be well chosen for a patient’s particular constitutional make up.
It is recommended to seek advice from an educated herbalist before taking any formulas for health issues to minimize side effects and interactions with medications. In my practice, it has been rare for patients to react negatively to formulas.
Are there side effects from Herbal medicine?
If herbal formulas are not chosen correctly or are taken with medications without knowing what can interact with them, it is possible to have negative side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. I do my best to be diligent about learning what medications a patient takes, choosing formulas best suited to a patient’s constitutional imbalance, and reviewing instructions for taking the formulas, so I can prevent side effects. We want you to feel better when taking herbal formulas. They are safe if prescribed well. I do not recommend self prescribing herbs as they are medicines in their own right and can easily be misused.
What happens during a first visit?
During your first visit with me, we will sit down together in one of my treatment rooms for 1 ½ hours to discuss your current health concerns and for me to gather as much information as I can to help determine an accurate Traditional Chinese medical diagnosis. There are many questions about digestion, sleep, urination, history of illness, hearing, and so on. Information is gathered about your eyes, skin and scent as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we also check your pulses (6 of them) and tongue all for specific clues about your body imbalances. The goal of this lengthy process is to determine what the root cause of your complaint is so it is clear how to develop a plan to start moving things forward for you. Armed with all this information, it can take a couple of days for me to design a treatment plan, depending on my clinic work load.
Any of the TCM modalities may become part of your therapy, including acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition. If acupuncture is going to be a part of the treatment process for you, I usually give an acupuncture treatment after the initial consultation that lasts around 20-30 minutes. If it is your first time experiencing acupuncture, I expect you will likely be nervous. I understand that well, so take my time introducing you to the process. Follow up treatments can range from 30 – 45 minutes in duration.
How do I prepare for my first visit?
If you think acupuncture is likely going to be a part of your treatment plan, I suggest wearing comfortable clothing that allows for access to arms, hands, shins and feet for frontal issues or back and legs for back issues. Most patients take some clothing off for treatments. It is a safe space and sheets are used for comfort and privacy.
It is best that you’ve eaten within a couple of hours prior to your treatment, but please no alcohol.
If you have copies of your most recent bloodwork results, and if you take medications and/or supplements regularly, please bring it all in so we can better review it together.
If you’ve concerned about insurance coverage, please call your insurance provider to be sure acupuncture will be covered when provided by a Registered Acupuncturist (RAc) in Alberta.
My best advice is to think about what you really want from your visit with me. What are your symptoms, how long have you been dealing with your health issues, what would you like resolved, how committed are you to the process, and so on? If you know what you’d like to have and have a good idea what that might feel like, it will be easier to help you on your journey.
Does acupuncture hurt?
When patients try acupuncture for the first time, they are usually amazed by how much it DOES NOT hurt. Most patients will arrive expecting a similar feeling to that of a hollow hypodermic needle that are used for injections or withdrawing blood. However, acupuncture needles are much thinner, flexible and solid. Thus they cause only minor micro trauma allowing for much less pain and easy recovery.
Are needles safe?
Are there side effects from Acupuncture?
Very few side effects have been reported with acupuncture treatments using disposable needles. If needles are inserted properly, there is no significant risk to underlying tissues. The worst things I’ve occasionally noted with acupuncture treatments are minor bruising and slight dizziness upon standing after laying face down for a treatment. As with any type of treatment, you should always let me know all medications you are taking as well as any underlying health conditions you may have or have previously experienced. You should also let me know if you are or could possibly be pregnant. Proper information will help in the selection of the type of treatment that is right for you.
How often do I need to come for acupuncture treatments?
As profound as acupuncture can sometimes be, it is also subtle. Often we are trying to shift habitual body patterns that have been in place for a long time, so we need to remind the body of our intentions frequently and consistently in order to create sustained change.
I want you to experience great relief from your health concerns in a short amount of time, if at all possible. Often patients notice improvement in their conditions after just the first or second visit; however, this is typically only a temporary improvement because Body Habits are still predominantly the same and will revert back to their old ways. For acupuncture to have a lasting affect, it is best to receive it often enough for a cumulative improvement in your health.
Why is nutrition such a major part of your practice?
I believe you are what you eat and breath, and what your body can absorb; therefore, nutrition is a foundation to great health. During my career I’ve learned that to regain health and maintain it, dietary habits must always be addressed or health gains will be short lived or at best slower to arrive. At AcuPlus I do my best to educate and guide interested patients to make healthier dietary choices. I like for them to understand why I suggest the changes I do so that they are more educated and therefore empowered to keep making those choices long term. Nutritional input is especially necessary for preparing for pregnancy and dealing with autoimmunity, both of which are managed at AcuPlus.
Are consults available without treatments?
Occasionally I will do a consult without treatments. Sometimes patients need a second or third opinion about their health issues and just need some guidance and education. However, one consult is generally not adequate to give them enough information to solve their problems. I mostly rely on consults for follow up discussions while managing patients working through autoimmunity protocols or else for those fertility patients who do not include acupuncture in their treatment plan.
Do you do Treatment Plans for all your patients?
For most patients, I design a Treatment Plan for them after the first or second visit. Plans aren’t always necessary when I’m treating injuries or most pain management cases. However, for chronic conditions such as reproductive problems, autoimmunity or long term digestive dysfunction, Treatment Plans are extremely useful for educating and providing ways to engage in your wellness journey.
Do you work with other health care professionals?
Do you have treatment packages to purchase?
Currently at AcuPlus there are 4 health packages for acupuncture treatments to choose from. Plan A is a package of 8 treatments, Plan B is for 16 treatments, Plan C is for 20 treatments, and Plan D is for 30 treatments, with cost decreasing as treatment count increases. These packages generally only apply to acupuncture treatments, but do include TENS, moxa, cupping or laser. These plans are ideal for patients needing longer periods of care for issues such as significant chronic pain or reproductive challenges.
Do you Direct Bill insurance companies?
I can Direct Bill the following insurance companies using the Telus Portal:
Chamber of Commerce
Great West Life
Blue Cross does not yet allow RAc’s to Direct Bill, but do still cover my acupuncture treatments if acupuncture coverage is part of your particular plan.
Acupuncture as delivered by an RAc is currently not covered by Alberta Health Care plans.
What is your cancellation and no-show policy?
Patients are subject to a $40 cancellation fee for missed appointments or cancellations less than 24 hours prior to the appointment, unless there is an emergency. Prepayment of fees are required for rebooking after one no-show. If you can give me adequate notice of a cancellation, I can usually give the appointment time to someone else who would like it. Some day you may be one of those people!
I want to start working with you, so what is my next step?
Please call AcuPlus at 403-942-7070 to schedule your first appointment with me. Then you can either wait until the day of your treatment to fill out the intake form, or I can have it emailed to you to fill out ahead of time. And remember to bring copies of recent lab tests, and any medication and/or supplements you are taking so we can discuss them accurately.