Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to our most commonly asked acupuncture questions. Don't see your question here? Get in touch. We'd love to hear from you. For questions about our practice and COVID, check out our COVID-19 FAQ

Does acupuncture hurt?


Acupuncture needles don’t always feel the same, so there is no consistent answer to this one. Sometimes you don't feel the needles at all. Sometimes you feel a tiny prick with insertion that goes away instantly, or maybe you feel a little ache that fades away within seconds. Sometimes you feel a tingling or heavy sensation. Sensations felt within 5 seconds of needle insertion are considered normal.

If a needle is painful and the sensation isn’t fading, please let the practitioner know and the needle will be removed or adjusted to clear the sensation. The needles don’t have to feel strong for them to work better (though some styles of practitioners feel differently).

At Ottawa Community Acupuncture, we want you to be comfortable and at ease with the points, but yes, you will feel some of them, if only briefly!




Why do some acupuncture points feel stronger than others?


This is a great question we get asked all the time.

There are a few factors to consider when it comes to needle sensation. Some points have more zing than others because of their anatomy. Points that lie on the squish of a muscle are often less sensitive than those around tendons and bony surfaces. Points on the feet and hands are also known to be more sensitive than the limbs (they are also more energetically potent, just to toss that in there).

Needle sensitivity also changes patient to patient and day to day. Some people are more sensitive to needles than others. When we are stressed out, our nervous system on edge, or have had less sleep, we often feel the needles more than usual. And sometimes, it’s just a question of needle placement. In those cases, the practitioner can remove the ailing needle and do the same point again with zero sensation being felt.

As to the other question (if it hurts more does that mean I ‘need' it?), the answer is sometimes yes sometimes no. It depends why and how the practitioner is using that specific needle. The big thing we want you to take away: acupuncture points don't feel the same every time.

And **please** if a point continues to sting, hurt, or make you uncomfortable in any way, let us know, and we will remove it immediately. No pain no gain is not our studio approach!




What if I start feeling uncomfortable or distressed, and I want to stop?


If you start feeling anxious or distressed within the first few minutes of the treatment and want to stop, you absolutely can. Let us know right away, and we will take out the needles immediately.

Your comfort is the top-most priority to us. Acupuncture is all about energy, and energy moves things. Emotions can rise to the surface after the needles go in - tears and anxiety being the most common. If you are feeling unsafe and want to stop, we support this wholeheartedly.

Patients who want to stop treatment within the first few minutes for the above reason will not be charged.




Do you reuse needles?


Capital ‘N’ no!

Acupuncture needles are single-use. This means they leave their airtight, sterile package, are used once, and then are disposed of in a biohazard waste container.




How big are the acupuncture needles?


The acupuncture needles we use are about the length of a pinky finger (a big section of that is the handle) and as thin as a cat-whisker. Nothing like what you get at the doctor or dentist. People are often surprised how un-scary they are!




My low back hurts. Can you put needles in my back?


The short answer to this question is ‘no’.

Because we are a community acupuncture studio that uses reclining chairs, we only use points on the legs, feet, arms, hands, ears, and head. Patients roll up their sleeves and pants to make these parts available. There is no undressing in the treatment space.


The long answer to the question is ‘No, we use distal acupuncture points instead of local points.’

There are two ways to use needles in acupuncture - locally and distally. Local points are when you put the needle where the pain is (eg. needles in the back when the back hurts, needles in the wrist when the wrist hurts). Distal points, however, are points that treat a painful area but are nowhere near the painful area. Like a point for the upper back on your calf, or a point for your headache on the side of your hand.

This is where acupuncture gets really cool. All registered acupuncturists know about both kinds of points, and both kinds of points can work. At Ottawa Community Acupuncture, we choose to use the distal style of needling because it works best with what we do.




My chiropractor/massage therapist/physiotherapist gives me acupuncture. Is what you do the same as what they do?


This is a really great question which highlights an important idea to keep in mind when it comes to all this acupuncture business: there are different ways to do it.

Registered Acupuncturists (R.Acs) study acupuncture from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A chiropractor, RMT, or physiotherapist is thinking about muscles and nerve innervation ie. western anatomy and physiology. One system is not better than the other, and both can be used to great effect. Of course, it’s very possible that a chiropractor, physiotherapist, or RMT is also licensed to treat in the Traditional Chinese Medicine style. It’s always best to ask if you aren't sure!

At Ottawa Community Acupuncture, we treat in the Traditional Chinese Medicine style.

Chiros/RMTs/physios often use electrical stimulation in their acupuncture treatments. This is when an electrical wire is clipped to the handle of the needle(s) to increase the strength of the qi/energy flowing through the muscle. It's pretty cool stuff. At Ottawa Community Acupuncture, we do not use eletrical stimulation in our treatments.

Chiros/RMTs/physios also sometimes use a technique called 'dry needling' . This is when a needle (or a few needles) are inserted more deeply into a muscle and get strongly stimulated for a certain length of time. We do not do dry needling at Ottawa Community Acupuncture.




What's with the whole sliding scale thing? Why do you use one?


At Ottawa Community Acupuncture (and in the community acupuncture movement as a whole), it’s important to us to name and honour that different people earn different incomes. It’s also important to us to make acupuncture affordable so that our community can come in as often as they need to get (and stay) better. Using a flexible, patient-directed payment scale joins both of those ideas.

We also love how the sliding scale challenges the notion that a service or good has a fixed, unchanging value. From our perspective, it's much more subjective than that. The value of $50 to one person can be very different than the value of $50 to another. Even when we look at our own lives, the value of a dollar changes with time and experience. You lose your job or you win the lottery. It's two days before your paycheque arrives or it just showed up in your bank account. See? Flexible. Changing.


What we want is pretty simple: acupuncture care for as many people as possible. The sliding scale is a financial tool that helps make this happen. Choose what you can afford and what feels comfortable for you each time you come. And if that changes, hey, we’re flexible. And that’s why we use (and love) our sliding scale.




Do you do direct billing to insurance companies?


We do not. Your treatment receipts are sent via email after every shift for you to submit as desired.




How long are the treatments?


At OCA, patients rest with their needles for 45 minutes. If that feels a tad too long, 30 minutes is a great treatment length as well. Just say the word, and we can shorten it up for you, no problem.




What should I wear when I come for a treatment?


We suggest loose and comfortable clothing that can be rolled up to the knee and elbow (or whatever length is comfortable for you).




What is acupuncture, exactly? How does it work?


Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine - an ancient, fascinating, and theoretically rich canon of knowledge dating back to 100 BC China. With unique roots and styles in Korea and Japan also, acupuncture spread west in the 1970’s and is now recognized, taught, and practiced all over the world. Some western doctors are even getting training in it, it's getting so cool.

The other branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine are herbal medicine, cupping, moxibustion, tui na (a type of massage), and gua sha. At Ottawa Community Acupuncture we do just acupuncture.

In an acupuncture treatment small, cat whisker-thin needles are inserted into specific points on the body to bring about symptom relief. Each acupuncture point has a job (or many jobs), and lies on a channel of energy flow called a meridian. This energy is called qi, and when qi isn't flowing right, it creates negative symptoms in our bodies. Headaches, bad moods, knee pain, hay fever, digestive bloating, you name it.

It is through the acupuncture points - studied, verified, and passed down to us through the centuries - that qi is shifted and re-calibrated so healing can occur.




What's the parking situation around there?


Ottawa Community Acupuncture is located on the bottom floor of a residential building, and we have ONE designated parking space in the lot located just south of the building.

There is 3-hour free street parking along Booth Street and the neighbouring residential streets (Primose Avenue, Rochester Street, Elm Street, and Spruce Street).




Do you treat babies and kids?


14-years olds and older can come as patients to OCA but require a guardian/parent to sign off on their consent form. However, due to COVID and the small size of our space, we can not allow parents/guardians to sit inside the treatment space with their under ager-er during the session. We do have a referal option for kids acupuncture in town, so be in touch if you are interested





Ottawa Community Acupuncture acknowledges that its practice sits on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin nation. We recognize their historical connection to this place and the many generations who have taken care of this land