Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program

Neurofunctional Treatment of Pain with Movement Disorders

The McMaster Contemporary Acupuncture Program is prepared to welcome new health professionals, after the recent passing of Bill 50

By Dr. Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco
January 1, 2007

by Alejandro Elorriaga Claraco, MD (Spain), Director McMaster Contemporary Acupuncture Program and Angelica Fargas-Babjak, MD, Chair McMaster Contemporary Acupuncture Program

Since 1998, over 500 health care professionals from Ontario, the USA and 14 other countries have received Contemporary Acupuncture training at McMaster University. For nine years, the McMaster Contemporary Acupuncture Program has pioneered in Ontario a multidisciplinary and integrated approach model to the learning and practising of acupuncture that has just been validated by the provincial government and the members of parliament with the unanimous passing of third and final reading of Bill 50 on November 21, 2006. Bill 50 will now become law once it receives Royal Assent.

Bill 50, called “An Act respecting the regulation of the profession traditional Chinese medicine, and making complementary amendments to certain Acts,” establishes the parameters for the creation and regulation of a new health care profession associated with the practice of traditional Chinese medicine.

At the same time, Bill 50 makes provisions to allow members of eight existing health care professions in Ontario to continue to provide acupuncture services to Ontarians, following the standards set by their own colleges and within the scope of practice of their respective professions. These privileges apply to physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, chiropody, dentistry, and naturopathy.

Many members of almost all of these professions have already participated in the Contemporary Acupuncture Program at McMaster University; however, with the now official regulation of the practice of acupuncture in the province, the Program is prepared to receive many new applications in the near future.

Past Contemporary Acupuncture graduates state that they have experienced significant professional benefits by incorporating acupuncture into their practices. They acknowledge that contemporary acupuncture has given them a tremendous competitive advantage in dealing with pain problems and functional disturbances. Clinical problems graduates feel they are most successful at treating include: sports injuries, musculoskeletal pain, chronic pain syndromes, neurological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation problems, pelvic pain, digestive dysfunctions, dismenorrhea, chronic fatigue, infertility problems, nausea (particularly in pregnancy), and as an adjunct in the management of cancer patients and the elderly.

This is an impressive array of unrelated clinical conditions; how is it possible for acupuncture to be effective on all of them? The explanation rests on the contemporary understanding of its neurophysiological mechanisms of action. While this information is available for review in many excellent contemporary scientific texts that present the results of almost 40 years of worldwide research, the authors would like to provide a very short account of these mechanisms and effects to legitimate the above mentioned applications.

The most researched acupuncture effect is analgesia. Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture triggers a response at many levels of the nervous system including the local tissues, the spinal cord, the brain stem, the hypothalamus, and other brain centers. Through many different neurophysiological mechanisms put into action at those levels, acupuncture produces a very effective modulation of the pain generating signals with a net decrease of pain.

Some of the chemical substances released in the body in response to electro-acupuncture stimulation also have an effect on the immune system, making it possible to summarize these major acupuncture effects under the contemporary term neuro-immuno-modulation.

In addition, there are numerous documented effects of acupuncture on internal organ function such as on the digestive system (motility and secretions), the cardiovascular system (heart rate, blood pressure), the autonomic nervous system (xerostomia, nausea), the limbic system (addictive behaviour), and several others.

Based on these mechanisms of action and observed clinical effects, Contemporary Acupuncture is defined as a peripheral nerve stimulation technique that induces multi-level neuromodulatory responses in the body, changing the behaviour of the nervous system and its effectors, mainly the skeletal muscle, the vascular system, the visceral smooth muscle, the endocrine system, and the immune system.

This definition outlines the exciting range of clinical applications and benefits that the graduates of the McMaster Contemporary Acupuncture Program are able to offer to their patients with their acupuncture interventions; now, with the legal protection and unanimous endorsement of the representatives of the population of Ontario. Congratulations to all who have made this possible, and thank you on behalf of our Program.

For information about the McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program visit or call Valerie at 905-521-2100 ext. 75175.