Acupuncture is administered by inserting and manipulating fine needles into various points along meridian lines to stimulate the points. This can relieve pain or be used for other therapeutic purposes, by restoring the balance to the flow of qi (life energy). Acupuncture is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy known as qi which circulates through twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of qi through a meridian leads to illness and disease.

History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China and has been used in the Far East to restore, promote and maintain good health for over 2,500 years. The first medical account of acupuncture was The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine which dates from about 300BC. The Chinese state that the practice of acupuncture began during the Stone Age when stone knives or sharp edged tools were used to puncture and drain abscesses.


Acupuncture has been known and used in the West since the seventeenth century, but the first recorded use of acupuncture was by Dr. Berlioz at the Paris medical School in 1810. Acupuncture then spread to England in 1821 and was used by the first known British acupuncturist John Churchill.


How does it work?

There is as yet no clear, simple answer to this. Suggestions can be linked to the ‘Gate Theory of Pain’ that sates that there are specific nerve fibres that transmit pain to the spinal cord and the use of needles excites the pain inhibitory nerve fibres. However the problem here is that the pain inhibitory nerve fibres are excited only for a short period of time, which doesn’t explain why effects of acupuncture can last for months after the acupuncture needle has been removed. The Gate Theory also doesn’t explain how acupuncture is beneficial for non pain related diseases.


Another theory is that of Endorphins which are effective in blocking pain, endorphins are released into the nervous system by the action of acupuncture. Again however, this theory doesn’t explain the use and effects of acupuncture in non-painful diseases. The theory of endorphins doesn’t explain how very gentle stimulation of a point on the small toe of an almost full-term pregnant woman can cause the baby to turn into the correct position if it is breech. This stimulation would not affect the body’s endorphins yet it has a profound physical effect.


Even though a scientific model has not been able to explain how acupuncture works, there are thousands of documented success stories from all around the world to convince many of its healing capabilities.


A typical appointment

A brief case history is taken to begin with and various questions will be asked in order for the acupuncturist to determine what organs are affected and what other afflictions are at play. Often the tongue is observed and the pulse felt in order to confirm the diagnosis or to provide further information on the disharmonies in the body and your general health. The acupuncturist will then choose the best treatment plan to restore balance. This will be a chosen selection of acupuncture points, which are inserted for a length of time and manipulated and could also include some Chinese herbs.


The number of sessions required will depend on the condition in question.


What to expect

Relief may be immediate or more gradual depending on the nature of the condition. The length of relief could be short lived or long-term, this usually depends on the amount of treatment received. As we are all individuals, individual response varies.


Acupuncture often leaves people feeling relaxed and calm.


Conditions treated

Acupuncture can treat many conditions such as; neck, back and shoulder pain, sciatica, anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, headaches and migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, sinus problems, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, sports injuries, bladder infections, menstrual and PMS problems, addictions, infertility plus many more.


Precautions – if any

Acupuncture is generally a very safe form of treatment, and you should ensure that you feel comfortable with your acupuncturist. Acupuncture should not be performed on patients who are overly hungry or have overeaten just before treatment. Nor should it be performed on people who are intoxicated or exhausted.


Some acupuncture points are contraindicated in pregnant women, so it is important to inform your acupuncturist if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.


Acupuncture should not be performed on infants when the fontanel is not closed.


If you suffer from a clotting problem, inform your acupuncturist before your first session as it may not be advisable to continue with treatment.


Always ensure an acupuncturist is fully qualified and insured before undergoing any treatment, and ensure they use sterile disposable needles.


Written by Ranjni Janda


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