What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an tried and tested system of medicine that can be traced back over 2,000 years. Chinese physicians over centuries observed that by stimulating certain areas of the skin specific functions of the internal organs were affected. Acupuncture evolved as a system of healing as techniques developed and became more refined and the link between the skin and organ functions was better understood. Its longevity and consistency are a testimony to its effectiveness as a comprehensive medical treatment today.
Acupuncture is used to treat and prevent physical and mental/emotional conditions to restore a natural balance to the body and mind. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, our health is dependent on the body's motivating energy - known as qi - moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians (channels) beneath the skin. The flow of qi can be disturbed by many factors, physical, mental and emotional: anxiety, stress, anger, fear or grief, poor nutrition, weather conditions, hereditary factors, infections, poisons and trauma. By inserting fine needles into the channels of energy at specific points, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body's own healing response and help to restore its natural balance.
Patterns of stress either physical or emotional can over time cause chronic and acute illness. Chinese medicine diagnosis aims to discover the underlying cause of a condition so that the most appropriate treatment can be given to help prevent illness recurring, and is specific for the individual's needs.
Acupuncture is effective for treating a variety of conditions and aims to improve health in all levels of body, mind and spirit. People often report that in addition to addressing their intial main complaint, acupuncture increases their sense of spirit and well being. It is used to treat and prevent illness but also maintain and promote good health.
Dietary recommendations are an integral part of acupuncture treatment and are considered important to maintaining good health within the Traditional Chinese Medicine health system.
What does it feel like?
Acupuncture needles bear little resemblance to the needles used in injections and blood tests. They are much finer and solid, not hollow. When a needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache. Needles may be inserted and immediately removed, or may be left in place for thirty minutes or more, depending on the effect required. During treatment, patients commonly experience a heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation. The benefits of acupuncture frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, as well as better appetite and sleep, and an enhanced sense of overall wellbeing.
What happens during treatment?
At the initial consultation you will be asked about your medical history, current condition, lifestyle, dietary habits and emotional state. As part of Chinese medical diagnosis, the practitioner will also feel your wrist pulses and look at your tongue. On the basis of the consultation a recommendation can be made regarding the frequency and duration of sessions. This first session will last 1.5 hours as there may be a lot of information to impart, and may include treatment if there is time. Subsequent sessions will last for 1 hour. Needles may be retained for between 20-30 minutes, depending on your condition and the treatment approach.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments you will need will depend on your condition. Some only need 2-3 treatments to feel a significant change. Acupuncture treatment is tailored and adapts to the patient's changing condition. Some people are seen once or twice per week, others less often.
Once symptoms are better people often continue treatments to address other issues or to maintain health and wellbeing.
How can acupuncture help me?
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is considered to be very safe. Every needle used is sterile, is used once only and then is disposed of safely, so there is no risk of infection. Research has shown that serious side effects are very rare with less than one in 10,000 cases.
Moxabustion and cupping
Acupuncture also includes other techniques such as cupping and moxibustion.
Moxabustion involves the burning of the herb Mugwort (artemesia vulgaris) -commonly called moxa- over specific areas of the body to warm and stimulate circulation and induce a smoother flow of blood and energy. Research has shown that Moxa can help stimultate blood-flow in the pelvic area and uterus, and is very effective for turning breech presenations ((American Journal of Chinese Medicine - Winter 2001 Yoichi Kanakura et al). It can also protect the body from cold and dampness, and can help strenghthen and invigorate where there is weakness or deficiency e.g. with knee pain and debility.
Cupping involves using a specialised glass cup to create suction on the skin to improve blood and energy circulation.
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