What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the main parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine which has been practiced for more than 2000 years in China and now globally. Traditional Chinese medicine consists of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Tuina Massage. Traditional Chinese Medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of “yin” and “yang” of the life force known as “qi,” pronounced “chi.” Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces.
Qi is said to flow through meridians, or pathways, in the human body. These meridians and energy flows are accessible through at least 350 acupuncture points in the body.
Inserting needles into these points with appropriate combinations is said to bring the energy flow back into proper balance. Although science has not been able to prove how acupuncture works fully, in 2003 the World Health Organization (WHO) listed a number of conditions in which they say acupuncture has been proven effective.
- high and low blood pressure
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- some gastric conditions, including peptic ulcer
- painful periods
- allergic rhinitis
- facial pain
- morning sickness
- rheumatoid arthritis
- tennis elbow
- dental pain
- reducing the risk of stroke
- inducing labor
Other conditions for which the WHO say that acupuncture may help but more evidence is needed include:
- postoperative convalescence
- substance, tobacco and alcohol dependence
- spine pain
- stiff neck
- vascular dementia
- whooping cough, or pertussis
- Tourette syndrome
Acupuncture can be beneficial in that:
- Performed correctly, it is safe.
- There are very few side effects.
- It can be effectively combined with other treatments.
- It can control some types of pain.
- It may help patients for whom pain medications are not suitable.
What to expect?
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians, through which vital energy runs. This energy is known as “qi” or “chi.”
An acupuncturist will examine the patient and assess their condition, insert one or more thin, sterile needles, and offer advice on self-care or other complementary therapies, such as Chinese herbs.
The patient will be asked to lie down on their back, front, or one side, depending on where the needles are to be inserted. The acupuncturist should use single-use, disposable, sterile needles. As each needle is inserted, the patient may feel a very brief stinging or tingling sensation.
After the needle is inserted, there is occasionally a dull ache at the base of the needle that then subsides. Acupuncture is usually relatively painless.
Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion.
The needles will stay in place for between 5 and 30 minutes.
The number of treatments needed depend on the individual. A person with a chronic condition may need one to two treatments a week over several months. An acute problem normally improves after 8 to 12 sessions.