Acupuncture is a 100% natural form of treatment. Health is restored through the balancing and realignment of energy within the body. Where a health problem is being created by deficiency in the body, the practitioner redirects energy in a way that stimulates and strengthens. When a problem is being caused by excess in the body, the practitioner looks to sedate and calm the affected organ or area. Nothing artificial is ever put into the body, rather the body is ‘tuned’, allowing it to naturally function in its most efficient manner.
Where will the needles be put?
Underlying Chinese medical philosophy is the concept of channels of energy, or ‘meridians’ which run through the body. Of the 14 main channels, 12 directly relate to the internal organs. Along these channels are specific points through which the energy of the channel, and consequently the related organ, can be affected. There are over 360 acupuncture points on the body, each with a unique function and character. By the insertion and manipulation of a fine needle into one of these points, that function can be stimulated, and the energy of the organ can be affected in such a way as to restore health.
In the case of very physical problems, such as a sports injury for example, needles may be inserted in the local area of the pain to relieve stagnation caused by trauma or over-activity. However, needles can also be used away from the channels in order to bring blood and energy to a muscle or area, thus promoting the body’s ability to heal. In line with the holistic philosophy of acupuncture, such physical work will often be supported by more general work on the individual’s constitution and underlying imbalances. This dual approach is the key to effective and long-lasting relief from symptoms.
Two different types of acupuncture
The two main schools of acupuncture that are practiced in the West are Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Five Element Acupuncture. Some practitioners train in both of these styles, and use an integrated approach in their practice.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
A very direct and effective style of acupuncture, TCM is based upon the concept that ill health can be understood in terms of energetic imbalances within the organs, or blockages of energy within the channels. The TCM practitioner diagnoses these imbalances from the patient’s description of symptoms, from pulse and tongue diagnosis, and through observation. They will then formulate a plan aimed towards restoring balance, and will choose acupuncture points whose functions match the desired effect. TCM acupuncture is especially useful for physical problems.
Five Element Acupuncture
Five Element Acupuncture shares the same underlying concepts as TCM, that ill health can be understood in terms of energetic imbalances within the organs, but adds an extra dimension by understanding the organs in the context of the Five Elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood).
The concept of the Five Elements has been part of Chinese philosophy for thousands of years. The great strength of Five Element Acupuncture is its ability to approach the mental, emotional and spiritual levels of a person. In perfect health, all of the five elements are balanced within a person. An understanding of the way in which imbalances in one of the elements can lead to disharmony in another allows the practitioner to trace the root cause of problems extremely effectively. Furthermore, as each of the elements relates to a different emotion, the Five Element model provides a means of understanding the emotional responses and emotional state of a person, and provides the necessary tools to facilitate change on this level.
What can be helped using Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a holistic form of medicine, which recognises the integral links between mental and physical health. Emotional imbalance, whether coming from depression, fear, anger or any other source, will create and perpetuate physical imbalances in the body. Therefore, acupuncture aims to simultaneously approach the physical, mental and emotional aspects of a person.
Some common conditions that can be helped include:
Anxiety and stress
Headaches and Migraines
High blood pressure
Low self esteem
ME/Chronic fatigue syndrome
What happens in a typical session?
On your first visit, a full health history will be taken in order to formulate a diagnosis. In this session, your practitioner will build up a comprehensive picture of your state of health, and will lay the foundations for the sessions ahead. This initial session generally lasts 1 and a half hours, and includes a short treatment. On subsequent visits, a session will last between 45 minutes and an hour.
In all sessions the practitioner will carry out two important diagnostic tests:
1: Pulse Diagnosis
In Chinese medicine, the Pulses on the two wrists are used to assess the energetic state of the patient’s organs. Each of the 12 organs is represented within the pulses, which provide a window into the internal state of the person. The practitioner will feel for the Rhythm, Rate, Shape and Size of the pulse in 3 different positions on each wrist, and will use this information to assist diagnosis and choice of approach.
2: Tongue Diagnosis
Chinese medicine considers the tongue to be an extremely valuable diagnostic tool. Different areas of the tongue relate to different organs in the body, and observations of colours, textures, coating and other key features give the practitioner information about the energetic state of the organs.
After diagnosis, the practitioner will formulate a plan for the day. He will then tell the patient what he plans to do in the session, and which acupuncture points he would like to use.
The patient will then be asked to expose only the area required for the points required. If points on the back or torso are required, a gown will be supplied.
The needles will then be inserted into the chosen acupuncture points. Depending on the aims for a particular patient, needles may either be left in the points for 15-20 minutes, or they may be inserted and removed immediately. An extremely common question from people who have never had any acupuncture is ‘Does it hurt?’. The needles used are very fine, and insertion is not painful. Patients often describe a ‘tingling’ sensation around the needle. This is commonly followed by a sensation of relaxation.
Throughout the sessions, the practitioner will periodically monitor the patient’s pulses to assess progress. The energetic changes that he intends to achieve through the chosen acupuncture points can be felt in changes in the pulses throughout the session. Thus, the pulses provide an invaluable means of assessing when the desired result has been achieved. When this time comes, needles are removed, and the session is complete.
In the course of the session, the practitioner will also take time to talk to the patient about ways in which positive effects can be enhanced and supported with lifestyle considerations (such as dietary changes, exercise routines etc). In this way, the patient is encouraged to take an active role in the improvement of their health.
How often will I need to come?
Although every person’s requirements are different, It is normally recommended that you visit weekly at the start. As you progress, this will be changed to fortnightly, then monthly. Eventually it may be recommended that you come just once every three months for a seasonal boost.
Are the needles sterile?
The needles used are disposable, and made of high-grade stainless steel. Each needle is taken from a sterile packet, and is discarded after a single insertion.
By Sam Stennett BA (Hons), Lic Ac, MBAcC
British Acupuncture Council – the UK’s main regulatory body for the practice of acupuncture.
The British Medical Acupuncture Society – a registered charity established to encourage the use and scientific understanding of acupuncture within medicine.
Acupuncture.Com – a wide range of resources relating to acupuncture and chinese medicine.
Bigroomacupuncture – an innovative approach to affordable acupuncture in the UK.