Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that dates back thousands of years, its roots originating in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, and is one of the many facets of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture involves the manipulation of energy or life force known as 'Qi' in order to restore balance and harmony within the body, and promote healing. This can be achieved by the gentle, shallow insertion of very fine needles into specific acupoints which are located on channels or meridians that traverse the body and through which the Qi flows.

The meridians are associated with the different organs in the body which can influence, or be influenced by, the movement of Qi. An imbalance or interruption to the movement of Qi within the organs or meridians can result in a blockage or stagnation which inturn causes pain and/or illness. Dispersal of this stagnation through the application of acupuncture will then help to restore the normal flow of Qi through the body, to relieve pain and promote wellness.

Acupuncture can have the effect of both energising and revitalising, or relaxing and nurturing, depending on what the body requires.

What can be treated with acupuncture?

Almost anything can be treated with acupuncture, after all it was the only form of medical treatment that existed within China for thousands of years before western medicine was introduced.

The most common condition an acupuncturist encounters is pain. This can range from joint pain, muscular pain, nerve pain, migraine just to name a few and in most cases a patient will experience relief from such pain after a short course of acupuncture treatments. Some conditions are more difficult to treat than others and may require an increased number of visits, and different medical conditions may respond better to either just acupuncture, Chinese herbs or a combination of both.

Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a holistic approach to healing, so rather than focusing on "fixing" one symptom on its own, we try to find the underlying cause of the problem and then tailor a treatment that will address this. By addressing the root cause, we are then able to alleviate the symptoms and help prevent further problems from occurring. In fact it is quite common for a patient to find that other ailments that they have been suffering from simultaneously begin to improve during the course of their treatment. By observing the body as a whole working organism an acupuncturist will consider the health of the mind, body and spirit, recognising that each of these greatly influences the other.

Some of the common conditions that can be successfully treated with acupuncture include:

  • acute and chronic pain
  • arthritis
  • muscular aches and pains
  • sports injuries/strains and sprains
  • menstrual disorders
  • menopause
  • depression and anxiety
  • stress
  • headache and migraine
  • insomnia
  • tinnitus
  • allergies and asthma
  • hay fever
  • coughs/colds and flu
  • gastrointestinal disorders/constipation/diarrhoea
  • smoking and drug addiction

What to expect during an acupuncture treatment

In your first acupuncture treatment the therapist will ask questions about the problem you are experiencing and take a short case history in order to gather the appropriate information required to tailor a treatment specifically to you. The therapist will then choose a selection of acupuncture points to be needled (usually 10-12 points) and consider whether other forms of treatment might also be appropriate such as cupping, moxibustion and massage. During a treatment the therapist will always communicate with the patient in regards to what procedures are to be carried out to make sure the patient is comfortable and relaxed. The patient is left alone to remove the required clothing and make themselves comfortable on the massage table. An alcohol swab is used to clean the area where each needle will be inserted and all needles are sterile and singularly packaged to be used only once and then disposed of. Needles are left in for 20-30 minutes before being removed.

Acupuncture is not a painful procedure and should never be an unpleasant experience. The patient should always feel free to communicate with the therapist about what they are feeling, be it positive or negative and the best way to get the full benefit from your acupuncture treatment is to relax and focus on the breath. Many people will even fall asleep during a treatment.

What to do following an acupuncture treatment

Most people feel deeply relaxed after their acupuncture treatment as well as experiencing a general sense of well being. It is also common to feel a bit "floaty" or light headed and it advisable for the patient to take some time to allow their body to readjust. This can be achieved by simply sitting quietly for a short amount of time with a glass of water or cup of tea, some people even find that they benefit from a short sleep.

Light exercise is generally considered to be beneficial as it allows the Qi and blood to keep flowing freely through the body which will promote healing. In some cases such as with muscular injury, it is advisable to apply heat to a particular area of the body and this can be done with a wheat bag or heat pack. In most cases one acupuncture treatment alone will not be enough to remedy a problem and generally a course of 4-6 treatments once or twice weekly is recommended.

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