Acupuncture is part of Chinese Medicine, the traditional medicine of China. It has been developed over about 3000 years, and its philosophy is based on ancient texts such as the I-CHING and the NEI-JING.
Chinese Medicine is based on the flow of energy within and without the body/mind. This energy is often called Qi, and can be understood as life force or vital energy. It motivates all change and movement within the body. Qi is transported along meridians, which are essentially energy pathways for the circulation of energy (and blood) through the body and tissues.
Acupuncture points are located on the meridians in places where there is an increased concentration of Qi and blood. When an acupuncturist needles a particular point she is aiming to stimulate or adjust the flow of Qi and blood along that meridian.
The art of acupuncture is still evolving today, with contemporary acupuncture including techniques from Western medical practice such as trigger point acupuncture. Acupuncture is widely used all over the world, and its popularity here in NZ is increasing as more and more people find out what it can do for them.
So how does acupuncture work?
The body can develop disharmony in various ways: from an inability to adapt to our outside environment, from a dietary imbalance, or from an excess of either physical or mental/emotional stress . Once we have developed this imbalance it disrupts the movement of the body’s vital energy (Qi) along the meridian pathways. These meridians run all over the body. Each organ has its own meridian, which crosses paths with the meridians of other organs. You can picture these meridian pathways like the rivers and streams that crisscross our lands. The Qi flows through the meridians just like water flows through the waterways.
A healthy river with free flowing water would represent a healthy body. Now imagine for some reason the flow of water gets disrupted. Perhaps there is a drought and some areas dry up or only have a slow trickle. Or perhaps the river gets polluted with rubbish and the water becomes stagnant and murky. Or the flow is obstructed completely by some kind of barrier (dam) causing the flow to build up on one side to the detriment of the other.
Acupuncture treatments help to restore the smooth flow of Qi. By inserting and manipulating needles at specific points on the body, acupuncture helps return the body to its natural balance.
Being part of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is all about balance. Chinese Medicine teaches us that true balance is really a dynamic between complimentary opposites—hot and cold, day and night, Yin and Yang. This pattern of change can also be observed in nature and in the rhythms of our lives.
What does acupuncture feel like?
Acupuncturists use exceptionally fine, sterile, disposable stainless steel needles. They are nothing like the needles used for blood tests or flu shots.
Receiving acupuncture should be almost painless, though you may feel a slight pin-prick and some sensation of tingling, dullness or heaviness around the area needled.
The majority of people who are frightened of needles find that acupuncture needles do not bother them at all. In addition to needles, techniques such as cupping, moxibustion (where a herb is smouldered near the skin to warm joints or muscles) or electro-acupuncture (where a tiny electric current puts a rhythmic pulse through the needles) may be used. These additional treatments are widely used, and are generally experienced as pleasant and relaxing. Most people leave an acupuncture treatment feeling relaxed both mentally and physically.
How many acupuncture treatments will I need?
The benefits of acupuncture are cumulative, so more than one treatment is usually necessary. The nature of your problem, how long it has been present and how severe it is will determine how many treatments you will need. At your first consultation I will try to give you some idea of how long treatment might take. Some problems can be resolved within two or three treatments, others take six to eight, while severe, long-term problems may require treatment over several months.
What should I expect on my first visit?
At your first consultation I will ask detailed questions about your condition, your general health, and your lifestyle. These questions are important because the holistic approach of Chinese medicine takes everything into account. Your current symptoms may not seem related to past health issues, but our bodies are complex landscapes and everything that happens to them leaves its imprint.
I will also take your pulse and look at your tongue, as these are basic diagnostic methods in Chinese medicine. The acupuncture points chosen depend on your Chinese Medicine diagnosis. Once the needles are inserted you will rest for a period of 20-30 minutes.
First treatments take an hour; subsequent ones may be slightly shorter. Dietary suggestions, exercise therapy, and lifestyle advice may form part of the treatment.
How will I feel after a treatment?
After your treatment you will probably feel wonderfully calm and perhaps a little light-headed. Ideally, it is a good idea to not do anything too strenuous for the next couple of hours.
Over the next couple of days it is usual to experience a continued sense of deeper relaxation and awareness.
What can acupuncture treat?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found — based on clinical research — that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of over 300 imbalances, including:
- Allergies, Cold, Flu
- Arthritis and Joint Pain
- Pregnancy Issues
- Premenstrual syndrome(PMS) and Painful Menses
- Autoimmune / Fibromyalgia
- Fatigue and Insomnia
- Smoking / Addictions
- Anxiety and Depression
- Diarrhoea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS)
- Back Pain
- Nerve Pain
How is acupuncture different to Western medicine?
Western medicine tends to treat symptoms, whereas acupuncture aims to treat the cause of the symptoms. Acupuncture (and Chinese Medicine generally) recognises that symptoms are actually the body’s way of communicating to us that all is not well. Acupuncture is holistic medicine, and as such takes into account the whole person—body, mind and spirit.