More about Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a system of healing that originated in China and has been practised there and throughout the Far East for several thousand years. It involves the stimulation of points on the surface of the body either with fine needles, heat (moxibustion), or with finger pressure (acupressure). It is suitable for people of all ages. In this article I will try and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about acupuncture.

How could acupuncture help me?

Acupuncture treats patients rather than diseases, the objective being to restore the balance of energy flow within the body and improve its ability to cope with a wide variety of conditions. The following are some of the conditions that can be treated with acupuncture.

Anxiety and tension.

Acupuncture is an extremely relaxing form of treatment and is beneficial to people who have difficulty in dealing with stress and its consequences. It can also help with sleeping difficulties.

Headaches and migraine

Used in conjunction with osteopathy, acupuncture can be an extremely effective treatment in alleviating these conditions. Some benefit also accrues from its ability to reduce tension.

Fatigue

Acupuncture and moxibustion play an important part in a comprehensive naturopathic programme to manage and overcome chronic fatigue.

Arthritis and rheumatism

A combination of osteopathic soft tissue techniques, together with acupuncture and moxibustion can often relieve chronically stiffened and degenerative joint conditions. Osteoarthritis of the shoulders, arms, knees and ankles respond particularly well to this form of treatment.

Neck and back pain

Acute pains in the neck, shoulders, and back that are the consequence of either vertebral displacements, cervical spondylitis (inflammation of the neck joints), or spondylosis (wear and tear of the joints) can be relieved by acupuncture in combination with osteopathic soft-tissue procedures. Chronic back disorders, commonly due to a weakness of the supporting tissues, respond particularly well to moxibustion in conjunction with gentle osteopathic treatment.

Respiratory problems

Coughs, colds, sinusitis, and bronchitis can all be helped considerably by acupuncture and moxibustion treatment. We combine these treatments with herbal and naturopathic measures to assist the body's healing processes.

Digestive disorders

Acupuncture and moxibustion (see below) can be valuable aids to better digestive function. Combined with naturopathic dietary advice acupuncture will help regulate problems of stomach, liver and gallbladder. Irritable bowel disease and other intestinal troubles are greatly relieved with acupuncture or moxibustion.

Menstrual and menopausal disorders

Chinese physiology interprets problems such as PMT as being associated with stagnation of energy and blood flow. This can be cleared by treating specific points. Other problems, such as excessive bleeding, may require attention to the insufficient energy of organs responsible for maintaining the strength of the tissues and blood vessels. This might require moxibustion to increase the supportive functions. Acupuncture can also help with menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and fatigue.

High blood pressure

Acupuncture treatment may help in certain cases of high blood pressure. Its main benefit appears to lie with its ability to reduce tension.

Ear problems

Some cases of Meniere's Syndrome (disabling dizziness) can be alleviated by acupuncture in combination with homoeopathic medicine. Tinnitus (noises in the ear) can sometimes be diminished in intensity. Both these conditions are difficult to eradicate completely but the intensity of symptoms can be reduced in many cases.

Smoking addiction

Acupuncture can assist 70-80 percent of cases in coping with the withdrawal effects of smoking cessation. We give general acupuncture treatment as required to balance the energies and insert tiny semi-permanent needles in special points on the ear which the patient can stimulate daily. These remain in place under a plaster for two weeks when a further session is needed. At this, the ear needles are removed and a general treatment is given. If you are still having difficulty with withdrawal, more treatments may be necessary, but most people find they can cope without help after the first two weeks.

We also give advice on diet and other health-promoting measures that are essential to overcome the addiction. Acupuncture is not an aversion treatment; it will not actually stop you smoking but, when you decide to become a non-smoker, it will assist you as part of the health-promoting programme we offer.

Infants and children

Young people respond well to acupuncture, although we usually use acupressure rather than needles. Most children respond satisfactorily to naturopathy and homoeopathy so we seldom find it necessary to use acupuncture as well.

Is acupuncture treatment painful?

The sterile needles we use are extremely fine, and much thinner than needles used for injections or drawing blood. There is a slight sensation as the needle pierces the skin followed by a mild and momentary electrical sensation or heaviness, known as de qi or needle sensation, as the energy is reached. While the needle remains in place there should be no further discomfort.

Sometimes the needles are withdrawn immediately, more commonly they are left in place for ten to twenty minutes. Occasionally the needle will be rotated gently to stimulate the energy flow.

Moxibustion is the use of a burning herb to stimulate the points. This is usually done with a roll of compressed moxa (dried Mugwort) which is held close the skin until it feels too hot. Cones of moxa are sometimes placed on the points and ignited at the top to burn until they feel too hot, and another technique is to place moxa on the handle of a needle while it is in place to impart a gentle heat through the needle. All these methods are under the control of the patient.

Electro-acupuncture is done by attaching small electrodes to the needles and delivering a low-frequency stimulus from a special electro-acupuncture device. It gives a gentle tingling sensation.

What if I'm afraid of needles?

A few people are apprehensive about needles, although most patients are pleasantly surprised at how gentle the treatment is. For those who are really concerned about penetration of the skin there are other methods of treating the acupuncture points effectively, including massage and moxibustion, described above.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture points lie along a network of energy channels known as meridians, which traverse the body just below the skin surface. They are believed to interconnect with the organs of the body. Traditional acupuncture theory suggests that health is maintained by the harmonious flow of energy throughout the body and where it is concentrated in the meridians. By treating appropriately selected points it is possible to influence this energy flow to restore a balance.

The state of the body energy is determined by a careful diagnostic assessment, which takes account of the patient's responses to environmental changes such as heat and damp, and includes observation of skin complexion, tongue, and palpation of the wrist pulses to check their quality and strength in different positions. The practitioner correlates this information to arrive at a diagnosis and selection of appropriate points for treatment.

Modern theories suggest that acupuncture points act through nervous and hormonal mechanisms. These may account for some of its pain-relieving benefits, but they do not explain its ability to assist in a wide variety of other disorders. We embrace modern techniques but find that by working with traditional diagnostic criteria we can obtain better results.

How much treatment will I need?

This depends entirely on how long you have had your problem, how acute it is, and the sort of treatments you may have had in the past. Acupuncture can often give some immediate relief of pain and inflammation but underlying imbalances and chronic disorders take time to correct. Most people require treatment once or twice a week for six to ten sessions, reducing frequency of visits as their bodies coping mechanisms are restored.

R.Newman Turner, BAc,ND,DO

If you have any other questions about acupuncture please contact us by clicking here.

For more information about acupuncture you can visit the following website:
British Acupuncture Council
www.acupuncture.org.uk