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Sunday, 17 October 2010 10:18

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Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing developed over 1000 years in China and other Eastern countries which is increasingly being recognised as ‘effective’ by Western health professionals and patients. It is based upon detecting disharmonies within a person’s body and mind. These are determined by asking questions about presenting symptoms, life style, sleeping patterns, emotions, and feelings as well as examining the tongue, its colour, sAcupuncturehape, and coating and taking a series of pulses on both wrists.

A traditional diagnosis is then made leading to a treatment plan which will primarily involve the use of fine needles inserted into carefully chosen points.

What conditions are treated?

Acupuncture can and is used to treat a wide variety of conditions. In traditional acupuncture in which illness is seen to result in an imbalance of energy, treatment can benefit almost any ill person as long as a degenerative process is not too extensive. Typical conditions treated are: anxiety/depression, arthritis, asthma, pain, eczema, sports injuries, allergies and hayfever, migraine, menstrual disorders, gastrointestinal problems and pregnancy management and delivery. It is also used in a preventative manner to keep the body in tune.

Who Has Acupuncture?

Many people come to acupuncture for help with specific symptoms or conditions. These might include anxiety states, arthritis, asthma, back pain, circulatory problems, depression, facial paralysis, fibrositis, high blood pressure, indeterminate aches and pains, infertility menstrual problems, migraines, rheumatism, sciatica, skin conditions or ulcers.

Acupuncture is a safe treatment for all. It has proved to be effective in pregnancy management and for the relief of pain in childbirth. Acupuncture is also helpful for people trying to overcome addictions such as those related to smoking, alcohol, food or drugs.

Some people may have acupuncture as a preventive measure to strengthen their constitution, or because they feel unwell in themselves without being ‘ill’ in the Western sense. It can also be used alongside conventional medicine in the treatment of both acute and chronic disease. As with any therapy, the response to acupuncture can vary from one person to another.

What will happen on my first visit?

Your first consultation may he longer than subsequent sessions. The acupuncturist needs to assess your general state of health, in order to identify the underlying pattern of disharmony and give you the most effective treatment.

You will be asked about your current symptoms and what treatment you have received so far, your medical history and that of your close family; your diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state. To discover how the energies are flowing in your body, the acupuncturist is likely to feel your pulses on both wrists, noting their quality, rhythm arid strength. The structure, colour and coating of your tongue also gives a good guide to your physical health.

Once enough information has been gathered to determine the likely causes of your problems. the acupuncturist can select the most appropriate treatment. The aim is to discover which energy channels need adjusting for your specific complaint to improve, and which require treatment to boost your overall energy and vitality.

There are around 500 recognised acupuncture points on the body: of which about 100 are most commonly used. Stimulation of specific areas on the skin affects the functioning of certain organs in the body. However, those areas max not be close to the part of the body where the problem is experienced. For example, although you may suffer from headaches, needles may be inserted in your foot or hand.

The acupuncturist may supplement the needle treatment with moxa, a smouldering herb which is used to warm acupuncture points to encourage the body’s energy to flow smoothly Other methods of stimulating acupuncture points include using lasers or electro-acupuncture. Massage, or tapping with a rounded probe are techniques particularly suitable for small children or for people with a fear of needles.

How long does a treatment take?

The first consultation may last between forty minutes and one hour. Subsequent treatments may be a little shorter. A series of treatments will be required and the number will depend on the patient’s energy level.

What does it feel like?

Most people’s experience of needles is of those used in injections and blood tests. Acupuncture needles hear little resemblance to these. They are much finer and are solid rather than hollow. When the needle is inserted, the sensation is often described as a tingling or dull ache.

Needles are inserted either for a second or two, or left in place for up to 20 minutes, depending on the effect required. During treatment, patients commonly experience heaviness in the limbs or a pleasant feeling of relaxation.

The benefits of acupuncture frequently include more than just relief from a particular condition. Many people find that it can also lead to increased energy levels, better appetite and sleep as well as an enhanced sense of overall well being

How often will I need Treatment?

In traditional acupuncture philosophy each person is considered as unique, and therefore the number of treatments required depends on the individual. Some change is usually felt after five treatments. Normally you are recommended to visit your acupuncturist once or twice a week at first, although some conditions may need less frequent attention.

Sometimes the effects of the treatment are dramatic and only one or two treatments are required. With other patients, the effects are more subtle and they may’ need treatment over several months.

More about the needles

The sterile needles used in acupuncture are very fine and when placed correctly by a qualified acupuncturist give a sensation rather than any pain. The depth of insertion of the needles varies depending upon the location and the condition being treated. The needles are left in place for up to thirty minutes. For people who do not like needles, acupressure with the fingers and thumbs is used.

What does it cost?

Each session of acupuncture costs between £20 and £40. Some health policies will cover the cost. A GP may also arrange payment on the NJIS.

Should my Doctor Know?

If you are receiving treatment from your doctor then it makes sense to tell him or her about your plans to have acupuncture. The acupuncture treatment may’ enable you to reduce or ex en stop taking some forms of medication. but your doctor should he consulted regarding any’ change of prescription.

You should always tell your acupuncturist about any’ medication you are taking as this may affect your response to the acupuncture treatment.

Is it Safe?

All members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) must observe a Code of Practice which lays down stringent standards of hygiene and sterilisation for needles and other equipment. These procedures have been approved by’ the Department of Health and provide protection against the transmission of infectious diseases.

Patients who have been treated by a BAcC member are eligible to donate blood through the National Blood Service.

History of Acupuncture

The Chinese and other eastern peoples have been using acupuncture to restore, promote and maintain good health for about 2,500 years needles were originally used, and later bronze, gold and silver needles. The first medical account of acupuncture was ‘The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine’ which dates from about 300 BC. Acupuncture is rooted in the Taoist philosophy of change, growth, balance and harmony, and this text outlines the principles of natural law and the movements of life - yin and yang, the Five Elements, the organ system and the meridian network along which acupuncture points are located. Amazingly, these records also contain details of pathology and physiology, which provide the theoretical foundation for acupuncture today, some 2000 years later.

Acupuncture practice was gradually developed and refined. During the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644), the famous Chinese herbalists Li Shi Zen published his 50-volume ‘Compendium of Materia Medica’, as well as a study of the Pulse and the Extraordinary Meridians. But from the mid-seventeenth century there was a decline in acupuncture and herbalism, which coincided with the increasing influence of Western ideas of China.

Although acupuncture was always practised in rural communities, it was not until after the Liberation and the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, that there was a great resurgence of interest in it at a national level. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), with the persecution of surgeons and doctors practising Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine was given new opportunities to develop. Today acupuncture is used far more extensively in China than in the West, in a hospital-based system with facilities for treating acute as well as chronic cases. The national policy is to pursue both systems side by side, with extensive clinical research.

In Britain, serious study of traditional acupuncture did not develop until the 1950s and early 1960s. The links were made either through Europe or through direct contact with teachers and schools in Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere. The serious students of acupuncture came from the ranks of those who were already interested in, or actually practised, natural medicines - osteopaths, homeopaths and naturopaths. To many it seemed that traditional Chinese medicine had formalised and set down many of the concepts they had found through their own experience.

Over the last 20 years there has been a dramatic rise from just a handful of qualified acupuncturists to over 1600 registered with The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). The Council was formed in 1995 as an amalgamation of five separate organisations, who agreed that one body should represent and govern their professionally qualified traditional acupuncturists in all aspects of their work. The BAcC maintains common standards of education, ethics, discipline and codes of practice to ensure the health and safety of the public at all times. Members carry insurance in the same way as doctors do. The training of member acupuncturists is regulated by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board under the Chairmanship of Lord Baldwin. Training is for a minimum of two years full-time or its equivalent on a part-time basis.

Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular in the United Kingdom as more people seek and find its benefits in promoting health as well as managing illness.

Source: - British Acupuncture Council 

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