How does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture is based on the principles of balance and harmony known as Yin and Yang, together with an understanding that our health is reliant upon having abundant and smooth flowing energy. Too much energy stuck in one place may cause pain or symptoms such as headache; insufficient energy in another causes weakness, leading to problems such as a bad back. Balance in the key.
Our energy, known as Qi (chee), flows along interconnected channels, or meridians, that run both along the surface of the skin and internally through the organs and structures of the body. Situated along these channels are specific points where energy gathers. These have particular effects on the energy and therefore the functioning of the body. They are commonly known as ‘pressure points’ although they do not relate directly to the nervous system. It is into these points that the acupuncture needles are placed.
Many interconnected factors such as stress, emotional problems, over work and poor diet, all affect our energy negatively causing blocks and deficiencies. Over time these imbalances can lead to either physical or emotional problems.
The aim of acupuncture is to rebalance the body and mind, by unblocking and strengthening the energy. Doing so encourages the body’s own healing potential, helping not just symptoms but their underlying causes.
A Little History
Acupuncture has a history dating back over 2,000 years to a time when many of the great philosophers of ancient China, such as Lao Tzu, lived. The first text was compiled between 300 – 100 BCE and is still referred to extensively by acupuncturists even today.
Over the centuries many great Chinese doctors refined and improved upon this foundation and acupuncture spread throughout Eastern Asia as far as Japan and Malaysia. In Europe although there was some interest in the 17th & 18th centuries, it was not really until the 1960’s that traditional acupuncture began to be studied seriously.
There are now around 2,000 British Acupuncture Council registered acupuncturists in the UK and 8 accredited colleges.
The different styles of acupuncture
Acupuncture treatment is given on a massage couch and involves inserting very fine needles into the energy points of the body. It is best to wear loose comfortable clothing, that allows easy access to lower legs and arms. However, acupuncture needles cannot be inserted through clothing so it may be necessary to remove certain items, e.g. to get to points on the back.
Needles are left in place for between 15 – 30 minutes. At this time there may be a sensation of tingling accompanied by relaxation. Sometimes channels or points are warmed using a smouldering herb called mugwort (moxibustion). Magnets or a tiny electrical stimulation may also be applied to points for specific conditions.
Lifestyle and dietary advice, together with self massage and exercise programmes are often recommended to increase the effectiveness of treatment and provide long term maintenance.