What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture originated between 2000 and 3000 years ago, in South East Asia. It’s a treatment method which aims to support the bodies own natural healing resources. During treatment, specific points on the body, known as acupoints, are stimulated either by the insertion of fine needles, heat, pressure or laser.
Today Acupuncture is widely practiced worldwide. It is a rational, personal and evidence based system, which is used, not only by acupuncturists, but also by some Western Medical Doctors, Midwives, Veterinarians, and other healthcare professionals.
So how does acupuncture work?
Traditionally acupuncture’s healing effect is thought to stem from its ability to improve the flow energy (qi) within the body, and balance the opposing, yet complementary natural forces of Yin and Yang. This balancing is similar in concept to the Western idea of homeostasis.
Over the last 2 decades, there has been huge growth, in both the quantity, and quality of Acupuncture research. From the results of this research, we now know that the insertion of Acupuncture needles, triggers the nervous system to start a cascade of events, which cause changes to both the brain and the internal organs. Brain scans show that Acupuncture stimulation deactivates the parts of the brain associated with stress ( the fight or flight response) and activates the parts associated with the parasympathetic nervous system ( the rest and restore part).
Acupuncture also stimulates the body to release its own natural pain killers such as Endorphins and molecules such as Adenosine are also released, which are associated with tissue healing and disease resolution. Some great references which demonstrate this relationship are listed below.
Chen, X., Luo, F., Fujita, T., Ren, Z., Goldman, N., Zhao, Y., . . . Nedergaard, M. (2012). Traditional Acupuncture Triggers a Local Increase in Adenosine in Human Subjects [Abstract]. The Journal of Pain,13(12), 1215-1223. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2012.09.012
Ling, D., Pena, I.D., Lin, L., Zhou, S., Borlongan, C.V.,& Cao, C. (2014). The Neuroprotective role of Acupuncture and Activation of the BDNF Signaling Pathway . International Journal of Molecular Sciences 15(2), 3234-3252. dog:10.3390/ijms15023234
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 spacey. 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 types of conditions do people have acupuncture for?
People seek acupuncture treatments for conditions like :
- 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.