What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient healing art developed by the Chinese over 5000 years ago. Its philosophy and principles are so solid that they have changed little with time, and have now been validated by modern scientific research.
For all living systems in the human body to function and to work in harmony, they have to maintain balance. The ancient Chinese have described this balance in terms of yin and yang.
The Life Force, Chi or Qi [pronounced “chee”] is said to circulate throughout the body with a daily rhythm to maintain the balance between yin and yang. This energy moves along pathways or meridians, which the Chinese have charted very precisely over thousands of years. There are 14 meridians, which link all the acupuncture points together. In a state of health, the Qi flows along these meridians without interruption. This flow is interrupted or blocked with an injury or during the course of an illness, resulting in stagnation of the Qi, which produces the symptoms of pain, stiffness, swelling, etc
Qi can be accessed and manipulated via acupuncture points, which are small windows into this energy system of the body. The acupuncture points can be activated by means of needles, finger pressure, heat, suction cups... The correct stimulation of the relevant acupuncture points restores the free-flow of Qi, which, in return, results in the relief of pain, improvement of body function, and, ultimately returns the body to health.
TOOLS OF ACUPUNCTURE
[a] Acupuncture needles are very slender and made of stainless steel, copper, or other metals. The sizes vary from a 3mm stud used on the earlobe, to 15cm long needles used in deep muscles. The insertion of a needle should not be painful, apart from the initial prick; this is followed by a deeper “needling sensation”, which is similar to the sensation experienced when bumping a “funny bone”. This indicates that the Qi has been successfully stimulated.
[b] Electro-acupuncture: In certain circumstances it may be necessary to attach electrical clips to some of the needles so that they can be electrically stimulated with an almost imperceptible current.
[c] Moxibustion: Certain conditions such as osteo-arthritis, may require heat, which can be applied by burning the herb Artemisia vulgaris [Mugwort] on the needles or near the acupuncture points. This painless but very effective treatment is also called “moxa”.
WHAT CONDITIONS CAN BE TREATED?
Acupuncture should be the treatment of choice for the following:
- Neck and back pain including: sciatica, lumbago, pinched nerves, muscular spasms, stiff neck etc.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Shingles and neuralgia of all sorts.
Acupuncture is indicated in the following painful conditions:
- Rheumatic and arthritic conditions e.g. tennis elbow, fibrositis, frozen shoulder, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Sports injuries.
- Neurological problems such as trigeminal neuralgia and Bell’s palsy.
- Spastic colon.
- Infertility, painful periods.
Acupuncture is often used in treating a vast range of other acute and chronic conditions such as:
- Allergies: hayfever, sinusitis, asthma, eczema,
- General : improvement of the immune system, stress management.
WHAT DOES TREATMENT INVOLVE?
After a detailed history and clinical examination, the practitioner will discuss treatment options.
While lying down, the needles are inserted in to selected acupuncture points, the patient is left to relax for about 30 minutes. Electrical stimulation or moxa may also be applied.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM AN ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
Patients will experience the beneficial effect of acupuncture after a series of one to four treatments. Acupuncture has a general effect on the entire body as well as relieving the localised symptoms.The perceived improvement, is a change in the disturbed flow of energy in the organ and it s corresponding meridian .
Acupuncture will mainly improve function but cannot remove structural changes or damage to tissues. For example, it can reduce the pain and stiffness associated with a pinched sciatic nerve, but it cannot replace or repair the damaged intervertebral disk.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
All modern acupuncture needles are disposable to prevent transmission of HIV. In experienced hands, complications from needling are rare and never serious. If you are pregnant, acupuncture can still be used, although caution will be exercised with the use of certain points.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is very safe, it is better to restore harmony in the body and it s meridians rather than resorting to drugs (anti inflammatories, cortisone etc... ), which have side effects on the digestive tract as well as on the kidneys. In many instances, the condition can be improved to the point where fewer drugs are needed to obtain relief.
On the other hand, many conditions that have failed to respond to conventional treatment can be eased or even cured with acupuncture [thus enabling a reduction in drug therapy]
Contrary to popular belief, there has been a lot of scientific research into acupuncture over the last 20 years. These ancient principles, have been largely validated by scientific methods.
[a] Bio-energetic: There is much evidence to show that the nature of Qi is electro-magnetic. Acupuncture points have a lower electro-magnetic potential, which can easily be demonstrated with a sensitive ohmmeter. Disturbances in bio-energy cause biochemical changes, which in turn cause anatomical changes in the body.
[b] Neurological: Although meridians do not correlate with nerve or circulatory pathways, it has been shown that acupuncture has an inhibitory effect on nerve pain transmission. It also has a direct effect on parts of the brain by increasing the blood flow to the medulla, which relays pain message.
[c] Chemical: The body, in response to acupuncture stimulation, releases various chemical substances. These include endorphins, bradykinins and prostaglandins. Endorphins are pain relieving and mood elevating and are responsible for the euphoria that is often experienced after a treatment. Bradykinins are pain relieving, and prostaglandins reduce inflammatory processes.