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What Accupuncture is For and How it Works

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 22 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Acumpuncture Complementary Therapy Chi

If you're plagued with backache, headaches, or hormonal problems and there's nothing that your doctor can do to help you relieve the troublesome symptoms, acupuncture could be a way ahead for these and many other chronic conditions that are simply 'managed' by standard medicine. If the idea of having needles stuck into you doesn't frighten you off, it's a beneficial therapy that's been used for thousands of years, so it's certainly worth a try!

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical system that involves a therapist inserting very fine disposable needles into the body at specific points, at key points into the body, which are intended to stimulate the flow of vital energy (sometimes called Qi) Acupuncturists believe that this energy flows through the body via a network of channels, or meridians, under the skin Acupuncture is one of the most well-established complementary therapies in the UK.

Acupuncture is based on the Chinese belief that if your Qi is out of balance in some way, it can cause illness. Acupuncture should re-balance you, and promote the smooth running of the life force through the meridians in your body. The concept of Qi is based around the idea that the body, and everything around us, is made up of opposing yet complementary qualities called 'yin' and 'yang'. When there is too much of either quality, the flow of chi is interrupted.Some people believe that rather than meridians and Qi, acupuncture actually works by stimulating the body to release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.

What is Acupuncture Best For?

Acupuncture is recommended for

  • tension headaches and migraines
  • circulatory problems and high blood pressure
  • back pain and sciatica
  • anxiety and depression
  • asthma and skin conditions
  • infertility or hormonal problems

It can even help some women to relieve pain in childbirth and is sometimes used to help people with addictions to alcohol, smoking, food and drugs.

In China acupuncture is used as a preventive measure rather than a cure.

What Happens in a Treatment?

During your first consultation the therapist will ask you a lot of detailed questions about your medical history and your family, asking about your diet and digestion, how well you sleep, and how you feel emotionally.

Your tongue is usually examined, and your, posture, body odour and other physical characteristics noted. Then you'll have your 'pulses' taken - in acupuncture it is believed that you have six pulses running through each wrist.

Once the treatment begins, needles are inserted and usually left in place for a few seconds. Some acupuncturists prefer to leave the needles in place for longer. The sensation can be anything from a tingling to a dull ache. It's not usually too painful, although if the therapist finds an area of blockage, it can be uncomfortable. Sometimes the acupuncturist will burn a herb called moxa.

Safety First

Always consult a qualified practitioner Check the person you are going to see is a member of the British Medical Acupuncture Society list of accredited therapists if you want to be on the safe side.

Other things you need to take into consideration:

  • It's absolutely essential that disposable needles are used for each acupuncture treatment.
  • Tell the acupuncturist if you have a sexually transmitted disease, HIV or hepatitis.
  • If you are pregnant, tell the acupuncturist as some points shouldn't be stimulated during pregnancy.
  • Don't drink alcohol,eat a big meal, or do any strenuous exercise immediately before or after an acupuncture session.

Acupuncture is one of the therapies that the House of Lords Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine believed to have the most supporting evidence of effectiveness, the best professional organisations and top training standards, so go ahead and give the needles a try!

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