How does acupuncture work?

The science of acupuncture is an important component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a gentle medical system that is used to diagnose and treat illness, prevent disease and improve well-being. Acupuncture has been used by the general An arm with three acupuncture needles insertedpopulation of China for thousands of years. The World Health Organisation lists a wide variety of diseases or disorders for which acupuncture therapy has been tested in controlled clinical trials (a list of conditions listed below).

Acupuncture promotes the body’s self-healing process by stimulating specific points, known as acupuncture points.

What is an acupuncture point?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on a theory that a life-force, called Qi (pronounced “chee”) flows in, through and around every living thing. It flows through our bodies, and when its flow is interrupted, illness, pain or discomfort may occur.

Doll showing meridians on the head

If the flow of Qi gets blocked, its like water getting stuck behind a dam. Acupuncture can help release this blocked Qi

in the body and stimulate the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems. Modern research has demonstrated acupuncture’s effects on the nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system.

The most common method used to stimulate these points is the insertion of fine, sterile, single use needles into the skin. Pressure, heat, or electrical stimulation may further enhance the effects. Other acupuncture point stimulation techniques include Tui Na massage, moxibustion (or heat therapy), or cupping. These needles are very thin, and although called “needles” are not like sewing needles or the hypodermic needle we get in injections! They can be as thin as a human hair.

This Qi energy,  flows along specific pathways, called meridians, throughout the body. The meridians are a network of connected acupuncture points, which gives the practitioner a powerful tool to manipulate the flow of Qi in the human body.

Who can have acupuncture?

Lots of people running out of the sea

Anybody can have acupuncture. Some people decide to have acupuncture to help them with specific ailments, symptoms or conditions. Some people choose acupuncture to strengthen their constitution, or maybe they feel under the weather and want to improve their constitution. Acupuncture is suitable for all ages. It can be effective when used alone or combined with Western Medicine.

What happens during an acupuncture treatment?

Your first acupuncture appointment would start with the practitioner taking a detailed medical history. Followed by sticking out your tongue! The reason for this is part of the examination of the tongue’s shape and colour, and if there is any coating. Your pulse will also be examined, and this is part of Acupuncturist taking the pulse of a patientdetermining, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint, what is happening. Using these unique assessment tools, the acupuncturist will recommend a treatment plan to address your particular condition.

The acupuncture treatment commences with lying comfortably on a treatment table (if you are unable to lie down, you can still be treated whilst seated). The acupuncture needles are then placed in the chosen acupuncture points. Most people feel no or minimal discomfort as the needles are being placed. The needles are usually retained for approximately 30 minutes. During the treatment, people report feeling nice and relaxed.

How many treatment sessions would I need?

The amount of treatment session depends on your condition. Your acupuncturist would normally ask to see you once or maybe twice a week. Benefits may be felt after the first or second treatment. Chronic conditions usually need more time to see improvement.

Page of a diary with date circled Once your condition has been stabilised you may require a “top-up” treatment every few weeks. Acupuncture is also effective as a preventative healthcare modality and many people like to receive an acupuncture session at the change of each season throughout the year.

Do I have to do anything before the treatment?

It is recommended to wear loose clothing, especially on your lower limbs, so that the acupuncture points are easily accessible. It is recommended not to have a large meal within an hour of your appointment. The reason for this is because the digestion process will alter the pulse pattern, and also you may have to lie on your stomach for your treatment. It is also recommended not to consume alcohol on the day of your treatment, nor to consume drinks or food that may colour your tongue, such as coffee.

Are there any side effects from acupuncture?

There are virtually no unpleasant side effects from acupuncture. There may occasionally be minor bruising or a tingling sensation at the site of the needle point, or a short term flare up of your symptoms. These are usually mild and self-correcting as the Qi resettles and clears.

Should I tell my doctor I am having acupuncture?

Star of life with rod of asclepius

If you are receiving treatment from your doctor then you should mention that you are having acupuncture. Your acupuncturist will ask you about any medication that you are taking, and any treatment plans managed by your doctor.

What can acupuncture treat?

The following is a list of conditions that acupuncture can help with. It is not exhaustive and serves to illustrate the breadth of conditions can treat.

General conditions: Allergies, anaemia, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, catarrh, colitis, constipation, dental pain, depression, dizziness, gastric ulcers, haemorrhoids, hay fever, hypertension, incontinence, indigestion, insomnia, migraine, oedema, palpitations, paralysis, rheumatism, sciatica, sinusitis, tennis elbow, thyroid conditions, tinnitus, trigeminal neuralgia, urine retention, urogenital problems, varicose veins, vertigo.

Female conditions: Absence of periods, anaemia, cystitis, endometriosis, hot flushes, infertility, IVF support, irregular periods, labour induction, lactation problems, pregnancy conditions, premenstrual tension, prolapse.

Male Conditions: ED, Impotence, infertility, prostatitis, premature ejaculation.

Substance Addiction: Alcohol, drugs, food, tobacco, tranquillisers.