What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient system of medicine which originated, and has been practiced, in China and other Far Eastern countries for thousands of years. There it still features in mainstream healthcare, both as a stand-alone therapy and in combination with conventional Western medicine. It began with the discovery that stimulating certain areas of the body affected the functioning of specific organs. Over time it evolved into a system of healing and the earliest acupuncture books were written over two thousand years ago.
According to traditional Chinese philosophy, our health is dependent on the body’s motivating or vital energy – known as qi (chee) – moving in a smooth and balanced way through a series of meridians (channels) beneath the skin. Acupuncture works to help maintain your body’s equilibrium. It involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to regulate the flow of qi.
The flow of qi can be disturbed, depleted or blocked by physical, mental and emotional factors including anxiety, stress, anger, fear or grief, poor nutrition, weather conditions, hereditary factors, infections, poisons and trauma.
This can result in some symptoms of pain and illness; in certain instances, traditional acupuncture can be an effective therapy to help restore balance and promote physical and emotional harmony. By inserting fine needles into the channels of energy, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help to restore its natural balance.
What conditions can Acupuncture help with?
In the West, acupuncture is recognised mainly for its success in the treatment of nausea, pain, musculo-skeletal problems, migraines and arthritis. In fact, its focus is on improving the overall well-being of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms and is used to treat people with a wide range of illnesses, including mental and emotional problems. Some people turn to acupuncture for help with a specific symptom or condition. Others choose to have treatment to help maintain good health, as a preventive measure, or simply to improve their general sense of wellbeing. Because traditional acupuncture aims to treat the whole person rather than specific symptoms in isolation, it can be effective for a range of conditions.
In 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended that acupuncture should be made available on the NHS, as a cost-effective short-term treatment for the management of early, persistent non-specific lower back pain.
Remember that acupuncturists treat the person, not just the condition which they have, so each patient’s treatment plan will be different. However, you can always ask your practitioner about other patients’ experiences, to give you an idea of what to expect.