Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine, sterilised needles into various points in the human body to treat a wide variety of conditions.
What can Acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture has been used to treat most ailments except medical emergencies when hospitalisation is required. The therapy is particularly effective for:
- stress-related problems such as depression or anxiety
- pain relief
- fatigue and low energy
- menstrual problems
- hormonal problems
- digestive disorders
- asthma and hay fever
- migraines and nausea
- general health and well-being
Practised in China for over 3,500 years and brought to Europe by doctors and missionaries in the seventeenth century, acupuncture has continued to gain increasingly widespread acceptance in the West, particularly within the last 20 years. Courses in Western scientific acupuncture are now available to GPs in the UK to supplement conventional medical treatment. There are two main forms of acupuncture: Chinese and Western scientific.
Chinese acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM and seeks to manipulate the flow of qi or ‘life energy’ in the body. According to TCM, qi flows through the body along pathways known as meridians; disruption of its smooth circulation can create illness. There are 365 ‘acupoints’ along the meridians at which qi is concentrated. The insertion of needles into acupoints can help restore balance to the qi.
Western scientific acupuncture focuses on how acupuncture can stimulate the nerves in skin and muscle to produce a variety of effects. Acupuncture can increase a body’s release of natural painkillers and has positive effects on the nervous system, hormone outputs, circulation, allergic responses and general well-being. In this ways, acupuncture can encourage the patient’s body to heal and repair itself, if it is able to do so.
Considerable scientific research on acupuncture has been carried out in the past twenty years and, although there is still much to be done, all the signs are that the relationship between medicine and acupuncture will become much closer. Western scientific acupuncture is already available in many rheumatology, pain and physiotherapy clinics.
Consultation and treatment
During the initial consultation, practitioners – both Chinese and Western – take a detailed medical history and conduct a physical examination before devising a treatment plan tailored for the individual’s needs.
Frequency and number of treatments required depends on the nature and severity of the illness. Treatment might take place once a week to begin with; most clients typically require between 6 and 10 sessions.
The number of needles used during treatment varies but may be only two or three. They are inserted to a depth of a quarter to one inch and are normally left in position for about 20 minutes. They can be inserted for as little as a few seconds or as long as an hour, although that is unusual. Sessions last between 30 and 90 minutes.
Chinese acupuncturists may also recommend herbal remedies as well as diet and lifestyle changes.
Costs for acupuncture are variable and range from £20 to £50 for a 40 minute session. Some GPs offer acupuncture on the NHS.
Acupuncture cannot be practised at home. However, your practitioner may recommend dietary or lifestyle measures.
How to find a practitioner
For a list of conventional doctors trained in acupuncture, call the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS). All members are fully qualified medical practitioners. A practitioner must undergo at least two years’ full-time training or the part-time equivalent before he or she can register with the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the largest register of professionally-trained acupuncturists in the UK, and the only register that regulates its members through standards of education, codes of practice and disciplinary procedures. Training includes Western medical subjects relevant to the practice of acupuncture.
It is vital to get an accurate medical diagnosis made before embarking on
Tell the practitioner if you suffer from any diseases that may be transmitted by
Acupressure is generally regarded as more suitable for babies and children than acupuncture but acupuncture can be used. Find a practitioner who specialises in treating children.Tell the practitioner if you are pregnant as certain acupoints should not be used during pregnancy. However, acupuncture can be used safely during labour – for example, to help turn breach babies.