What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture uses needles that are inserted at specific points under the surface of the skin in order to stimulate the flow of energy to various parts and organs of the body. The needles are extremely fine and the process is painless.

A slightly different traditional technique uses ‘moxa’, which is a smoldering cone or stick of herbs that is held over the relevant acupuncture points. ‘Cupping’, which is another traditional technique, is sometimes used for certain conditions; it involves placing warm glass, metal or bamboo cups over relevant points. More recently, electrical impulses, lasers and ultrasound have all been used. All of these methods work on the same basic principles.

Acupuncture is one of the most ancient forms of healing in the world. Stone acupuncture needles dating from about 2500BC have been found in tombs in Inner Mongolia. Acupuncture works by balancing the flow of energy (chi) that circulates around the body along ‘meridians’. Insertion of needles at precise points along ‘meridians’ can stimulate the flow of energy and remove stagnant or blocked energy that is linked to disease. When chi flows freely and there is a balance of different types of energy, the body is healthy and free of disease.


What does acupuncture involve?

Diagnosis is very important in acupuncture and the therapist will spend a lot of time finding out where energy is blocked and the quality of energy in your body. This will involve asking you detailed questions about your medical history, symptoms, pains and sensations, and other information. The therapist will observe the way you look and the condition of your skin, eyes and tongue. She or he will notice the way you talk, and feel the quality of your skin and pulse. In Chinese medicine there are six basic pulses, three on each wrist. The quality and strength of these pulses are particularly important in making an accurate diagnosis.

During treatment, you will normally lie on a couch and be asked to remove sufficient clothing to allow access to the relevant acupuncture points on your body. The insertion of the needles may feel like a pinprick followed by tingling or numbness. Needles may be inserted for a few seconds or left in for up to half an hour; the therapist will manipulate them to stimulate or calm the energy flowing through that point.

Reaction to the treatment will vary. You may not feel any immediate change or you may feel re-vitalised, tired or ‘spaced out’. You may even feel worse for a short time, as energy in your body adjusts and emotional tensions are discharged. Relief from pain and other benefits tend to occur after a few days.

The number of treatments you require will vary depending on the nature of your illness, but you should expect to see some marked improvement after three or four treatments.


What conditions does acupuncture help?

Here are some of the conditions that may be relieved by acupuncture:

  • Arthritis and back pain
  • Poor circulation
  • Depression and fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Menstrual problems
  • Hay fever
  • Asthma


Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is safe when practised by a qualified therapist. It works well with children and can be used during pregnancy.