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Acupuncture close up

Traditional Acupuncture

How does acupuncture Work?

 brief explanation is that bodies are filled with an energy, sometimes called a Vital Force or an electro-magnetic field, which the Chinese named Ch'i (pronounced chee), and the Japanese named Ki (pronounced like key). This energy or Ch'i resides within our organs and travels round our bodies through channels which are called meridians, and the Ch'i which travels through the meridians can be influenced from outside the body by, for example, the weather, laying-on of hands or healing, massage etc. A powerful way to influence the Ch'i is by using needles - a needle can be inserted into the body to contact the Ch'i moving through the meridian and when the needle contacts the Ch'i a needle technique can be applied to alter the flowing Ch'i, this, in turn, will alter the Ch'i residing within the organ attached to that meridian, which will, in turn alter the ch'i in all the other organs.

If I decide to consult an acupuncturist, how do I find one?

The best way to find an acupuncturist is to ask your friends and acquaintances if they have had acupuncture treatment that was helpful. If no-one in your social world has had treatment then 

The internet represents a good resource and click on the B.Ac.C.'s website at for more information including a list of practitioners in your area.

What types of health complaint can be helped by acupuncture?

Acupuncture practice in this country can be loosely subdivided into two categories - Traditional Acupuncture and Medical Acupuncture. In Traditional Acupuncture, disease in whatever, is form seen as a disturbance of the proper functioning of the mind/body/spirit and the treatment principle is to improve the functioning of the entire mind/body/spirit and thus enable a person's own healing powers to perform properly and in this way resolve the health complaint. Medical or western Acupuncture is more concerned with relieving pain, this is in accord with medical research to date which has clearly demonstrated that acupuncture is able to bring pain relief even where orthodox procedures have failed. In theory the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, but in practise they often are.

What happens during an acupuncture session?

At the first session the practitioner will take a case history, enquiring about the main symptom, any other symptoms, illnesses through your life as well as an enquiry into your daily life - appetite, sleep pattern, lifestyle, bowel action, energy level, occupation, etc. This may be brief and broad details only, or it may be detailed and extensive, depending on practitioner style and patient circumstances. A physical examination will follow - examination of eyes, tongue, abdominal palpation, wrist-pulse palpation, blood pressure may be checked, the area on the body of the complaint may be examined. The practitioner seeks to ascertain the overall shape of the person's Ch'i and related health picture, in order to best understand how to proceed with treatment. In most cases a treatment will then occur, occasionally the first treatment will be at the second appointment, again this depends on practitioner style and patient circumstances. A treatment consists in the insertion of one or more acupuncture needles into carefully chosen acupuncture points - the needles may go in and immediately out again or they may be left in for a while, and they may be agitated in some way, depending on practitioner style and the Ch'i imbalance in the patient.
At subsequent sessions, treatment response to date will be determined together with any new developments and a usually briefer physical examination followed by a further treatment. This will continue until all possible benefits from treatment have been obtained.

Does it hurt?

Needling causes two sensations. The first is the sensation of the needle slipping through the skin, this can be without any sensation whatsoever or there can be a very brief, very mild, discomfort. There are a very few points where the discomfort is greater but still very short-lived. This sensation overall poses no barrier to treatment, even when treating children.
There then follows a second sensation, this occurs when the needle connects with the Ch'i or vital energy of the patient. This sensation is unique to acupuncture but is best described as a tingling, numbing feeling, neither nasty nor nice. The sensation fades leaving a slight ache which may last a few moments. This sensation, too, poses no barrier to treating children. There may also be a slight giddy or light-headed moment which quickly passes, often leaving a relaxed almost euphoric state of mind, body and spirit.

How long and how often will I need to have a treatment?

This, of course, depends upon the nature of the health problem and the constitution of the individual patient. Generally a person should expect to need weekly treatments initially, gradually moving to a two-weekly, three-weekly, etc., cycle as the total health picture improves. In severe or acute situations treatment may be twice or even three times a week in the very beginning until the severe/acute stage passes. The actual guideline is that the next treatment should take place just as the last treatment is winding down and the more treatment one has had the longer this should take.

The very broad rule of thumb is that a patient will need 1 year of regular treatment for every 10 years of disease. This guideline is complicated by the stressful nature of our lifestyle, the pressures of the modern world in which we live and our toxic environment. These factors mitigate against good health and mean that some people will need 'top-up' treatments every one or two months ad infinitum.

What about safety? Are the needles sterilised? Etc.

Members of the British Acupuncture Council are bound by the Code of Ethics which lays down strict guidelines regarding proper sterile procedures. Most acupuncturists use disposable pre-sterilised needles and those that don't are required to use autoclaving as the sterilisation procedure. But I suggest that you, once again, confirm that your chosen practitioner is a member of the B.Ac.C. and further you should ask him about this matter and if you are not satisfied with the answer, go elsewhere.

How will I respond to treatment?/How do I know treatment is working?

The initial response to treatment is usually a sense of increased well-being and this may occur before there is any relief from the main complaint, even though increased well-being can result in increased tolerance of the main complaint. In the early stages of treatment, I have often heard such things as ".. I have had just as many headaches but I can put up with more, they are not debilitating me as much..". This increase in well-being occurs as the mind/body/spirit system is encouraged to work better and the more this continues the more healing can occur and the more the symptoms abate. A patient should expect to feel benefit from the treatment program by the fourth treatment at the latest and benefit usually begins, albeit a bit short-lived, after the first treatment.

Acupuncture old book


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