About Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the placing of very fine needles at particular points on the body, with the intention of improving the health of the patient.

Traditional acupuncture is based on the idea that life-energy or chi runs all through the body. When chi runs strongly and smoothly, you feel energetic, enthusiastic and able to cope with life’s challenges. When chi becomes blocked, you may experience fatigue, pain, low mood and a lack of resilience. Chi can become blocked by injury, stress, overwork, poor diet, lack of exercise and all manner of normal, day-to-day events.

When a needle is placed in an acupuncture point, it makes a ‘suggestion’ to the body, encouraging the body’s own tendency to heal itself and restore harmony.

Traditional acupuncture treats the person rather than the illness and each person’s unique patterns will be assessed and taken in to account when the points are chosen. For example, two patients both suffering from lower back pain may have different points needled, as their underlying causes of disease may vary.

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Is the practice of Acupuncture in the West different from China?

Acupuncture originated in China around two thousand years ago. It was discovered that stimulating certain places in the body improved health, but the exact story of how this came about is buried too deep in history to be clear. Over the past two millennia, the science and art of acupuncture has been refined by numerous learned physicians and philosophers.

Alongside herbal medicine, massage techniques (tuina), dietary therapy and exercise (chi gong), acupuncture is one part of the whole that is Chinese Medicine. In China, a doctor will usually have extensive knowledge of all of these disciplines and will specialise in one or more. When a patient visits a hospital he or she may be treated with several therapies concurrently. A course of acupuncture commonly consists of ten treatments, carried out daily or every other day. If necessary a new course will follow afterwards. Acupuncture may be accompanied by herbs, dietary advice, and a prescribed regime of chi gong exercises.

Knowledge of acupuncture first came to Europe in the nineteenth century and interest in the practice has grown steadily since. In the second half of the twentieth century, a number of practitioners travelled to study in Oriental countries and were influential in determining how acupuncture developed in the West.

Firstly they were more likely to focus on acupuncture in isolation. Secondly, they brought their previous training in naturopathy, osteopathy or psychotherapy to bear on how they adapted the practice of acupuncture; they would usually see patients for long one-to-one sessions, usually at weekly intervals or even less frequently.

This model of practice means that the patient can be given very high levels of practitioner attention, but unfortunately limits the accessibility of the treatment to those in the upper socio-economic groups due to the high cost of long, private sessions.

Since the turn of the new century, community and multibed acupuncture clinics have sought to increase the accessibility of acupuncture to other socio-economic groups by reducing the cost of treatment. You can find out more about how multibed clinics work on the ‘About multibed clinics’ page.

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