Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing. The earliest acupuncture books were written 2,500 years ago and today, world-wide, there are over three million practitioners. Acupuncture began with the discovery that the stimulation of specific areas of the skin affected the functioning of certain organs of the body. It evolved into a system of healing as the connection between the skin and the organs was better understood and more sensitive ways of stimulation were devised.
In the West, acupuncture has been misleadingly publicised as only being helpful in specific conditions, for example, pain or weight loss whereas, in fact, it is extremely effective in a wide variety of conditions through its power to stimulate our own healing responses. This overall therapeutic effect is one of its great strengths.
Acupuncture begins with a diagnosis of the individual's energy imbalance. The energy of the body, mind and spirit is distributed through 12 main energy pathways (sometimes called meridians). Each pathway is associated with an organ. The chronic over or under activity of any of these pathways will cause the organ to work less effectively and disease will result.
Whether an energy pathway is malfunctioning is revealed in many ways, for example by facial colour, odour, sound in the voice, emotional state, taste preferences, the nature of the symptoms and the distribution of heat and cold in the body. Each organ also has a pulse associated with it which informs the practitioner about the energy of that organ. The pulses are located on the radial artery at the wrist. These signs, together with several others, form the basis of diagnosis.
The purpose of the diagnosis is to establish which pathways require adjustment for a specific condition to improve and which require adjustment for your overall energy and vitality to improve.
Treatment is the process of re-establishing the energy balance. This is done in two ways. One is the insertion of fine, stainless steel needles into acupuncture points, either stimulating or sedating the energy of a specific pathway. The other is the application of warmth to the acupuncture point. These methods are often used in combination. As the balance improves, health improves.
Many people come to acupuncture for help with a specific symptom or condition. For example: anxiety states, arthritis, asthma, back pain circulatory problems, depression, facial paralysis, fibrositis, high blood pressure, indeterminate aches and pains, infertility, menstrual problems, migraines or headaches, rheumatism, sciatica, skin conditions or ulcers. Extensive practice and Chinese research has shown acupuncture's effectiveness in helping these and many other conditions.
The effect of good acupuncture, however, is to do more than simply cure the symptom. Acupuncture directed at restoring the overall energy balance will deal with the condition and also help the patient feel better in a general way. Hence the frequent comment, "I'm feeling better in myself", which refers to such things as increased energy and vitality, greater enjoyment of life, greater confidence, better sleep or more normal appetite.
This approach, where the whole person as well as the symptom is taken into consideration, is referred to as traditional acupuncture. It is contrasted with the symptomatic approach which uses treatment formulae for specific conditions and where no heed is paid to the overall energy balance.
Diagnosing and treating the person - rather than the disease, is particularly appropriate in two cases. There are some people who feel quite unwell in themselves but do not have a sufficiently serious or "physical" complaint to present themselves as "sick". Traditional acupuncture can diagnose the imbalance and restore well-being without the person having a named condition.
Many patients also come to an acupuncturist for preventive treatment. An acupuncturist can often detect and treat an energy imbalance before the patient is aware of any symptoms. The aim is to maintain health rather than overcoming a specific condition.
Generally you will come weekly to begin with and then, as you improve, less frequently. The speed of improvement varies more according to the person rather than the label of the complaint. Some people are much improved after the first visit; others require more extensive treatment.
Some people would like to try acupuncture, but may not because they assume it will be painful. The needles we use are solid and much finer than those used for injections or withdrawing blood. In most cases only a slight prick is felt when the needle goes through the skin. When the needle reaches the acupuncture point there is another sensation often described as a tingle or dull ache. The sensation felt is generally acceptable and lasts only 1 or 2 seconds.