Acupuncture is considered by many to be an effective, tried and tested healing system which has been used for thousands of years. The various types of acupuncture use needling techniques whereby acupuncture needles are inserted to identified points which can be found all over the body.

These points are considered to have little whirlpools of energy (qi) at them and they are all connected to various body parts and organs via pathways or channels which are called meridians.

The traditional origins of acupuncture lie in the basis that disease is caused by problems with energy (qi) which runs along pathways (meridians) and can be affected positively or negatively by the five elements, yin and yang and other interior and exterior factors.

When the needles are inserted into the correct points, a course of acupuncture can help re-align the qi so it is running effectively for the patient’s well being. Acupuncture stimulates the body’s own innate healing ability and corrects imbalances.

From the 1970s a medical acupuncture model started to develop which advocates a neurological rather than energy basis for the healing art. Medical acupuncture, which is also called scientific acupuncture, believes that the insertion of the needles in the points stimulate the nerve endings, having a variety of effects.

A Little Acupuncture History

For thousands of years, acupuncture has been used by oriental countries as well as other countries for healing different kinds of illnesses. Thought to have originated in China, acupuncture was documented firstly in the Huang Di Nei Jing-Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is considered to be the oldest medical book in the world.

In Europe there has been evidence cited that acupuncture was practised elsewhere in Eurasia in the time of the Bronze Age. Otzi the Iceman – the 5000+ year old mummified body had fifteen groups of tattoos, some in locations that were considered to be acupuncture points.

During the Stone Age earlier forms of acupuncture were practised in Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, South America, by the Eskimos and also by the North American Indians. There is evidence that in India it was even taught as an Ayurvedic subject.

In the 16th century Portuguese missionaries were thought to amongst the first to re-introduce it to the west. Doctors and missionaries from other countries also played a part in bringing acupuncture to Europe from the 17th century onwards.

Traditional Acupuncture

It is believed that the body contains channels or meridians where pressure points or acupoints are found. Acupuncturists believe that there are around 365 points which lie along these meridians, which stretch from the fingers through the brain. When a meridian is blocked, it produces an imbalance of qi or energy which triggers the onset of a disease.

It works like acupressure, however acupuncture makes use of needles while acupressure involves the application of pressure to the acupoints with the use of the hands, elbows, feet, fingers, palms and devices.

Proponents of this ancient oriental practice believe that illnesses are triggered by a disruption, obstruction or blockage in the natural flow of energy within the body. Acupuncture helps by removing these obstructions and restoring the natural flow of energy or qi along the meridians of the body.

In the TCM concept of disease, disharmony has been caused by a variety of possibilities and through correct and thorough diagnosis the aim is to harmonise the system again.

World Health Organization (WHO) and Acupuncture

Today, even the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises the benefits that acupuncture brings about. According to WHO, acupuncture is effective in treating a number of illnesses associated with the respiratory, digestive, circulatory and reproductive systems of the body. Acupuncture is also effective in correcting the imbalances in the major organs of the body. Basically, acupuncture helps in preventing the onset of diseases, treating minor to life-threatening medical conditions and in promoting the overall health and fitness of an individual.

How does Acupuncture work?

Acupuncture balances a person’s life energy, or Qi (pronounces “Chee”). Everything in us – all physical and non-physical (i.e mental, emotional) processes depend on the presence of Qi, and Qi is present in all living beings. This life energy, Qi, circulates throughout the body in channels, called Meridians. Treatment is based on the premise that health is maintained by a free flow of Qi. A block in this flow may cause disease much like a blocked coronary artery may cause heart disease. Illness and symptoms are associated with some imbalance in the flow of Qi and are considered the body’s cry for help. Lightly touching the Qi energy with acupuncture needles is like opening a gate or releasing congested areas, allowing the Qi to once again circulate freely thereby restoring health.

3. What is Acupuncture effective for?

Acupuncture can be effective for a range of conditions, including but not limited to:

•             Respiratory, Digestive and Circulatory conditions;

•             Menstrual, Reproductive and Menopausal problems;

•             Neuro-muscular disorders;

•             Addictions;

•             Anxiety, Depression, Trauma and other psychological problems;

•             Insomnia;

Acupuncture also strengthens the Immune System, provides relief from chronic conditions, and promotes overall well-being, personal growth and inner core strength. A variety of people of all ages have found Acupuncture to be effective where other forms of treatment have been unsuccessful. Because Acupuncture treats the whole person, people often report an overall improvement of health in addition to improvement in the condition they originally sought treatment for.

4. What can I expect from an Acupuncture Treatment?

Most individual Acupuncture Treatments last about one hour. You can expect to have a detailed history taken during your first treatment, and a detailed check-in during subsequent sessions. The acupuncturist will keep a confidential chart in which she tracks your progress. You may ask any questions you like about the treatment or the acupuncturist herself.

Before the actual treatment, the practitioner will feel your pulses to help her in determining the best course of treatment. She will also feel your pulses after inserting needles and at the end of the treatment.

She will then insert several very fine, sterile, disposable, stainless steel needles into different point in your body – called acupuncture points. Some of these needles will stay in place for a time, others will be removed immediately, depending upon your symptom and your pulses. You may be asked to rest with needles in place for 10-15 minutes. Some people will feel improvement in their condition immediately, for others it may take some time – either way is normal and cannot be predicted in advance of treatment.

5. Who practices Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is practiced by a Licensed Acupuncturist (lic.Ac.) who usually has a master’s level training. The profession is regulated by the same medical boards that regulate MDs.

6. How often should I get an Acupuncture Treatment?

This depends on your reasons for coming to Acupuncture.

If you would simply like to experience relaxation, a decrease in stress-induced symptoms such an overactive mind, worrying, muscle tension, disturbed sleep etc – you are very likely to notice improvement in these symptoms from just one session. This can be especially helpful at the beginning of your vacation as it allows you to leave behind your regular life for the time being and take full advantage of your time off. If, on the other hand, you are experiencing more serious conditions, more intensive and/or more regular treatments are called for.

Any sort of painful musculo-skeletal condition responds well to 2-4 treatments, scheduled closely together, say every day or every other day. More chronic conditions respond best to 2-3 sessions scheduled closely together, followed by regular treatments, say every 2-6 weeks, depending on the condition. What health practices can I do myself to make an Acupuncture Treatment more effective?

I suggest that you do the following:

• Drink at least 2-3 quarts of plain water each day – you can work up to that over the next few weeks – as this helps to settle the treatments.

• Engage in some form of regular exercise.

• Be sure you get some type of quiet time every day – it can be brief.

• Keep your coffee consumption to a minimum – caffeinated teas are fine.

• Drink 1-3 cups of green tea daily – steeped for at least 5 minutes.

7. Are there any Side Effects to Acupuncture?

There are very few side effects to Acupuncture, especially when compared to things like medications or surgery. Sometimes people will experience very minimal and short-lives pain or aching; you might get a bit light-headed (it’s important to have recently eaten something before getting acupuncture) and at times there may be a bit of bruising. It is also important to note that you may experience what is termed a Healing Crisis – whereby there may be an initial, very short-lived aggravation of your symptoms, lasting up to a few hours, followed by marked improvement. Healing Crises are a relatively common, but generally not a cause for concern.

8. What About Auricular Acupuncture?

Auricular (Ear) Acupuncture is a separate system of acupuncture. Some acupuncturists practice only this type of acupuncture.

Auricular Acupuncture is most effective for conditions like AnxietyDepressionInsomniaAddictions, and Allergies. At Cabot Shores, it is often incorporated into an individual Acupuncture session. Auricular Acupuncture is often provided in a group setting, and for mental conditions and addictions it can be more effective this way. Provided in a group setting, it is highly cost-effective as well as community-building. Groups such as Community Mental Health Centers, Veterans Groups, Detox Centers often employ this form of acupuncture.

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