This is the best known Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment in the Western world and is the most common Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment undertaken. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that acupuncture has successfully treated numerous conditions, whilst other conditions are recognised as responding well to acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture has the following benefits:
- Provides drug-free pain relief
- Effectively treats a wide range of acute and chronic ailments
- Treats the underlying cause of disease and illness as well as the symptoms
- Provides an holistic approach to the treatment of disease and illness, linking body, mind and emotions
- Assists in the prevention against disease and illness as well as the maintenance of general well-being
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
The traditional Chinese theory is that the blood’s life energy called Qi travels around the body in pathways known as meridians. The acupuncturist views illness as an energetic imbalance and he or she is able to influence this imbalance by inserting very fine needles at certain points along these channels called acupoints. Research shows that acupuncture causes a release of endorphins; the body’s naturally produced painkillers. Research also shows that acupuncture can produce beneficial effects to the body’s immune and endocrine systems.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE HURT?
Acupuncture needles are different from the needles used to give injections and take blood. Acupuncture needles are much finer and are solid rather than hollow. They are designed to part the skin without cutting the bodies tissues. Sterile stainless steel needles are used with a diameter of between 0.25mm to 0.45 mm which is about the thickness of a human hair.
Patients experience a light prick as the needle penetrates the skin but this is a momentary experience. Most people describe the feeling as virtually painless or no more painful than plucking out a hair. However the pain threshold varies from person to person and the level of discomfort felt differs in various locations. For instance in thin muscle such as the face and the fingers and toes a needle insertion will always be uncomfortable if not a little painful.
After the needle is inserted you must provide feedback on what you are feeling. Most people feel a dull ache, tingling or feeling of heaviness or numbness around the area where the needle is, occasionally a mild electrical pulsation radiating away from the site of the needle is felt. Reactions such as these are of vital importance and signify that the Qi has been accessed. The needles are usually left in place for between 15 to 30 minutes depending on the condition being treated and may be occasionally manipulated.
Removal of the needles causes no discomfort and minor bleeding may sometimes occur which is stemmed with a cotton swab. On occasion the removal of a needle may cause pain. The reason for this is that the patient is cold or nervous and the muscles have contracted. The acupuncturist uses a special technique to remove such a needle minimising any pain to the patient.
Some facial points may bruise after needling so if a minor facial bruise bothers you usually an alternative point elsewhere on the body can be selected.
It is vital that you tell your practitioner if you suffer from any disease transmissible by blood (e.g. HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis etc.) or if you are on any blood thinning medication.
It is vital that you tell your practitioner if you are (or even suspect that you might be) pregnant as some acupuncture points are not suitable during pregnancy.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS ARE REQUIRED?
This varies from patient to patient. It depends on the nature of the condition, the patients overall health, how long they have had the particular condition, their response to acupuncture treatment. You should commit yourself to a course of treatment and be prepared to give it time. Usually, if your condition is going to respond to treatment then you can expect to see results after about 4 to 6 treatments.
Treatments have a cumulative effect with each treatment building in the effects of the previous treatments. It is thus not unusual to see little or no improvement after the earlier treatments but to suddenly experience an improvement in your condition after a number of treatments. This is why it is important to commit yourself to a course of treatments. However if you are experiencing no improvement after about 10 treatments then you may be one of those people whose condition is not amenable to acupuncture.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is about the re-balancing of the body’s energy and quite often a sense of relaxation and general well being results after a course of treatments. Because of this rebalancing effect other conditions may resolve or become less bothersome while patients are undergoing treatment for a different condition. Acupuncture assists in the maintenance of general well-being and treatments can lead to increased energy levels.
IS ACUPUNCTURE SAFE?
Acupuncture is a safe form of treatment when performed by a qualified, conscientious practitioner who has a good knowledge of human anatomy and who uses single use sterile disposable needless.
Acupuncturists are bound by a strict Code of Ethics and practice and are required to take all necessary measures to ensure a patients health. However, inserting needles into the human body is an invasive technique and some points have the ability to cause harm to underlying anatomical structures. If you are unsure about a point being used discuss it with your practitioner or ask that an alternate acupuncture point be selected.
WHAT ABOUT MY GP AND OTHER MEDICATIONS?
A consultation for acupuncture may result in a patient being asked to make an appointment to see their GP first. An experienced and skilled acupuncturist will know when to treat and when to seek an expert medical opinion. Many people seek treatment without a referral from their GP. A practitioner can often pick up signs and symptoms during the case history discussion which warrant early GP intervention. A practitioner will never request that you give up any medication or treatment that your GP has prescribed for you.
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