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Traditional Chinese acupuncture is an holistic healthcare system that regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign that the body is out of balance. Because traditional acupuncture considers every bodily function to be connected and interdependent, it recognises the role emotions play in illness and disease. The overall aim of treatment is to restore the body’s equilibrium.

A traditional acupuncturist’s main focus is on correcting the underlying cause of illness which will be different for every individual. Consequently, there are no ‘off-the-peg’ treatments or points prescriptions.

Traditional acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined over thousands of years. We focus on the individual, not their illness, and see all symptoms in relation to each other. Because every patient is unique, two people with the same western diagnosis will each receive different acupuncture treatments.

The underlying principle is that illness and pain occur when the body’s qi, or vital energy, cannot flow freely. The body’s energy meridians can become obstructed, in much the same way as a trapped nerve or blocked artery. This can be for any number of reasons such as emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection, or injury.

By inserting ultra-fine, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncturist seeks to re-establish the free flow of qi to restore balance and trigger the body’s natural healing response.

A growing body of evidence-based clinical research shows that traditional acupuncture safely treats a wide range of common health problems. There is no ‘one size fits all’ acupuncture treatment because no two people are identical. Traditional acupuncture is an holistic healthcare system that treats the whole person, not just your symptoms.

During the initial consultation a traditional acupuncturist will take a complete medical history in order to understand your unique physical profile and lifestyle. You will generally be asked about your current symptoms, medical history, diet, digestive system, sleeping patterns and emotional state. The practitioner will take your pulse on both wrists and may examine your tongue and palpate for areas of muscular tension or pain. A personalised treatment plan will be recommended which may include lifestyle and dietary advice. Because energy meridians cover the whole body, the points used are not always close to where you experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you suffer from headaches needles might be inserted in your foot or hand.

In addition to needling acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncture treatment may include other Chinese medicine techniques such as:

  • moxibustion: application of indirect heat using moxa (therapeutic herbs) and/or heat lamps to warm and relax muscles and energy meridians
  • body massage: to relieve muscle tension, stimulate acupressure points, open energy meridians and stimulate the flow of qi.
  • electro-acupuncture: a very low frequency electrical current (1Hz) is applied to the needle to increase blood flow, relax muscle tissue and clear stagnant qi
  • cupping: glass cups with a vacuum seal are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnant qi
  • guasha: vigorous rubbing of the skin to increase blood flow and clear stagnant qi

Lifestyle advice
We may suggest ways in which you can enhance the long-term effects of your treatment, such as by making changes to your diet and daily routine. If necessary you will be referred to other healthcare practitioners for specialist care.

After effects
Most people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You may feel tired or sleepy and should take this into account if you are planning to drive or use machinery straight after your treatment. Acupuncture has very few side effects and any that do occur are usually mild and self-correcting. Cupping and guasha can sometimes temporarily mark the skin. Such bruising is painless and generally clears within a day or two.

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Acupuncture Research Fact Sheets

Produced by the British Acupuncture Council, these publicly available resources explain how acupuncture may prove beneficial for a variety of conditions.

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