Traditional Acupuncture uses the body’s internal energy to stimulate the natural healing processes. Many people turn to it for relief from specific symptoms, however it is certainly not just for pain. It can be used on its own or alongside conventional medicine for acute and chronic conditions and for emotional and physical complaints. People turn to acupuncture for a variety of reasons. It may be that they prefer to seek a drug free solution to their problem, because they have mixed symptoms for which there seems no explanation or because their condition has failed to respond to conventional medicine. Treatment can be adapted to and is suitable for all ages.
Acupuncture recognises the emotional and spiritual impact of ill health, its effect on our moods and our relationships with people close to us and in the wider world. Acupuncture addresses these issues as well as the physical manifestations of illness and is effective in reducing stress and improving quality of life.
Acupuncture can be helpful for a wide range of conditions and it would not be appropriate to try and list them all but please look at the Fact Sheet page on the British Acupuncture Council website for information on a wide range of specific presentations.
The two schools of Chinese Acupuncture
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems still widely practised today. It is a unique medical system with a holistic approach to diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases. It regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign the whole body is out of balance and identifies the underlying ‘pattern’ or ‘root’ of the illness, treating that and not just the symptoms you present with. All styles of acupuncture spring from the same Chinese medical roots.
FIVE ELEMENTS ACUPUNCTURE
The five element theory is one of the major systems of thought within Chinese medicine. In modern clinical practice the theory is used to varying degrees depending on the style of acupuncture a given practitioner utilizes. Classical five element acupuncture, as taught by the late Professor J. R. Worsley, is thought to have had its base in ancient acupuncture theory from the period of around 200 BC. It was through this era that the idea of the elements and their corresponding character types is first thought to have surfaced.
Other techniques used
Within traditional acupuncture there are several Chinese Medicine techniques which can be used as stand-alone treatments:
Cupping is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine. Glass cups with a vacuum seal are placed on the skin to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnant qi.
Moxibustion involves the application of indirect heat by burning moxa (mugwort, a soft, spongy therapeutic herb) and/or heat lamps to warm and relax muscles, strengthen the blood and stimulate the flow of qi in the energy meridians.
Acupuressure is a technique based on the same ideas as acupuncture. It involves placing physical pressure, by thumbs, fingers, hands, elbows, or with the aid of various devices, on different pressure points on the surface of the body (which may be far distant from the symptom, related by what is called the meridian system) to bring about relief through greater balance and circulation of fluids (blood, lymph) and metabolic energies in the body (heat, qi).
Gua Sha involves palpation and stimulation in which the skin is pressed with a piece of jade; that results in the appearance of small red patches. “Gua” means to scrape or rub. “Sha” is a reddish, elevated patch of skin. Sha is the term used to describe blood in the subcutaneous tissue before and after it is raised as a small red bump.
ACUPUNCTURE FOR FERTILITY AND PREGNANCY
It is estimated that around 1 in 6 couples now experience difficulty when trying to conceive. The use of acupuncture for fertility-focused treatments is becoming increasingly popular and it is often used use as part of a coordinated approach alongside western medical to help promote natural fertility or those who are experiencing problems conceiving and are preparing for IUI, IVF or ICSI. Many women access treatment when pregnant to deal with a variety of pregnancy related issues. Acupuncture can address many conditions for which medication may not be acceptable during pregnancy, in particular it can be extremely effetive in treating morning sickness. It is also helpful in birth preparation. Such treatments have been shown to reduce the length of labour and the amount of intervention. We are also able to show you and your birth partner some acupressure techniques which may be used during labour. Lastly, it’s not only for women! Acupuncture can help men who may have low sperm count or other conditions that have been diagnosed after a sperm test.
The treatment has been shown to be effective in many fertility related conditions, for example:
- Unexplained or secondary fertility
- Regulating the menstrual cycle
- Helping you to relax and reducing stress – high stress levels are known to be associated with reduced chances of conceiving
- General wellbeing
- Improving blood circulation to the ovaries and uterus, allowing the reproductive organs to work to their full potential and ensuring optimum endometrial thickness
- Helping to trigger ovulation in some women with ovulatory dysfunction
- Helping women with PCOS, endemetriosis, dysmenorrhea, pelvic inflammation, fibroids
- Improving sperm count, motility and abnormalities
Treatments to encourage natural conception are often timed to fit in with different stages of your menstrual cycle and for anyone undergoing IVF treatment, we would suggest having acupuncture before and during your protocol.
Cosmetic acupuncture is a very effective means of removing fine lines around the eyes, lips and nose. Deeper lines appear softer. It also helps to raise bags under the eyes, improves dark circles and firms chin lines. The lifting effects can be profound and there are none of the pinch and pull effects that surgery can produce. The mask-like effect, often seen after Botox treatments or repeated surgery, is never seen with cosmetic acupuncture.
Very fine, disposable acupuncture needles are placed at strategic points on the face and act by increasing the local production of collagen and elastin which strengthens the structure of the skin. This results in a general tightening of facial tissue and gives a smoother, firmer line to face. Because of the increased circulation of blood and lymph there is also an improvement in the complexion.
For best results a course of treatment should be undertaken. This varies; six to 10 treatments gives the best results. It can be done weekly or twice weekly. On achieving the required results further treatments may be required on a one off basis in order to maintain the improvements.
ACUPUNCTURE FOR PAIN RELIEF
When an injury or disease occurs and sends pain signals to the brain, the nerve pathways can sometimes create a pain pattern. Even when the main source of the original pain signal has dissipated, the brain can be “tricked” into feeling continued pain. This is especially true when a person is depressed, fatigued, under stress or feeling anxiety. Any small pain event can seem much more magnified when we are in a negative state of mind. Acupuncture stimulates nerve and energy pathways to reverse blockages and restore balanced signaling and healthy energy flow. This can undo harmful pain patterns that have been established.
Once the body has re-established healthy energy flow, it releases endorphins or “feel good” hormones which can create natural pain relief. Reduced inflammation allows the body’s healing mechanisms to work more efficiently and heal damaged tissues which further mitigate the pain.
ACUPUNCTURE FOR SMOKING CESSATION
Acupuncture is successful with smoking cessation and has turned a growing number of cigarette smokers into permanent ex-smokers. Treatments take all of your symptoms into account and aims to balance the energy within the body to optimize health.
The acupuncture treatments focus on jitters, cravings, irritability and restlessness; all symptoms that people commonly complain about when they quit. It also aids in relaxation and detoxification. In one study conducted at the University of Oslo, Norway, acupuncture was found to significantly reduce the desire to smoke up to five years after the initial treatment. Subjects of the study also reported that cigarettes tasted worse than before treatment and that the treatments had effectively reduced their taste for tobacco.
The acupuncture needles used are hair-thin. They are superficially inserted into various points in the ears and body to assist with smoking cessation. In between treatments, small pellets are often taped to the acupuncture points on the ear. When a cigarette craving hits, gently pressing on the pellets stimulates the acupuncture points to calm the mind and eliminate the craving.
Acupuncture is not a panacea or a magic cure in the treatment of any addiction, including smoking but it is effective in making it easier to quit and remain smoke-free for good. In fact, acupuncture is often a court mandated treatment for drug addicts because of its ability to reduce cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.
Training & Professional Regulation
All practitioner members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) follow Codes of Safe Practice and Professional Conduct, have full insurance cover and use only sterile, single use, disposable needles
Links to other useful sites
British Acupuncture Council – Regulatory body for the profession
Zita West – UK’s No 1 for preconception planning, natural fertility, assisted fertility, pregnancy coaching and post-natal support.