Acupuncture has been practised for more than 2,500 years in China. In just a few decades, acupuncture has become the most popular and widely recognised therapy of Chinese medicine in the western world.
The practice of acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into specific acupuncture points on the body to restore balance and treat disease. This article will introduce you to the traditional practice of acupuncture as a healing therapy of Chinese medicine.
Did you know?
- Acupuncture is comparable to morphine preparations in its effectiveness against chronic pain, without the side effects such as dependency.
- The regulatory action of acupuncture is bi-directional. It can lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension and elevate it in patients with hypotension.
- The World Health Organisation has reviewed controlled clinical trials of acupuncture’s effectiveness for many conditions.
How does acupuncture work?
How can only a few fine needles be used to treat so many disorders? The effectiveness of acupuncture is a constant wonder to patients and its mechanism of action a puzzle yet to be solved by biomedical researchers. To acupuncturists however, it is a rigorous and systematic practice founded upon thousands of years of documented experience.
The practice of acupuncture is not so much about inserting needles as it is about understanding the physiology of the body. One integral component of Chinese medicine is channel theory, that a network of channels (sometimes called meridians) exist to connect all parts of the body including the skin, external senses and the internal organs. This network forms a system which regulates the transport of nutrients, functioning of organs and defense of the body against pathogens.
Channels and points
In all, there are 12 primary, 12 divergent, 8 extraordinary and 15 luo-connecting channels belonging to this system. Acupuncture points are located on the pathways of these channels and manipulated using needles, moxibustion, scrubbing or massage to achieve the desired treatment effect.
There are 361 acupuncture points in use by practitioners which have been standardised by the World Health Organisation. Each of these points have particular functions when stimulated alone, but in clinical practice it is more effective to use a combination of points.
How these points are chosen and stimulated using acupuncture needles or other methods determines the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment. For many chronic and internal conditions, treatment is most effective when acupuncture is also combined with Chinese herbal medicine.
“It is by virtue of the twelve channels that human life exists, that disease arises, that human beings can be treated and illness cured. The twelve channels are where beginners start and masters end. To beginners it seems easy; the masters know how difficult it is.” – Spiritual Pivot (Canon of Acupuncture) Chapter 17
A personalised diagnosis and treatment
In Chinese medicine, one disease has many causes and many diseases can share the same cause. A skilled practitioner must always find each person’s unique cause of disease using Chinese medicine diagnosis before the right treatment strategy and point combinations can be applied.
It is not effective to always use the same set of points to treat the same disease. This is because each person is unique and our bodies respond to illness in different ways. A successful Chinese medicine treatment is personalised to a patient’s changing symptoms at different stages of their illness and recovery. This is why it is essential to practice acupuncture within the framework of a holistic Chinese medicine diagnosis.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is a medical procedure and therefore must be practiced by qualified practitioners who have received extensive and proper training. It takes a minimum of 4-5 years to train as a professional Chinese medicine acupuncturist.
When practiced professionally, acupuncture is a gentle and relaxing treatment which has very few side effects compared to other medical procedures and drugs. Acupuncture can safely treat pregnant or nursing mothers when conventional drugs are contraindicated or unwanted.
In Australia, acupuncture practitioners use sterilised, single-use needles and must follow infection control guidelines. Chinese medicine practitioners receive extensive training on Chinese medicine diagnosis and acupuncture point selection, correct needling technique, needling depth and when contraindicated points should not be used.
As when receiving any medical treatment or surgery, ensure that your practitioner is qualified, experienced and treats you attentively.
Experience a cultural heritage of healing
In 2010, acupuncture and moxibustion was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is from many of the world’s traditional cultures that we can still find the wisdom to live more peacefully and in harmony with our environment. While acupuncture may have its origins in ancient China, its future development now belongs to the whole world.
While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalisation. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life. – UNESCO
Interested in trying acupuncture?
Ping Ming Health practices Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture to treat the widest range of health problems, from colds and flu to chronic diseases of unknown causes. You can read answers to frequently asked questions before making Your First Appointment with us.