Acupuncture is one of the longest established forms of healthcare in the world dating back thousands of years. Acupuncturists are trained to use developed and refined subtle diagnostic techniques in a patient centred approach focusing on you as an individual, not your illness, and all symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Treatment involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to affect the flow of your body’s “qi”, or vital energy.
Summertown Clinic acupuncturists are members of the British Acupuncture Council and practice the traditional acupuncture modality.
Traditional AcupunctureTraditional acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles which go back nearly two thousand years. It has a very positive model of good health and function, and looks at pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance. The overall aim of acupuncture treatment, then, is to restore the body’s equilibrium.
What makes this system so uniquely suited to modern life is that physical, emotional and mental are seen as interdependent, and reflect what many people perceive as the connection between the different aspects their lives.
Based on traditional belief, acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for centuries. The focus is on the individual, not their illness, and all the symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Each patient is unique; two people with the same western diagnosis may well receive different acupuncture treatments.
Traditional acupuncturists believe that the underlying principle of treatment is that illness and pain occur when the body’s qi, or vital energy, cannot flow freely. There can be many reasons for this; emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury are among the most common. 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.
Until the 1940s, when the Chinese government commissioned the development of a uniform system of diagnosis and treatment, somewhat misleadingly referred to as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), nearly all training had been apprentice-style with masters and within families. The same applied when acupuncture travelled overseas to Japan and South East Asia.
As a consequence of this there are many different styles of acupuncture which share a common root but are distinct and different in their emphasis. You may read of TCM, Five Elements, Stems and Branches, Japanese Meridian Therapy, and many others, all of which have their passionate devotees. The BAcC, though, has long embraced this plurality under the heading “unity in diversity” and sees the variety of approaches as the mark of a healthy profession.Traditional acupuncture has a long history of adapting to new cultures in which it is practised. Its growing popularity and acceptance in the West may well promote yet more new and exciting variations on the ancient themes.
A growing body of evidence-based clinical research shows that traditional acupuncture safely treats a wide range of common health problems.
Acupuncture Treatment – what to expect
Before having acupuncture treatment
Before your first acupuncture session there are several things you should bear in mind:
- many commonly used acupuncture points are located on the lower arms and legs, so it is helpful to wear clothing that allows easy access to these areas
- try not to go for treatment on an empty stomach or straight after a heavy meal
- do let your practitioner know if you are completely new to acupuncture so they can take extra time to explain what happens and ensure you are comfortable with the process.
Your first consultation
During your first visit your BAcC acupuncturist needs to gain a thorough understanding of your main complaint and your general health and lifestyle. This involves asking questions about your current symptoms and your medical history, as well as such things as your sleeping pattern, your appetite and digestion, and your emotional wellbeing. Women are also asked about their menstrual cycle and any past pregnancies and childbirth.
You might feel that some questions appear unrelated to your condition but the information you give helps your practitioner to form a more complete picture of your health and lifestyle. Your acupuncturist will also take your pulse on both wrists and may examine your tongue and feel for areas of muscular tension or pain.
Your main health complaint
When talking about your main complaint, the practitioner might ask you to describe in your own words what the symptoms feel like and how severe they are. You may also be asked how long you have been having the symptoms, whether they are constant or intermittent and how frequent they are. You should mention any medication that you are taking and whether you have tried any other therapies.
In order to make a diagnosis according to traditional Chinese medicine theory and to find the right treatment approach, the practitioner will also want to know more specific details.
Treatment plan and treatment
Based on all the information you have given, the practitioner will make a diagnosis and put together your treatment plan, which may include lifestyle and dietary advice as well as acupuncture. Your practitioner will use very fine single-use pre-sterilised needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points on your body. Because energy meridians range across the whole body, the points used are not necessarily close to where you experience pain or discomfort. For example, if you suffer from headaches needles might be inserted in your foot or hand.
TechniquesAs well as needling acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncturist may use other Chinese medicine techniques such as:
- moxibustion: heat is applied to an acupuncture point or meridian using moxa (a therapeutic herb) and/or heat lamps to warm and relax muscles and qi
- tuina: Chinese therapeutic massage relieves muscle tension, stimulates acupressure points, opens energy meridians and stimulate the flow of 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 increases blood flow and clears stagnant qi.
Your acupuncturist is likely to suggest ways in which you can enhance the long-term effects of your treatment. This may involve making changes to your diet and daily routine. If necessary you will be referred to other healthcare practitioners for specialist care.
After EffectsMost people find acupuncture relaxing and often feel very calm after a treatment. You may feel a little tired or sleepy and should take this into account if you are planning to drive or use heavy machinery straight after your treatment.
You should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest. It is also advisable not to drink alcohol for several hours after 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.
For more information please visit the British Acupuncture Council’s website by clicking here, or give us a ring on 01865 558561 and either our receptionist will answer your question, or one of our acupuncturists will ring you back.
Alternatively drop us an email through our contact page, or at the address below.
Our Acupuncturists (all members of the British Acupuncture Council):
Acupuncture...get to the point
- Our Acupuncturists are fully trained and registered traditional chinese acupuncturists.
- The aim is allow Qi to move freely through the channels around the body.
- Acupuncturists often use needles to achieve this aim, though pressure, heat and lifestyle advice is also used.