Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes. Traditional acupuncture is based on the belief that an energy, or "life force", flows through the body in channels called meridians. This life force is known as Qi. Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis, which involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body. This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins. It's likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture. A course of acupuncture usually creates longer lasting pain relief than when a single treatment is used.
An initial acupuncture session usually lasts 60 minutes and involves an assessment of your general health, medical history and a physical examination, followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles.
During the session, you'll usually be asked to lie down. You may also be asked to remove some clothes so the practitioner can access certain parts of your body. The needles used are fine and are usually a few centimetres long. They are single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to around 30 minutes. Courses of treatment often involve up to 10 separate sessions, but this can vary.
The following conditions respond very well to acupuncture:
• Back and neck pain
• Hip, knee, ankle, wrist, elbow and shoulder pain
• Trigeminal neuralgia
• Tension headaches
• Cluster headaches
• Myofascial pain
• Digestive problems
• Persistent pain anywhere in the body
Brief history of Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese medicine recognises that the body is divided by a series of meridians or channels into an orderly network. These lines form a longitudinal course around the body. This complex system of channels and their connecting vessels act as the distribution system that carries energy (Chi), blood, and the body fluids around the body.
The origins of acupuncture are impossible to define because they lie in periods before recorded history. The acupuncture channels and their corresponding points were described as early as 200 BC in the classic ancient work on acupuncture, the Huang Di Nei Jing.
Acupuncture has been in continual use for over two thousand years, however it was not until 1979 that the World Health Organisation formally announced that acupuncture can be used to treat over forty different diseases.
The World Health Organisation has since then published the following books:
1993 – Standard International Acupuncture Nomenclature
1995 – Guidelines for clinical research in Acupuncture
1999 – Guidelines on basic training and safety in acupuncture
2002 – Analysis of report on controlled clinical trials of acupuncture