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The Story of Acupuncture

The Story of Acupuncture

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ORIGINS

Acupuncture originated in China about 5,000 years ago. So we now call it Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM.

It was originally used as a preventive medicine – that is , the emperor’s physician was employed to maintain his health, rather than curing him if he became ill – in fact if the emperor DID become sick, the physician would probably lose more than his job, also his life! Thus these early doctors developed acute observational skills to foretell of a disease situation developing and also ways of preventing it becoming more serious. In modern China, acupuncture is used as an anaesthetic for certain surgical operations, as it has a pain relieving effect, and has been shown to increase the flow of ‘endorphins’ throughout the body.

PRINCIPLES

Long before the discovery and invention of electricity, the Chinese observed areas on the body where a natural flow of energy occurred. This energy is called ‘chi’ and it flows in lines called meridians (like those on world maps). There are 14 main meridians on the body, 12 matching ones on both sides of the body and 2 centre line front and back ones. The paired ones correspond to the various organs and systems within the anatomy. For example, the lungs, heart, liver, gall-bladder, stomach, spleen, kidneys, bladder, small and large intestines.

DIAGNOSIS

The practitioner uses various means to diagnose the patient’s condition, observing the complexion, the way they walk and sit, listens to the strength and tone of their speech, asks about their general bodily functions and also touches various areas on the body to check for temperature and tenderness. Then the pulses are taken (yes there are more than one). They are measured for various qualities, not only the rate.  The appearance of the tongue is also observed. All this gives the practitioner an idea of that person’s tendencies and which points to use.

TREATMENT METHODS

NEEDLES

There are several methods of treatment. Acupuncture is the use of very fine stainless steel needles (they are one use only) inserted into the body. A guide tube is commonly used, which helps to prevent the process being painful. Usually a combination of points is used, that are known to benefit the patient’ condition. Needles are generally left in for 20 to 30 minutes, one side or both may be treated within one visit.

MOXA

Another method is moxa. This is a stick of a tightly rolled herbal substance commonly called mugwort. It is lit and held over the chosen area to allow heat to penetrate and warm it. It helps with various musculo-skeletal disorders, including arthritis (unless it already appears red and inflamed). It can be used for sluggish digestion, where it may be put in a special box and placed on the belly for the duration of the treatment; likewise on the small of the back for weakness there.

For the condition of bad circulation, where the feet are always cold and numb, extensive moxa can be of great benefit.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE FIRST VISIT

The initial consultation lasts between seventy-five and ninety minutes, during which a medical history is taken and traditional diagnostic methods are used to determine which points are to be used. I then administer the needles, add moxa if deemed necessary, for a period between 25 and 40 minutes. A brief massage is given when these needles have been removed. If required, the other side of the body may also be treated, and then another massage to complete the session.

Usually after a session the patient will feel pleasantly relaxed.

SUBSEQUENT TREATMENTS (How long and how often)

Subsequent treatments last from 40 to 60 minutes. If it is an external/ acute/musculo-skeletal disorder, it is more effective to have 3-5 visits spaced 2-3 days apart. However if it is an internal/chronic condition, like headache or constipation, weekly visits from 5-10 times are more likely.

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