Traditional acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine – a tried and tested healthcare system that has been practised for thousands of years in China and the Far East. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined over centuries to give us a complex and detailed understanding of the body’s energetic balance.
The first known book of Chinese Medicine, the Classic of Internal Medicine of the Yellow Emperor, dates back to between the first century BC and the first century AD. All styles of acupuncture currently practised around the world trace their roots back to this text.
Without the help of modern scientific equipment, ancient Chinese scholars discovered many now familiar aspects of biomedical science, such as the effect of emotional stress on the immune system. Traditional acupuncturists are no less scientific or sophisticated than western clinicians in their understanding of how the body functions, although to this day they use terminology that reflects Chinese medicine’s cultural and historic origins.
In China during the early part of the twentieth century traditional medicine fell out of fashion as symptomatic healthcare treatments were imported from the West along with other cultural influences. Calls by western trained doctors to ban traditional Chinese medicine were rejected by the National Medical Assembly in Shanghai on 17 March 1929. This day is still celebrated every year as Chinese Doctors’ Day.
Traditional Chinese medicine remained in the shadow of western medicine until the Long March of 1934-5. Without drugs, anaesthetics or surgery vast numbers of sick and wounded soldiers faced death until doctors of traditional Chinese medicine achieved amazing results using acupuncture and other traditional methods of treatment.
From this point on, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and western medicine were practised side by side in China. Under the People’s Republic of China, established in 1948, all branches of TCM were nurtured and encouraged to grow. By 1978, whole hospitals and research departments were devoted to the practice of TCM.
Today traditional acupuncture is practised all around the world and clinical trials are now confirming its efficacy. More and more people are able to benefit as traditional acupuncture becomes a recognised option within standard healthcare.
Most 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. 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.
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.
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.
You should refrain from vigorous exercise after treatment and, ideally, give yourself a little time to rest and drink platy of water. 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 3-5 days.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The amount of treatment required really does depend on each individual’s response to acupuncture as well as the severity and duration of the complaint. Some people will feel the benefit within one or two sessions, others may take a little longer. As a general guide I like to see patients on a weekly basis for the first 5-6 treatments, and then re-assess the condition. Follow-up appointments will be arranged as necessary. The aim is to have maintenance treatments perhaps four or five times a year to ensure continued balance and harmony in the patient.