An ancient Chinese technique, acupuncture works by releasing the body's
vital energy, known as Chi. Once this life force is flowing freely, a number
of physical problems can be relieved, from headache to asthma.
Though it is often regarded as 'alternative' medicine in the West,
acupuncture is a very ancient, orthodox technique. In China, Japan and many
other parts of the Far East, it is one of the most common forms of
treatment, It is particularly effective in dealing with pain and with
specific physical problems, such as arthritis, asthma, headache and eczema.
A VITAL FORCE
Chinese medicine regards 'Chi' as the body's vital energy and it flows
through channels called meridians. The meridians are separate from the
circulatory or nervous systems. They are an independent network and have
acupuncture points dotted along them.
Chi comprises the two elements known as 'yin' and 'yang'. These are
complex entities but yin can be regarded as the male principle, associated
with activity, fire, the positive. Its opposite, yang, is the female
principle, associated with passivity, water, the negative.
In health, yin and yang are in a delicately fluctuating balance with each
other. However, if they are thrown out of balance, the Chi can no longer
flow freely through the body and the result of this is illness.
CAUSES OF ILL-HEALTH
The imbalance between yin and yang can spring from a variety of causes, such
as poor diet, lack of exercise, bad posture, emotional strain and lack of
If the flow of Chi is disrupted, it won't reach certain areas of the body
and often a painful condition will develop there, such as sciatica. If the
Chi is blocked, a build-up can cause inflammatory conditions such as
arthritis or a migraine. A lack of Chi can lead to a lack of energy.
The acupuncturist aims to set the Chi flowing freely. He looks at
specific ailments as well as your overall state of health and lifestyle.
The acupuncturist will study your eyes, skin and tongue to gain an
impression of your general state of health. A pale tongue, for instance, may
be a sign of a poor diet or anaemia. He may listen to your breathing and
your voice and then take 12 different pulses, six at each wrist, each of
which relates to different functions of the body.
Finally, he may ask you about your lifestyle and if your symptoms change
at different times of the day.
Having made a diagnosis, the acupuncturist decides where the Chi has been
disrupted and inserts sterile needles at the relevant acupuncture points. He
may insert the needles around the problem area or in a different part of the
body. For instance, he may treat a migraine by inserting needles in the
hand, knee, foot or ear lobe.
The actual treatment - inserting the needles - should not cause any pain.
The acupuncturist may insert them just below the surface of the skin, or
several centimetres deep. He may leave them in place, or he may rotate them
in position. The needles may also be heated with a dried herb, moxa, on the
tips - a process known as moxibustion. Treatments can last up to an hour and
you will usually need a course, depending on the condition.
Many people use acupuncture as a successful means of giving up smoking.
It can also be used to treat other addictions - to alcohol, sleeping pills
or other drugs.