The term acupuncture refers to the insertion of dry needles into the body at specially chosen sites for the treatment or prevention of symptoms and conditions.
Sometimes the needles have small electric currents passed through them. Alternatively the needles may be heated gently by the burning of a substance known as Moxa attached at the end.
While there is a large variation in acupuncture treatment it can usually be classified into one of two typical approaches:
This has, in recent years, been restricted mainly to the treatment of chronic pain. It often involves the needling of trigger points in the affected areas but does not take full advantage of the more holistic aspects of the procedure.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture
This has been built up from over 3000 years of experience. The acupuncture points, over 400 of them, have been described and handed down over the centuries.
The main difference between Western and Chinese medicine is that, in the west, medicine is based on ‘cause and effect’ – the scientific testing of outcomes. The Chinese theories, however, are based primarily on observation, and are based on holistic patterns, being in harmony with Mother Nature.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
The origins of acupuncture are rooted in the mythology of ancient China and Taoist thinking. The oldest known text is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Ti Nei Ching) dating from around the 1st century BC.
Acupuncture has waxed and waned in popularity throughout the centuries but was reintroduced by the Chinese communist government in the 1950’s due to the urgent need to provide medical services to the population of half a billion people. Acupuncture soon became re-established so that today in China, western and traditional treatments are often offered side by side.
Chinese medicine has developed a theoretical system which was formed over thousands of years, and was influenced by the philosophical and practical thinking which occupied dominant positions at the time.
The main influences include:
· Theory of primordial Qi
· Theory of Yin and Yang
· Theory of five elements
Qi is the origin of all things and phenomena in the natural world. Life force and Qi are one. Like fresh air, healthy Qi moves freely and activates movement of things other than itself. The essence of food is also a form of Qi.
Traditional models suggest that all things in the world are composed of Qi. Qi is constantly in flux so that everything is changing. All mental and emotional states are composed of Qi so there is no sharp distinction between mind and body.
We obtain Qi from nature, to construct and strengthen our bodies. Harmful material in nature enters the body, and causes disease. The useful material in nature helps to recover and rebuild the body from disease.
Yin and yang
Yin and Yang are a pair of highly abstract philosophical concepts representing two mutual opposite aspects existing in all things or phenomena in the natural world.
Yin and yang are
· Mutually opposite
· Mutually dependant
· Mutually transformable
There is a dynamic balance between yin and yang.
Yang has a function of warming, steaming and transforming, while yin is the static material which provides the material to support and restrict the activity of yang
The so called five elements refer to wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
This is a theory which is used in Chinese medicine to discuss the relationship between various things or phenomena in a complex system, to explain the relationship between internal organs and to direct clinical diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis and treatment
In Chinese medicine, the human body is regarded as a whole. Internal disorders can be reflected by outside manifestations, and local disease can affect the whole body.
Diagnosis is based on the observation, listening, questioning of the patient as well as inspection of the tongue and pulse.
The focus of treatment is to treat the cause of disease, to balance Yin and yang, and to harmonize Qi, which circulates through the bodily organs. Qi, blood and fluids, should flow freely throughout the body. Any disruption or imbalance to the system will result in symptoms.
Following diagnosis, correct positioning of needles is vital to unblock and rebalance the body and return it to good health. Because any disturbance to this balance will have an effect on the function of the rest of the body, the traditional Chinese approach is holistic.