What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the use of very fine needles that are inserted into specific acupuncture points on the body, along meridians or channels to activate the Qi (pronounced chee - energy) to restore good health.
It probably evolved from acupressure, a form of massage thousands of years ago in East Asia, not just from China. Countries that use this ancient system of healthcare include China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
It is still used in East Asia today to treat a variety of health care problems. Over the last 20-30 years, this ancient holistic therapy has gained increased popularity in western countries. It is now used in western countries as an alternative medicine to treat common conditions, such as pain, anxiety, stress, digestive disorders and male/female infertility.
Even though this is an ancient therapy, it is classified in western countries as a complementary or alternative therapy. Medical acupuncture (dry needling) was invented in the last few decades by western medicine doctors and doesn't exist in Asia. Medical acupuncturists don't believe in the flow of qi or the flow of energy.
It's been used in the Far East to restore, promote and maintain good health for over 2,500 years. The ancient Chinese have used it to treat a wide range of conditions. It developed not only in China, but also in other East Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, Vietnam, etc.
The original form was likely to have been developed from Shamanism and is now a part of traditional Chinese medicine. The first needles were made from stone and then later from bronze, gold and silver.
It's likely that it originated from massage, where people would massage a point on the body and notice an affect in another part of the body. Over thousands of years before the written word was invented this developed into a form of medicine with its own theory and channels of movement.
The first known medical textbook was 'The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine', which dates from around 300 BC. It continued to develop without interruption for the next 2,400 years into a complete system of healthcare that can treat many health problems.
The most important theories are Yin and Yang and the flow of energy around the body, called qi (energy). Energy moves from one organ to another throughout the day, known as the Chinese body clock. Each organ moves energy to the other in the Five Element sequence of energy transformation.
How it works
Scientific evidence suggests that it works by regulating neuromodulation, such as vagus nerve stimulation and has been used for inflammation control and uses body natural pain killers for pain treatment. It also stimulates the immune system to produce a healing response.
From an Asian viewpoint, the effects of acupuncture are based upon the regulation of the flow of vital energy, called Qi (chi). By regulating this vital energy, the body is able to heal itself and return to good health.
Watch my animated video below, which explains how my treatment works.
In western countries, such as the United States and the UK, acupuncturists use traditional acupuncture to treat chronic conditions or improve general health and can especially help with:
What to expect
After a consultation where you'll be asked lots of questions about all aspects of your life, and then be asked to lie down on a couch and roll up your sleeves and trousers legs.
Very fine sterile needles the size of a human hair will be inserted stimulating the body's energy points. The pins are inserted from 2mm to 4cm depending on the area.
Normal sensations include a dullness, tingling or electrical sensation. Sometimes you may feel a sharp sensation which is the needle breaking the skin badly.
You'll then be allowed to rest with the needles left in position for around 20 to 30 minutes. Normally, relaxing music will be played to you.
After 25 to 30 minutes, the healthcare professional will remove the pins and they will be placed in a sharps box, which when full will be incinerated. It is safe to have if you have a bleeding disorder.
After finishing the treatment you can return back to your normal life.
Can you eat before having treatment?
Yes, you can eat before having treatment
It's best not to have treatment on an empty stomach as you may feel dizzy or light headed afterwards, so eat before if you're hungry, but don't eat a heavy meal.
It's also not ideal to have accupuncture on a full stomach, although it shouldn't cause you any problems. Eat 1- 2 hours before your session starts.
What should I avoid eating before having treatment?
The acupuncturist will look at your tongue as part of a Chinese medicine diagnosis. You should not drink any liquids or food including sweets (candy) that can stain your tongue before seeing your acupuncturist as it will make the tongue diagnose more difficult.
Can I eat after having acupuncture?
Yes, you can eat after your treatment. Having treatment can increase your appetite making you feel hungry after your treatment.
Preparing for your treatment
24 hours before your session your acupuncturist may have emailed you forms to fill out. If not, then you may be asked to fill them out when you arrive.
Where on the body do the acupuncture needles go?
Acupuncture points cover the whole body, from head to foot and number over 400. Only a handful of these acupuncture points will be selected for stimulation during a treatment.
The acupuncture points selected for stimulation with an acupuncture needle will vary with acupuncture practitioners. Generally, however, the most common areas where acupuncture needles are inserted include; the head, ears, hands, the problem area, lower legs and the feet.
I use a variety of techniques taught by different masters of acupuncture, utilising various theories and techniques for each individual, giving people a tailor-made acupuncture treatment.
Some acupuncturists like to strongly stimulate the acupuncture needle to get a strong response from the acupuncture point. I don't do this as many people find it uncomfortable. Instead, I use a gentle stimulation with ultra-fine acupuncture needles to make it as pleasant and as relaxing as possible and safe for people with a bleeding disorder.
Where do the needles go for fertility?
Although acupuncture and oriental medicine is a alternative medicine and a complementary medicine, it's used more and more for infertility treatment in men and women. It uses sterile needles to regulate a person's life force and balance their mind body.
The insertion of acupuncture needles for fertility vary location depending where you are on your menstrual cycle. Extra points are used before ovulation to help the egg grow and mature and increased blood flow to the uterus. After ovulation, additional points are used to reduce anxiety and aid implantation.
Generally, for fertility treatment, acupuncture needles are inserted on the top of the head, ears, hands, lower abdomen where the ovaries are, the lower legs, ankles, and the feet.
To properly understand the acupoints you must first understand some basic theory. Traditional Chinese medicine as a whole is the understanding of Nature and how that affects the human body. Nature includes the cycles of the seasons and the movement of the stars.
How many points are there on the human body?
The ancients tried to map the heavens onto Earth and people. There are five elements in traditional Chinese medicine because you can only see five planets from Earth with the naked-eye. There is yang, which is the sun and daylight and yin which is the moon and night-time. For these reasons, traditionally there were 365 points on the human body, which corresponded to the number of days in a year.
Now there are a lot more points on the body. With additional treatment styles such as Master Tung, Dr Tan and western medical acupuncture, there are hundreds more.
Types of needles
There are various needle shapes and sizes. Most are made from surgical steel and have either a metal, copper or plastic handle. Some needles are made out of gold. The needle shafts are sometimes coated with substances such as silicon to help them slide through the skin.
Needles come in various sizes or gauges which allows an acupuncturist to stimulate points on the body. The width of a needle can vary from 0.12mm to 0.50mm. The thickness of the needle will affect the stimulation of the energy point and how much the person will feel the inserting needles going in. The thicker the needle, the more you are likely to feel it.
The handle of the needle can affect the way the needle is stimulated. For example, a copper handled needle will conduct energy (qi) more than a plastic handled needle.
I use the finest needles to minimise the feel of them entering the body and am a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAC).
Ear seeds and tacks
A tack or ear seed is a small object that's stuck onto specific points on a person for them to stimulate in between sessions. They are left stuck on the body using sticky tape night and day, until they lose their stickiness and fall off.
Tacks and ear seeds work by stimulating points a person might need to help rebalance their health. This reinforces the treatment allowing for greater effect. A common use of ear seeds is on the 'mind' point on the ear (shenmen) to help calm the mind and treat anxiety.
Ji, R.-R., Chamessian, A., & Zhang, Y.-Q. (2016). Pain Regulation by Non-neuronal Cells and Inflammation. Science (New York, N.Y.), 354(6312), 572-577. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf8924