Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a fundamental component of Chinese Medicine, a system of medicine that has existed for centuries.  This system sees the universe on a fundamental level as both Yin and Yang, opposite forces that complement each other and are found alongside and within each other, and when in balance, create harmony – in the case health, harmony within the individual.  A basic example of this is achieving the balance between work or exercise (Yang) and replenishing or rest (Yin).  Simply put, it is just a different way of describing how things inter-relate, e.g. the Organs of the body, their energetic roles and how they work together to assure our physical and emotional health.  Both Yin and Yang, ‘Qi’ is a life force that flows through us and drives many processes in the body and mind.  Chinese Medicine aims to balance the flow of Qi so that it is smooth, ensuring your bodily processes are as healthy as they can be.

Five Elements Image

My training combined Chinese Medicine with Five Element Theory, part of traditional Chinese philosophy.  This views the human experience in terms of the relationship between five elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – that embodies the roles of the different Organs, their associated ‘spirits’ and emotions, and how they impact on the body and mind.  It is a useful way of interpreting the imbalances that can occur in our health, and the fundamental aim of treatment is to try and return to a more balanced state (this is called ‘homeostasis’ in Conventional Medicine).  The great advantage of Five Element Acupuncture is that it gets to the ‘Ben’ or root of the problem, which is frequently connected to our ‘Constitutional Factor’ (CF), the Element within us that is the most apparent or imbalanced.  It can be a very profound treatment that can help our Qi to flow more smoothly on an emotional level, e.g. calming anxiety or fears, frustrations, feelings of loss and of not being understood or supported.  It can make us better understand ourselves and our interactions with others.  I think instinctively we know how emotions can impact on our health, but Conventional Medicine is only now discussing this more, e.g. the involvement of stress in many health conditions, or the connection between the gut microbiome and the brain.  I strongly believe in the benefits of approaching health from both a Chinese and Conventional Medicine perspective and that the two can learn from each other – a lot of interesting research is indeed doing that.

Many famous Chinese doctors through the centuries have added to the canon of classical literature, the framework of Chinese Medicine philosophy.  The most important texts are the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Su Wen and Ling Shu), and the Classic of Difficulties (Nan Jing).  Acupuncture is now practised around the world.  If you would like to find out more about it, you can visit here

Acupuncture Channels

What an Acupuncture Treatment Involves

When you see me, your first consultation will involve questions about your health history, lifestyle and what you would like to gain from treatment.  This means the treatment is tailored to you.  Feeling the pulses on the wrists (there are three points on each side along the radial artery that can tell us a lot about your health) and looking at the tongue is part of the diagnostic process.  An acupuncture treatment does not necessarily just involve acupuncture – as per tradition, treatments often incorporate other Chinese Medicine techniques – I decide which I will use depending on many different factors, with the aim of regaining balance.  The one thing I do not do is herbal medicine, but I can refer patients to herbalists where I think necessary.

During a course of treatments, your progress is monitored and treatments are adjusted depending on how you are doing at that point in time.  People often start with at least a few regular treatments, as they have a cumulative effect, and if the issue is chronic, it can take longer to treat.  Treatments are then spaced out once progress is made.  Homecare advice is another important aspect of the session, as we recognize the connection between lifestyle and health, and we aim to empower the patient to help themselves.  This could entail dietary or exercise advice, work/life balance tips, methods to help reduce stress, etc. 

Techniques include:

Acupuncture

Fine, single use, sterile needles are inserted in specific points of the body to stimulate the healing response.  There are hundreds of acupuncture points in the body, many of which are found along the Channels (another name is Meridian lines), some of which are ‘Extraordinary’ points, and some we call ‘Ashi’ points, which are comparable to trigger or motor points in Conventional Medicine (the ‘ouch!’ points in the muscles).  I am also trained in auricular / ear acupuncture – different ear points relate to different body parts and systems (e.g. endocrine).  

Needles might be inserted briefly for a few seconds, or up to half an hour, depending on the required outcome.  My training favoured a ‘less is more’ approach, so I do not usually needle that many points in a single session – but each treatment and individual is different, so it does all depend.

My training also emphasized a gentle approach, so acupuncture should not be painful.  You may experience a variety of sensations depending on the point stimulated and the needling technique used – the name for this is ‘Deqi’, which is thought to be the feeling of Qi coming to meet the needle.

I also often include some massage / tui na techniques (please see Tui na and Massage Treatments for more information).

Gua sha involves rubbing or scraping an area of skin with a tool, after the application of massage oil, in order to stimulate circulation and work out ‘pathogenic factors’ from the body.  It is another type of therapy that has been practised for hundreds of years in China, but has recently caught on in the West.



Gua sha

Cupping

Cupping involves placing cups on the skin to create a suction, stimulating circulation and working out waste products/toxins or ‘stagnation’ and ‘pathogenic factors’ from the body, according to Chinese Medicine.  Traditional glass cups gain suction from the quick insertion and removal of a flame before being placed on the body (after application of massage oil), so it can have a pleasant warm sensation.  Other types of cups are made of plastic or silicon.  Depending on the diagnosis, cups are left in place for up to 20 minutes, or moved around the skin for a few minutes.

Cupping is another Chinese Medicine technique that has been adopted by the West – from a musculoskeletal viewpoint, it can help to ‘unstick’ tense fibres and ease tension, encouraging the flow of blood and nutrients to an area.

Moxa is a dried form of the artemesia vulgaris latiflora herb that is burned and used in different forms, such as a compressed stick hovered over acupuncture points or Channels, or small pyramid shapes placed on points, to introduce heat and to stimulate the movement of ‘Qi’.  The Chinese believe it can help clear various forms of stagnant Qi and boost our body’s natural defences.  Moxibustion is another fundamental component of Chinese Medicine practice.

Moxibustion

The Importance of Homecare Advice

The Chinese classical texts recognized the importance of ‘Yangshen’, or ‘nourishing life’.  The Yellows Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine emphasized cultivating health in order to prevent sickness.  Hence treatments involve homecare advice and encouraging you to empower yourself by taking action to assist your progress.  This could be dietary or physical exercise advice, or could cover other areas.