How does acupuncture work?
The origins of acupuncture can be traced back at least 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest health care systems in the world. Today, acupuncture is an effective, natural and increasingly popular form of health care that is being used by people from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds.Acupuncture takes a holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes and focuses as much on the prevention of illness as on the treatment.
Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific sites (acupuncture points) along the body’s meridians to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of qi through the patient. The practitioner may also stimulate the acupuncture points using other methods, including moxibustion, cupping, laser therapy, electro-stimulation and massage, in order for the qi flow to return to normal.
As a natural form of healing, acupuncture has the following benefits:
- provides drug-free pain relief
- effectively treats a wide range of acute and chronic ailments
- treats the underlying cause of disease and illness as well as the symptoms
- provides an holistic approach to the treatment of disease and illness, linking body, mind and emotions
- assists in the prevention against disease and illness as well as the maintenance of general well-being
Acupuncture is known to treat a wide range of disorders including:
- Neurological conditions such as headaches, migraines, difficulty sleeping, nervous tension, stroke, some forms of deafness, facial and inter-costal neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, some forms of paralysis, sequelae of poliomyelitis, peripheral neuropathy, noises in the ears, dizziness, and Meniere’s disease.
- Cardiovascular disorders such as high or low blood pressure, fluid retention, chest pain, angina pectoris, poor circulation, cold hands and feet, and muscle cramps.
- Respiratory conditions such as bronchial asthma, acute and chronic bronchitis, acute tonsillitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, hay fever, chronic cough, laryngitis, sore throat, influenza and the common cold.
- Digestive system disorders such as toothache, post-extraction pain, gingivitis, mouth ulcers, hiccough, spasms of the oesophagus, gastric and duodenal ulcers, gastric hyperacidity, gastritis, heartburn, hiatus hernia syndrome, flatulence, paralytic ileus, colitis, diarrhoea, constipation, haemorrhoids, liver and gall bladder disorders, and weight control.
- Urogenital disorders such as cystitis, prostatitis, orchitis, low sexual vitality, urinary retention, kidney disorders, nocturnal enuresis, and neurogenic bladder dysfunction.
- Gynaecological and obstetric disorders such as premenstrual tension, painful, heavy or irregular, or the absence of periods, abnormal uterine bleeding or discharge, hormonal disturbances, disorders associated with menopause, prolapse of the uterus or bladder, difficulty with conception, and morning sickness.
- Skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, nerve rash, herpes zoster, acne, scar tissue and resultant adhesions, hair loss and dandruff.
- Eye conditions such as visual disorders, red, sore, itchy or watery eyes, conjunctivitis, simple cataracts, myopia in children, and central retinitis.
- Musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis, sciatica, lumbago, weak back, low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, tenosynovitis, shoulder and neck pain, cervicobrachial syndrome, ‘frozen shoulder’, and ‘tennis elbow’.
- Sporting injuries such as sprained ankles and knees, cartilage problems, corking and tearing of muscles, torn ligaments and bruises.
- Psychological conditions such as depression, phobias, emotional disturbances, anxiety, nervousness and addictions such as smoking.
* The disorders above which appear in bold have been recognised by the World Health Organisation (December 1979) as having been successfully treated by acupuncture. The disorders which do not appear in bold above are other common disorders which have been found to respond well to acupuncture.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back thousands of years and is a system of primary health care that includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and remedial massage (anmo tui Na). In Australia, the most popular forms of TCM health care are acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
The primary feature of modern TCM is the premise that good health relies on the restoration and maintenance of harmony, balance and order to the individual. TCM takes a holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes and focuses as much on the prevention of illness as it does on the treatment.
What is qi and how does it affect the body?
When healthy, an abundant supply of qi (pronounced chee) or ‘life energy’ flows through the body’s meridians (a network of unseen channels through the body). If the flow of qi becomes blocked or there is an inadequate supply of qi, then the body fails to maintain harmony, balance and order and disease or illness follows. This can result from stress, overwork, poor diet, disease pathogens, environmental conditions and other lifestyle factors.
TCM treatments focus on the underlying condition as well as treating the presenting symptoms. Treatments work on the basis of individualised formulae for each patient.
Chinese Herbal Medicine:
The origins of Chinese herbal medicine in China can be traced back at least 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest health care systems in the world. The practice of Chinese herbal medicine has become a natural and holistic system of primary health care that is being used to treat people from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds.
Holistic health care
Chinese herbal medicine takes a holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes and focuses as much on the prevention of illness as on the treatment.
Most diseases or illnesses present with a core set of recognisable signs and symptoms, but the actual presentation of a particular disease or illness will vary from person to person. For this reason, people with similar health conditions may be provided with quite different Chinese herbal medicine prescriptions.
A qualified practitioner is able to prescribe a Chinese herbal formula that specifically matches and treats your individual health problem. As your condition changes and improves with treatment, the Chinese herbal treatment is also adjusted and modified until the desired health outcome is achieved.
What substances are used in Chinese herbal medicine?
There are more than 450 substances commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine – most are of plant origin though some animal and mineral substances may also be used. You may find some in your kitchen, such as ginger, garlic and cinnamon, while others such as chrysanthemum and peony flowers, are more likely to be found in your garden. Some substances that were used traditionally are no longer part of modern professional Chinese herbal medicine practice. For example, traditional remedies that are derived from endangered species have been replaced by other substances with similar actions.
How is Chinese herbal medicine prescribed?
Chinese herbal medicines are prescribed either in singular form or made into formulae which take into account the individual therapeutic action of each herb and well as the effects when combined together. A well-constructed formula maximises the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimising the unwanted effects of an individual herb.
What conditions does Chinese herbal medicine treat?
In addition to providing effective treatment for a wide range of health disorders, Chinese herbal medicine may also be used to assist with general health maintenance and disease prevention. By strengthening and enhancing normal body functions, the immune system is boosted and a general sense of well-being promoted.A snapshot of conditions typically treated with Chinese herbal medicine includes:
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Loss of appetite and common digestive disorders
- Constipation and diarrhoea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Common cold and influenza
- Chronic headaches
- Skin disorders
- Fluid retention
- Anxiety, depression and stress
- Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis
- Premenstrual syndrome and painful menstruation
- Excessive menstruation
- Impotence and prostate disorders
- Disorders associated with menopause