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Acupuncture is a branch of Chinese traditional medicine. This kind of medicine, which has been practised for over 4,000 years, takes into account that everyone has a life force. The Chinese call this vital energy chi (sometimes also referred to as ki or qi). According to Chinese medicine, when an individual’s chi is strong and moves easily throughout the body, the individual will be strong and healthy. If, though, the chi becomes blocked or stagnates within the body, the individual will develop health problems.
How does it work?
According to Chinese traditional medicine chi runs through the body along clearly defined pathways which are called meridians. The aim of acupuncture is to ensure that the chi flows freely around the body, and that any trapped or blocked energies are released.
What does it involve?
An acupuncture session begins with the practitioner taking detailed notes about your own and your family’s medical history, your lifestyle and what improvements you would like to achieve. The practitioner will examine your tongue as, in Chinese medicine, the colour and condition of the tongue provides a great deal of useful information. The practitioner will also note the strength and speed of the pulses in your wrists (there are twelve meridian pulses in each).
After that you will be invited to lie on a treatment couch whilst the practitioner inserts very fine needles into specific meridian points. These points will be in a variety of sites, including the head, stomach, arms, wrists, legs, back, ankles. It is usual for the practitioner to insert anything from six to twenty needles, depending on the diagnosis and treatment required.
Acupuncturists will always use fresh, sterilized, one-use-only needles for each client and immediately dispose of them, so there is no risk of contamination. The needles are usually removed after ten or fifteen minutes and the practitioner may then prescribe Chinese herbs, which are taken away and boiled at home in water.
The initial session may take up to an hour and a half, and subsequent sessions will take anything from forty to sixty minutes.
What is it good for?
Acupuncture is used for a wide range of physical ailments including arthritis, asthma, neuralgia, high blood pressure, skin conditions, infertility, chronic fatigue, bronchitis, insomnia, and pain of all kinds. It is also thought to be helpful for emotional problems, including anxiety and depression, and is often used to treat alcohol and drug addiction.
What are the benefits?
Acupuncture is particularly beneficial for alleviating pain, and many clients report increased vitality and energy after the treatment. Practitioners believe that once blocked and stagnant chi has been released the body is better able to regulate and heal itself.
What are the side effects and when should it be avoided?
The needles used for acupuncture are very, very fine, and are nothing at all like the hypodermic syringes which are used for injections. The needles rarely hurt when inserted and, in some cases, they are not felt at all. Sometimes, after insertion, the client may feel a slight tingling or itching at the site of the needle, but there is rarely any pain involved.
Be prepared to removed your outer clothing as the practitioner may need to insert needles in points in the back, stomach or thighs. If you are pregnant, suffer from diabetes or are taking anticoagulant drugs be sure to tell the practitioner before the treatment starts. If in any doubt at all, tell your GP before booking a session.
Some clients report feeling dizzy or ‘spacey’ after the first session, but this effect disappears quite quickly. The Chinese herbs that are often prescribed as an adjunct to the acupuncture are extremely effective but can be very bitter.
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