Health professionals from all disciplines, accept acupuncture is effective in easing pain and reducing stress. Chinese Medicine, which underpins acupuncture, puts emotional stress at the very heart of illness. Put another way: the aetiology of illness is inappropriate emotion. For example anger that is not expressed leading to frustration; or grief, when one fails eventually to let go; or fear that cripples the individual from moving on with their life. These are all examples of inappropriate emotions; emotions that are warped and which, over time, damage our health. Acupuncture is especially good at releasing such emotional stagnation, where our energies have become stuck.
Fundamental to the Chinese model of health is the theory that we all have vital energy (Qi) flowing through us. In health, Qi flows smoothly, regularly and easily through channels, within us; these are sometimes called Meridians. Chinese medicine views good health as a product of energetic balance. When Qi is plentiful and flows smoothly, then our Qi is balanced and we are well. Should it become deficient, meander over-much, or stagnate, then we fall towards illness.
To the Chinese medical practitioner, health is a state of harmony and balance. Our bodies' systems, controlled by our mind/spirit (Shen), strive to achieve and maintain a healthy balance. Life impinges on that balance: stress; trauma; emotional upset and external pathogens, all affect this balance. All medicine, including Chinese and Western, works through the body's own ability to self-heal, its continuing attempt to achieve balance; in western terms, to achieve homeostasis. This is a dynamic, ongoing process, which the acupuncturist acknowledges and which acupuncture encourages.
Acupuncture needles attract, manipulate and spread Qi, restoring balance and smooth flow where there was deficiency and stagnation: Acupuncture stimulates the flow of Qi. Wisely chosen acupuncture points, stimulated with good intention, activate, encourage and focus our bodies' natural mechanisms for self-regulation and healing. In other words acupuncture, in common with all medical intervention, gives our bodies a nudge to start to heal itself. It is our own body's ability to self-heal that makes us well and acupuncture can be the catalyst for this.
And what is Qi exactly? Scholars of Chinese medicine usually talk about vital energy, about a life force, or life energy and then go on to say that: so difficult is it to translate Qi accurately, with all its meanings and nuances, they will simply call it Qi. I think of it as the essential ingredient.
Acupuncture is effective in many types of pain control: especially muscular and skeletal pain; headache, back pain and long-term neuralgic pain and especially effective with chronic pain. It is also particularly helpful for illness that bio-medicine terms syndromes; that is a group of allied or sometimes unrelated symptoms for which there is currently no known cure.
Acupuncture is the best way of alleviating chronic back pain - and it's far better than any conventional treatment
Twice as many back pain sufferers benefited from acupuncture as those who took a painkiller - and they enjoyed months without pain afterwards.
It's been tested on a group of 1,162 patients who suffered from chronic low back pain for an average of eight years. The group received one of three therapies: acupuncture, which involved 10 sessions, twice a week; sham acupuncture, where the needles were not properly inserted; and conventional therapy, which included drugs, physical therapy and exercise.
After six months, 48 per cent of those in the acupuncture group reported a dramatic reduction in back pain compared with just 20 per cent who were receiving conventional treatments. Interestingly, 44 per cent of those given 'sham' acupuncture' also reported an improvement.
So, ask the researchers, is acupuncture a placebo, an 'all in the mind' therapy, or could it be that inserting needles anywhere in the body can block our pain transmitters?
(Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007; 167: 1892-8)
Many patients initially come to acupuncture having exhausted more conventional approaches; they might be taking a maximum dose of pain-killers and yet still seeking more relief. Or their pain simply isn't eased by even the strongest pharmaceuticals. Some just don't like taking strong drugs, especially long-term. Others are looking for a health model which tries to keep them well. Once, in China, patients paid their physicians only when they were well and stopped paying when they were ill. A concept which illustrates Chinese medicine's emphasis on health rather than illness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are not something easily explained, especially to many of us brought up in the logic of western science, with its emphasis on cause and effect. The Chinese perspective is more closely concerned with interacting systems where subtle differences in cause, produce differing effects. So I understand if you have doubts about the validity and efficacy of this treatment model. But if anything I have said, especially about the body's ability to self-heal strikes a cord, then do feel free to contact me for a consultation, treatment or just for a chat.
You can contact me by voice or text on: 07713 508 678 at any reasonable time. My phone is switched off when I'm treating patients and I am sometimes in areas with no phone reception, so if you can't make direct or immediate contact, please send a text or leave a message and I will reply as soon as I can.
Alternatively, click here to contact me by e-mail.
My main practice is:
The Garden Acupuncture Room
38 Higher Summerseat
Bury Lancashire BL0 9UG
I also see patients referred to me for acupuncture by their GP at:
The Birches Medical Centre, Prestwich Manchester.