Acupuncture has been empirically proven effective in the treatment of specific ailments for more than 4,000 years, Acupuncture is a Chinese medical technique. Over the past few decades, Acupuncture has been scrutinised by the medical establishment and has been shown to work in a number of medical trials. It is used primarily for the relief of pain but also for curing disease and improving general health. Recent research – which included testing the thickness of the epidermis over the acupuncture points – has confirmed the location of these points.
Acupuncture consists of stimulating the Qi (intrinsic energy) by inserting hair-thin needles through the acupuncture points. These points generally lie on pathways called meridians although there are many non-meridian acupuncture points. The needles are typically inserted 1/10 to 4/10 inch (0.3 centimetre to 1 centimetre) deep, but some procedures require the needles to be inserted as deep as 10 inches (25 centimetres). The acupuncture points are then stimulated using various techniques. Traditional techniques such as by gentle twirling, or by applying heat. Or using more recently developed techniques such as stimulation with a weak electrical current. Acupuncture points also can be stimulated by pressure (acupressure, Tuina, or Shiatsu), and ultrasound. Recent developments have led to stimulation by the use of certain wavelengths of light.
According to the World Health Organization, diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved, through controlled trials, to be an effective treatment:
- Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
- Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
- Biliary colic
- Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
- Dysentery, acute bacillary
- Dysmenorrhoea, primary
- Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
- Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
- Hypertension, essential
- Hypotension, primary
- Induction of labour
- Low back pain
- Malposition of fetus, correction of
- Morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain
- Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
- Periarthritis of shoulder
- Postoperative pain
- Renal colic
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis elbow
The depth of insertion of the needles is dependent upon the nature of the problem, the underlying anatomy of the points selected, the patient’s size, age, and constitution. Needles should always be of the sterilised, disposable variety thus absolutely assuring that there is no transmission of communicable disease from patient to patient due to contaminated needles.
Although acupuncture is the insertion of needles, there are other techniques and methods used by acupuncture therapists. The most commonly of these are moxibustion, which is the burning of the herb mugwort over the affected area to heat it, cupping, and electronic stimulation. Shiatsu, Acupressure, and Tuina Chinese remedial massage are also used.
Normally associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture utilised the ancient Chinese theory of the Five Elements and the flow of Qi, (pronounced Chi, and meaning intrinsic energy) through discrete channels or meridians. The Qi in each meridian has a particular quality: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood. Illness is said to be the result of an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi through the meridians and Acupuncture is used to regulate the flow of Qi, increasing it in areas of deficiency and decreasing it in areas of excess –bringing balance to the whole body and inducing a harmonious flow of Qi.