Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese art dating back over 2500 years. Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the skin and underlying tissues in key points on the meridians of the body to remove blockages and balance excess and deficiencies in the channels and organs. In western medical terms, the stimulation of certain ‘acupoints’ with needles is thought to induce rhythmic reactions that cause a release of endogenous opioids and oxytocin. Auricular (ear) acupuncture has an anti-inflammatory and immune-regulatory effect. In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.
According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, optimal health requires a strong underlying essence or jing, balance between yin and yang, and the smooth flow of blood and qi (functional energy) through the meridians. Blockages of qi in these channels is thought to cause pain, stagnation and illness. The aim of acupuncture is to strengthen or move qi and blood, nourish yin or yang of the zangfu organs (the paired organs of the body, for example Lung and Large Intestine) in order to restore balance.
I also specialise in Japanese Toyohari acupuncture. This meridian therapy treatment uses non-invasive needling techniques based on pulse diagnosis. Toyohari works on the “root” by tonifying (strengthening) the weakest meridians before focussing on the “branches” or symptoms. A variety of methods in the Toyohari toolkit include non-inserted gold or silver needles, inserted steel needles, moxibustion (heat treatment using rice grains or cones of mugwort on the surface of the body) and various techniques using large non-inserted needles to balance qi in local areas and in the organs via the meridian system. In contrast to the no-pain no-gain or trigger point approach (which of course can also be very effective), Toyohari is a gentle method that rebalances the whole body. It is ideal for children and people with needle phobia or weak constitutions due to chronic illnesses and also conditions where needle insertion is contra-indicated in the UK, such as lymphodema or post surgery.
During a treatment, I will diagnose these aspects in the patient by asking questions, looking at the tongue, feeling the pulse and palpating the body for areas of pain or sensitivity. Based on this diagnosis fine needles will be inserted (just a few millimetres beneath the skin) into selected points along the meridians or energy channels of the body that are xu/kyo (deficient), shi/jitsu (excess) or blocked. Patients may feel an initial pin-prick or nothing at all when the needle is inserted. I will often manipulate the needle to achieve a sensation of de qi or feeling of qi on the needle, which can range from dull tingling or numbing to a mild feeling of electricity running through a meridian.
After a treatment you may feel relaxed, tired or energised, depending upon the body's condition.
Acupuncture is not a quick fix or miracle cure. Although some conditions may be alleviated after just one session, many will require a series of treatments. Acupuncture can be used alongside allopathic treatments from consultants and GPs.
In the initial acupuncture consultation (approx 1hr-1hr15mins) I will take a full case history, make a diagnosis and give a short treatment. Subsequent treatments will last 1 hour. Depending upon the condition, I will recommend a course of 4 to 6 weekly treatments with a review after this time.
How Acupuncture can help?
There is growing body of evidence-based clinical research into the efficacy of traditional acupuncture. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends acupuncture for non-specific back pain (2009) and as a prophylaxis for migraine and tension headaches (2012).
Many other conditions are treated with acupuncture in China, however western empirical research into the efficacy of acupuncture for many conditions is still in its infancy.
Based on my experience in both China and the UK I have particular interest in acupuncture for pain, sports injuries and symptoms relating to cancer, anxiety and depression, gynaecology, menopause, fertility &IVF, and Parkinson's disease.
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)'s factsheets provide accurate information and outline current research for conditions including: