about acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used systems of healing in the world and has become widely accepted by Australians as an effective and natural form of therapy for many conditions.  When acupuncture is performed according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it takes a holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes and focuses as much on the prevention of illness as on the treatment.
According to TCM, there are as many as 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body, which are connected by pathways called meridians. These meridians conduct energy, or qi (pronounced “chi”), between the surface of the body and its internal organs. Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into 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.
Chinese medicine is quite complex and can be difficult for some people to comprehend. This is because TCM is based, at least in part, on the Taoist belief that we live in a universe in which everything is interconnected. What happens to one part of the body affects every other part of the body. The mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic system. Similarly, organs and organ systems are viewed as interconnected structures that work together to keep the body functioning.
As a natural form of healing, acupuncture has the following benefits:

  • focuses on drug-free pain relief
  • can be effective in the treatment of acute and chronic ailments as shown in research studies which have been collated in the Acupuncture Evidence Project.
  • takes an holistic approach by addressing the underlying cause of the condition, as well as the symptoms. The approach links body, mind and emotions.
  • assists in the prevention against disease and the maintenance of general well-being

how does it work?

Many of the concepts emphasized in traditional Chinese medicine have no true counterpart in Western medicine. Acupuncture, when performed within the realms of Chinese medicine, still holds a great deal of mystery, especially when it comes to understanding meridians and the functions of acupuncture points.  However, scientific studies have helped create some understanding of the physiological response of the body when needled, such as:

  • Acupuncture increases blood flow – When a needle is inserted into the skin it stimulates the peripheral nervous system which causes a vasomotor response so that blood circulates locally to the needle site and other referred areas
  • Acupuncture releases painkiller and feel-good hormones – Inserting a needle sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, noradrenalin and seratonin are released
  • The acupuncture needle stimulates a healing response – Needle insertion creates a micro trauma in the surrounding tissue initiating an inflammatory process. This triggers the body to heal itself. Fresh blood and nutrients flood the site along with a substance called prostaglandin which regulates inflammation and mobilises platelets for healing
  • Acupuncture relaxes muscles
  • Acupuncture reduces stress

does acupuncture hurt?

People experience Acupuncture differently. Some may feel minimal pain as the needles are inserted, others will feel nothing. When the needles are positioned correctly, there should be no pain but there may be feelings of warmth, tingling, dull aching, heaviness, or numbness. Most people find it easy to relax during treatment, and may even fall asleep.

is it safe?

When practiced by a properly trained acupuncturist, acupuncture is extremely safe. In Australia, all acupuncturists must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This ensures that all treatments are performed with expertise and safety. Registered Acupuncturists have a sound knowledge of Western medical conditions and will refer to a GP when necessary. Registration also ensures health fund rebates. It is a requirement that sterile, single use needles are used.

Properly administered, acupuncture does no harm. However, there are certain conditions you should notify an acupuncturist about before undergoing treatment. If you have a pacemaker, for instance, you should not receive electro acupuncture due to the possibility of electromagnetic interference with the pacemaker. Similarly, if you have a tendency to bleed or bruise easily, or if you are a haemophiliac, you may want to consider a different type of care.

What conditions does it treat?

The Acupuncture Evidence Project was published in 2017. It is a review of the evidence supporting the efficacy of acupuncture currently available.

Of the 122 conditions reviewed, evidence of effect was found at various levels for 117 conditions. The findings of the review include:

  • Conditions with strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture included allergic rhinitis (perennial & seasonal), knee osteoarthritis, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (with anti-emetics), migraine prophylaxis, chronic low back pain, postoperative nausea & vomiting, headache (tension-type and chronic) and postoperative pain.
  • Conditions with moderate evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture included acute low back pain, acute stroke, neck pain, obesity, anxiety, peri-menopausal and postmenopausal insomnia, asthma in adults, post-traumatic stress disorder, constipation, hypertension (with medication), irritable bowel syndrome and menopausal hot flushes.

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