What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Specifically, it involves the insertion and gentle manipulation of needles at selected points on the body which are known to initiate various physiological responses. It has been widely utilised in China for centuries to assist in the support and management of a wide range of health-related conditions. Remarkably, it has been able to adapt and transform throughout the years and still has relevance and application within our health care systems today.
How does it work?
From A TCM perspective acupuncture’s healing effect on the body is due to it’s capacity to regulate energy or the body’s vital force known as “qi”. Indeed it is thought that qi, which flows through pathways in the body (known as meridians) controls all of its systems, internal organs and functions. Imbalances in the flow or supply of qi result in illness or disease. Needling specific acupoints along the meridians, regulates qi flow and production and returns harmony and balance back to the body from a diseased state.
For the novice and from non TCM standpoint, there are so many theories to explain the mechanisms behind how acupuncture works. The most commonly held view though, is that it has the potential to regulate the nervous system via the neuro/hormonal pathways. Essentially needling a specific point activates a nerve which in turn signals the brain to release neural hormones and transmitters which can illicit a myriad of responses. Different points initiate different responses, releasing hormones and neuro transmitters that can assist with pain, inflammation, blood flow, stress, anxiety and so on.
What can I expect from a consultation/treatment?
Consultations are usually an hour in duration. The first part thereof typically involves discussion (of symptoms / case history). Expect to be asked a lot of detailed questions regarding symptom patterns, family history, diet, lifestyle, stress, digestive system and so on. So much information is collected on the first consult so we can make an accurate TCM diagnosis of your condition and formulate an effective treatment plan/protocol. Part of this process also involves the use of investigative techniques specific to TCM such as pulse and tongue diagnosis. Other physical assessments also may be conducted where necessary. Only after this consultative/ investigatory process are the needles inserted. Needles are usually retained by the patient for at least 20 minutes, depending on the condition, some patients though may have them in for longer.
Can Acupuncture be harmful?
Acupuncture needles are very fine (around .22mm wide) and flexible. Usually when correctly inserted, they cause no discomfort or adverse reactions. In fact TCM is generally considered to be safe but occasionally (as with all health treatments) it may be associated with possible adverse reactions in individual cases.
Regarding acupuncture needles, health regulations in Australia mandate that they are sterile and single use so the risk cross contamination or infection is extremely low.
How should I expect to feel once the needles are in?
Generally, responses to acupuncture are varied and patient specific. In fact the actual sensation of being needled is different for everyone. Some feel an instant sense of warmth, heaviness or tingling at the site of insertion, others feel nothing. Many experience a sense of calm and relaxation which permeates through the body whilst others only fell the localised effects of the needles.