Acupuncture as its name implies involves the piercing of the skin with fine needles in order to treat disease. Traditionally the Chinese believed that a person only became ill if his vital energy (qi) became depleted or imbalanced. Qi pervades the universe and our own bodies flowing in a system of meridians beneath the skin (see diagram). To restore health it is important to keep the flow of qi even within these meridians – this can be done by inserting acupuncture needles into points of relative excess or deficiency on the meridian lines.
Symptom control methods of treatment are also sometimes necessary and sometimes this is often as simple as placing a needle in an area close to or related to that of the problem (eg back ache - needle the painful spots on the back)
A traditionally trained acupuncturist is able to assess the state of your meridians and health in a number of ways:
Feeling along the course of the meridian;
Palpating the abdomen;
Checking your pulse;
Assessing your complexion and the quality of your voice.
Acupuncture has been used in China and other Eastern countries for over 2000 years. The first account of acupuncture comes from an ancient Chinese text, dating back to approximately 300 BC, called ‘The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine'. This text is useful reference material even for todays acupuncturists, and still provides much of the theoretical framework by which we practise.
Today in China acupuncture is used extensively, alongside orthodox medicine, as a front line medical intervention in hospitals for a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions. Of course we are a long way behind China in this respect as serious study into acupuncture, in the West, has only begun in the last half century or so.
Over the last few decades, the number of traditionally trained, qualified acupuncturists in the U.K. has steadily risen from a mere handful to around 3000. The traditional style of acupuncture is not normally currently available on the N.H.S, although some simpler forms are used by some physiotherapists and doctors.
Most acupuncture available in the UK is TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine style) or is influenced by TCM. Japanese acupuncture derives from the same roots as Chinese acupuncture but has evolved its own independant traditions over many centuries.