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History of Chinese acupuncture
Between the first century BC and the first century AD the first known book of Chinese Medicine was written. The Classic of Internal Medicine of the Yellow Emperor may be old but is certainly not outdated and is still the inspiration for all styles of acupuncture currently in practice around the world.
Without the modern scientific equipment of the twenty first century, ancient Chinese scholars had to discover for themselves how the body functions. They based their medical system on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of "qi" (vital life-energy) and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang.
During the early twentieth century traditional medicine fell out of fashion in favour of new treatments imported from the West. It wasn't until Western doctors called for the ban on traditional Chinese Medicine, which was subsequently rejected in 1929, that Chinese medicine began to gradually grow in popularity again.
Without access to the Western medical treatment they had been used too, soldiers injured in the Long March of 1934-5 had to revert back to traditional Chinese medicine for recovery. Acupuncture in particular achieved incredible results for wounded soldiers and from this point forward, traditional Chinese medicine has been used in conjunction with western medicine to achieve the best possible results.
The pathway of qi
In traditional Chinese medicine the body is seen as a balance of two opposing forces, yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow or passive aspects of a person while yang represents hot, excited or active aspects. If these two opposing forces become unbalanced then it leads to a blockage in the flow of qi.
Meridians are channels that allow qi and blood to circulate through the body. Qi is continuously flowing through these pathways and any break in the flow is an indication of imbalance.
There are twelve major meridians, all of which correspond to a specific organ or function within the body, 6 representing yin and 6 representing yang: Heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, small intestines, large intestine, bladder, gall bladder, spleen, pericardium and the triple burner.
Yin meridians flow up and Yang meridians flow down with corresponding Yang organs used to treat disorders of its related Yin organ.
Dotted along the meridians are hundred of acupuncture points, these are areas where the qi of the channels is close to the surface of the body. To restore the balance, the acupuncturist will stimulate the acupuncture points which will counteract the imbalance. If your qi is stagnant then specific points will be selected to stimulate the flow once again. If it is cold then appropriate points will be chosen to warm it and the same applies for if the qi is weak or blocked.
Is Chinese acupuncture safe?
Understandably you might be feeling anxious about this kind of treatment, but rest assured that acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments on offer in the UK.
All Chinese acupuncturists listed on Therapy Directory hold either relevant qualifications and insurance or are members of a recognised professional body which requires members to practice to high standards.
Safety measures in a typical session:
- Acupuncturist will set up a clean environment for needles and their other equipment.
- Needles will be individually wrapped in sterile packaging and used only once.
- Needles will be disposed of safely as clinical waste.
- The treatment couch should be covered with fresh paper for each patient and again should be safely disposed of as clinical waste after use.
- If you are still not convinced then the facts and figures speak volumes. Two surveys published in the British Medical Journal 2001 found the risk of an adverse reaction to acupuncture to be as little as 1 in 10,000.
What To Expect
During your initial consultation, your Chinese acupuncturist will take the opportunity to learn as much about you as they can. They may ask you about your medical history as this will give them a glimpse into your lifestyle and they may ask you about other various topics such as your current emotional state, how well do you sleep? What does your diet consist off? It all helps to give a complete picture of your treatment needs.
After the consultation the next stage will involve putting together a personal treatment plan. Once this is done the acupuncturist can begin. They will use ultra-fine, sterile needles to stimulate specific points on your body. Don't be alarmed if these points aren't necessarily close to the point of illness or discomfort as the effectiveness comes from stimulating the meridian system to rebalance the body.
Acupuncture needles are so fine that most people rarely feel them inserted and if they do then discomfort is minimal. Reactions to the treatment are hugely varied with some individuals feeling deeply relaxed by treatments and some feeling stimulated. In addition to this your acupuncturist may choose to use other Chinese medicine techniques to enhance and complement your treatment.
Afterwards you could be left feeling a little tired so it's a good idea to arrange alternative transport so you won't have to drive, and also to take the rest of the day off work if you are in a position which requires you to operate machinery. Other than this there are very few side effects. You may experience slight bruising but this will clear within a couple of days and it is usually painless.
How can it help me?
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) believe that acupuncture should be made available on the NHS for the treatment of chronic lower back pain.
We already know that acupuncture has been successfully used to treat back pain for over 2,000 years and acupuncturists are continuing to use their expertise to treat patients for this condition either in private or working with the NHS.
It has also been proven that acupuncture encourages the body to release natural painkilling substances (endorphins) which means that it is extremely effective in easing symptoms of discomfort.
Tips and advice
We would always advise that you contact your GP or health care provider if you are considering acupuncture or any other form of alternative medication, this way they will have a full picture of what you do to manage your health and it will also ensure coordinated and safe care.
Improper needle placement, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness and pain during treatment. This is why it is important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner.
What qualifications and experience should therapists have?
Currently there are no laws in place in the UK regarding the level of training required to become an acupuncture practitioner. However, those seeking the therapy often find it reassuring to know their practitioner is trained to a high standard and is working to certain levels of good practice.
There are many professional associations in existence which have taken on a self-regulatory role for acupuncture, requiring members to meet certain eligibility requirements and abide by a code of ethics and complaints procedure.
Listed below are a number of professional associations for acupuncture in the UK, with a summary of what each one requires to join. This information is subject to change so please visit the individual websites for full details:
The Acupuncture Society is a body of acupuncture practitioners which was formed to promote the development of Traditional Chinese Medicine as an effective medical practice.
Members are bound by a strict Code of Ethics, Rules and Regulations and a Code of Professional Conduct as well as being obliged to comply with local health authority safety, hygiene and sterilization requirements and carry full indemnity insurance.
For full membership individuals must:
- Be a graduate of the College of Chinese Medicine, or
- Have completed a 5 year professional course in mainland China, those who have will then be required to attend an interview with the society's admissions board.
- Adhere to the society’s code of ethics, rules and regulations and must be fully insured, keep accurate patient and tax records and operate in a legal and professional manner and complete 15 hours of Continued Professional Development per year.
The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM) are a UK regulatory body for the practice of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and tuina (a chinese therapeutic massage).
Dedicated to excellence all full members of ATCM hold a university, college or other recognised professional qualification at or above BSc level and are bound by the Association's Code of Practice and Code of Professional Conduct at all times.
As the UKs largest professional body of acupuncturists the BAcC guarantee excellence in training, safe practice and professional conduct. All members of the BAcC (MBAcC) can offer you the following assurances:
- BSc or BA degree level training or its equivalent in traditional acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and western biomedical sciences including anatomy, physiology and pathology (3,600 hours of study).
- Full medical malpractice and public/products liability insurance cover.
- Expert practice skills maintained by following a mandatory individual programme of continuing professional development (CPD).
- Compliance with BAcC Code of Safe Practice and Code of Professional Conduct.
- Patient access to the BAcC complaints and disciplinary procedures.
All content displayed on Therapy Directory is for provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional. Whilst some people have benefited from complementary and alternative therapies, no claims can be made to treat, cure or heal, and we strongly advise individuals with any health problem to seek independent medical advice from their GP before considering complementary or alternative medicine or treatment.Submit feedback on this page