some questions about acupuncture
Life at the sharp end
Q: What does 'acupuncture' mean?
A: It comes from the Latin acus, meaning 'needle', and pungere, to 'prick'. The technique is more than 2,000 years old, although there is evidence of similar practices from the early Bronze Age, around 3,000 BC.
Q: How does it work?
A: Some studies suggest that the pain-killing action is associated with the release of natural endorphins, and others that inserting needles into certain points 'switches off' electrical nerve pathways that make the brain recognise pain. Despite more than 10,000 published papers there is no conclusive answer.
Q: What does acupuncture treat?
A: It can be effective in the treatment of chronic lower back pain, neck pain, post-operative nausea and vomiting, headaches, and other nerve pain relief. Combining acupuncture with conventional infertility treatments such as IVF greatly improves the success rates. In China, it is used to treat skin conditions, digestive or sleeping problems, depression and stress.
Q: Does it hurt?
A: No. The needles are much finer than those used to draw blood. A dull ache or heaviness around the needle is a normal sensation to expect. It should never feel sharp.
Q: What are the needles made of?
A: Traditional needles were made of bone, stone, or metal. Modern disposable ones are made of stainless steel with a smooth rounded end.
Q: Are there any adverse effects?
A: Minor bleeding is seen in about three per cent of patients, which stops after a few minutes. Around two per cent will experience bruising.
Q: Can you have acupuncture alongside conventional medicine?
A: Yes. China devotes 25 per cent of its annual health budget to TCM therapies, used in conjunction with modern Western medicine. Here it is part of a treatment 'package'.
Q: How long does treatment usually last?
A: A single treatment lasts about an hour. Five weeks of one-a-week treatment, with a review, is standard.
Q: What ages is it suitable for?
A: Any age, even babies. But with children under seven finger-tapping is used, not needles.
The Chinese believe that there should be a balance in the body between yin (internal fluids) and yang (fire of life). Yin and yang are equal and opposing forces that should be in harmony for optimal health. When either yin or yang becomes too dominant (or deficient), negative health can result. As we age, many people experience diminished yin in their bodies. Yin depletion can be accelerated by an overly active lifestyle, as well as excess chemical toxins introduced in the body (i.e. caffeine, alcohol, drugs, etc.).