June 10, 2010

Acupuncture has its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The word comes from the Latin acus "needle" and pungere,"to prick”; acupuncture uses the placement of fine, sterile, needles into points on the skin to stimulate healing. Traditional acupuncture is a holistic therapy, which seeks to release blockages of Qi (pronounced chee), vital energy. As the vital energy returns and flows it is believed that this stimulates healing. In traditional acupuncture the needles are placed along the lines that the Qi flows using specific acupuncture points.

In Western acupuncture the term dry needling is often used. The needles are solid and not hollow like the needles used for vaccinations or taking blood, hence the term dry. There are other ways in which the dry needling technique may be different; fewer needles are used in treatment and the needles are placed at trigger points. It has been suggested that these work by releasing endorphins or that they deactivate areas of the brain that control pain.

Acupuncture in London may be given in a clinic, hospital or at home. The acupuncturist will take a full history, including information about symptoms, sleep, emotion, diet, digestion, observation of the tongue, and in women discussion about menstrual bleeding.  Following diagnosis a course of treatment will be agreed upon. The number of needles used may vary from four or five to thirty or more and the duration of treatment may be from twenty minutes to an hour. Traditional Chinese acupuncture tends to use more needles and last longer than the western, dry needling approach. The points where needles are placed may be distant from the place where the symptoms occur. A course of treatment can take between six and twelve sessions to complete. It may be necessary to remove clothing and to sit or lie to allow access to the points where the needles are inserted.

Techniques such as; moxibustion (burning of therapeutic herbs and application of heat); Tuina , therapeutic massage; cupping, using suction cups that create a seal on the skin and Guasha, a vigorous rubbing of skin to warm and release stagnant blood flows are sometimes used by acupuncturists. These techniques may be used on the same acupoints where needles are applied, but may be used without needles.  Occasionally low energy electrical stimulation may be applied; this is known as, Electro-acupuncture.

Treatment is not normally painful. There is a slight pricking sensation when needles are inserted; this gives way to a heavy or warm feeling where the needle sits. At the end of treatment most people feel very calm, relaxed and may fall asleep, they may need to consider arranging to have a lift home rather than driving. There could be some bruising to the skin but this normally passes within a couple of days. The acupuncturists can recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to further enhance treatment.

Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of conditions and is accepted by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of lower back pain.

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