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How does acupuncture work?

In Chinese medicine, we say that acupuncture works on the internal organs of the body because, at certain points, the deep energy of the organs flows near the surface. By accessing a point on the surface, we give information to the related organ, and this stimulates the body to heal.

The energy flows in channels, sometimes called meridians. There are 361 specific points on these channels, plus many “extra” points – around 2,000 in total.

For muscular pain, acupuncture can release so-called “trigger points” – small knots of muscle that have locked and can’t relax. Accessing these trigger points releases the knot of muscle and relieves pain that has referred to other areas.

Western scientific studies of acupuncture continue to discover more and more ways that acupuncture works on the body, for example through the nervous, immune and endocrine systems.

What is qi?

Qi, pronounced “chee”, is often translated as “energy”. It is the energy that moves the blood in the vessels and moves the limbs. It is the energy of the body’s organs as they carry out their vital functions.

Qi can be light or it can be dense. It has been said that “qi is energy on the verge of becoming matter, and matter on the verge of becoming energy”.

This ancient concept, that has no real equivalent term in English, is very close to the understanding of matter and energy according to the latest advances in Physics.

Is acupuncture painful?

Treatments at this Clinic are usually gentle and relaxing. Acupuncture puts you into a sleepy altered state that is ideal for triggering the body to heal.

The sensation as the treatment commences might be throbbing, tingling, heaviness or numbness. After a while, you should drift off into a pleasant relaxed state.

Sometimes a stubborn or severe condition might require a slightly stronger treatment, but this will be discussed with you prior to treatment.

What kinds of conditions can you treat?

You can have acupuncture or herbal treatment for just about anything that you’d also go to your doctor for, for example high blood pressure. You can have treatment for things you normally wouldn’t bother going to the doctor for, such as common cold.

Many people seek treatment when all their test results from the doctor are “normal” but they still feel unwell or are in pain. Because Chinese medicine uses a different way of studying and diagnosing the body, we can almost always detect imbalances and then determine a treatment plan.

How often should I have treatment?

In China, a course of acupuncture treatments is ten treatments – once a day for ten days. In the West, it is usually not feasible to have treatment daily. For long-term conditions, once a week is generally enough.

Short-term or severe conditions usually benefit from treatments twice a week to start with. Scientific studies show that the healing from acupuncture happens over about three days. This is why twice-weekly treatments are ideal, to keep up the momentum of the healing response.

How many treatments will I need?

In most cases, you should see positive change after three treatments. Then we will have a better idea of your unique condition and needs. However, at this Clinic, many people feel an immediate improvement in their condition after the first treatment.

As a general rule, the longer you have had a condition, the more treatments you will need to completely resolve it. If you have had the problem for many years, then it is realistic to expect you will need treatment for several months.

Babies and children respond extremely well to treatment. They generally need fewer treatments than adults. However, for long-term conditions it is important to maintain treatment until the child is strong and healthy.

Can I keep having treatments after my problem has been fixed?

Absolutely. Chinese medicine is designed as a way of preventing health problems, by treating imbalances as soon as they arise. In ancient China, the village doctor was supported by the village as long as everyone was well. If someone got sick, they would stop paying him until the person was better.

Once you have solved your initial problem, you will find that regular treatment, say, every three or four weeks, keeps you in great health and helps you to nip potential problems in the bud.

And in the meantime, if you do notice something, like the start of a common cold, then you should come for immediate treatment. Every imbalance is easier to fix when it is first starting. Why have time off work, feeling sick, when you can have treatment (and rest!) and be back on your feet without getting sick?

Do I need Chinese herbs?

Herbs are often a very useful way to increase the benefits of your acupuncture treatment and keep the healing going between treatments.

Herbs can also be taken as the main therapy, with fewer or no acupuncture treatments. Every person is unique, and the beauty of Chinese medicine is that it is totally tailored to you and gives you what you need to heal.

How do I take Chinese herbs?

This will depend on your condition and the style of herbalism that your practitioner uses.

Granules or powders: A special blend of water-soluble granules or powders of individual herb extracts is prepared for you in response to your changing condition. You dissolve the mixture in hot water, like instant coffee.

Pills: For milder conditions, herbal pills are available. These are prepared versions of common herbal formulas.

Capsules: Capsules, like pills, are also prepared versions of herbal formulas but they are a little stronger than the pills.

Although pills and capsules are convenient, often the granules are better as they can be precisely tailored to exactly what you need each time.

Raw herbs: Some practitioners will supply raw herbs (bark, roots, seeds, flowers, etc cooked into a decoction) while others may give you a prescription to be filled at a nearby dispensary.