Acupuncture promotes the free flow of energy and blood throughout the body
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture originated in China as part of the integrated healthcare system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which dates back over 5000 years. There are many ways to understand acupuncture from a biomedical perspective, however in Chinese Medicine the body is understood in an entirely different way. One principal objective of acupuncture is to promote the free flow of Blood (Xue), which contains energy (Qi), hence promoting a free flow, and removing blockages or stagnation. When there is free flow, your body is better equipped to do what it has to do to heal itself. Perth Natural Medical Clinic offers acupuncture as one of its many complementary health remedies. Contact us to book an appointment.
How does Acupuncture work?
Acupuncture points (Acupoints) are found along pathways known as meridians or channels, through which the Energy (Qi) circulates. Stimulation of these points with the insertion of very fine, sterile needles helps activate the energy in the meridians to remove blockages and re-establish free flow. Stimulation of Acupoints also helps to activate blood flow to affected areas, either directly (using Acupoints close to the affected area) or indirectly (using points on hands, arms, legs or feet for a problem in the abdomen or back for instance). When Blood flow is promoted, better healing can occur.
One important aspect of Acupuncture is that it doesn’t directly treat anything. Acupuncture needles can only stimulate the substances within your own body, activating and mobilizing your own body’s resources. Then your body does its own healing. In some situations, this isn’t enough, or the treatment course may be too slow, that is when a Chinese Medicine practitioner may suggest using herbal medicine, which puts a substance directly into your body.
Chinese Medicine is founded on the understanding that your body is able to heal itself, given the right circumstances it will do just that. Unfortunately much of western lifestyle – diet, exercise (too little or too much), sedentary life (cars, sitting all day), addictions, inappropriate use of medications and stress can cause taxation on your body, dwindling down its organic ability to recover. This is where Chinese medicine (acupuncture and/or herbs) can help to restore the functionality of your body, raise its defensive resource, so it can get better.
Acupuncture is one of the five branches of Chinese Medicine, the others being Diet Therapy, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Qi Gong/Tai Chi, and Tuina Chinese Massage Therapy.
Although used routinely in hospitals in China, Acupuncture can be considered in Australia to be complementary or alternative medicine. In Australia, Chinese medicine practitioners (Acupuncturists and Chinese Herbalists) were registered with AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority) in 2012. Since this time more stringent standards have been applied on practice. This has improved the quality of training and improved the overall professional practice of the industry in Australia.
Acupuncture can be used as a stand-alone treatment, although it’s often used in conjunction with mainstream medical treatments. Your acupuncturist is equipped with the resources to assess any symptoms that require western medical intervention, and may refer you to your GP when appropriate.
In some cases, the acupoints may be warmed by a process called Moxibustion. This involves the burning of a Chinese herb held at a safe distance above the skin to send a subtle warmth through the acupoint and into the meridian. Moxibustion works by causing a redness on the skin, which is the same kind of 1st degree burn that you get in a hot shower, when your skin is all red from the heat. It doesn’t damage the skin but mobilises your bodies healing process in a different way to standard acupuncture. Thermal healing has its place in many medical systems. In Chinese Medicine the use of Moxa provides the heat coupled with the benefit of the herb, mugwort, a blood-stagnation moving herb. When appropriate, your practitioner may give you at-home, self-Moxa treatment.
There are many other techniques to stimulate acupoints and meridians including cupping, acupressure and ear acupuncture. Your practitioner will discuss the risks and benefits of any treatment before commencing each procedure. Patients have opportunity to ask questions and understand the treatment before consenting.
The benefits of Acupuncture
Acupuncture, when performed by a qualified professional, can be a safe and effective therapeutic technique with many benefits. Any treatment where the skin is penetrated, such as acupuncture, carries risks. A risk means there is a chance that an adverse event can occur. Common adverse events can be bleeding at the site of the acupuncture, bruising, an unwanted sensation like pain or lingering tingling, or numbness. If dull-ache, tingling or numbness occurs after the treatment this can be part of the normal effects of acupuncture that lasts up to 24hours. In rare cases there can be a lingering sensation at the site of the acupuncture point for longer. We encourage you to speak with your practitioner about any concerns relating to your treatment, there are things your practitioner can do to adjust the treatment on an individual basis.
Some of the benefits of Acupuncture include:
- Drug free treatment
- In some instances, very few side effects compared with a different treatment modality.
- A holistic approach linking body and mind
- A functional approach to strengthen your body overall, rather than treating just body symptoms.
What does Acupuncture treat?
There is much recent research supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture for certain conditions. The most comprehensive comparative review (means a review of other studies/research projects) of acupuncture for specific conditions was conducted in Australia, called the ‘Acupuncturist Evidence Project’. Click here to download pdf (900Kb).
The Acupuncture Evidence project1 found acupuncture to have a “positive effect” in:
- Migraine prophylaxis (reducing the severity /onset of migraines in known sufferers)
- Chronic low back pain
- Allergic rhinitis
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Post-operative nausea and vomiting and post-operative pain
What this means is that in a research setting, where participants are treated with the same treatment protocol as much as possible, (one of the ways to reduce bias), that acupuncture is shown to have a positive effect in treatment of the above conditions. Research shows that the effect is not just due to a placebo.
If you suffer with Migraine, Headache, Chronic low back pain, Allergic rhinitis, Knee osteoarthritis, or are in pain there is good evidence to support the use of acupuncture for these conditions.
What about other conditions? Does this mean that those eight conditions are the only things acupuncture is effective at treating?
No, there are many other conditions that Acupuncture may be of benefit in treating, either we have inconclusive or lack of modern /recent research of these conditions or the current research can show ineffectiveness.
Remember Acupuncture is part of the 5,000-year old medical system, predating western medicine that is still in use today. There is over 3,000 years of documented (written text) treatments that are still in use today. This is known as Empirical evidence (tested over time). It is founded on the principals of treating each patient individually. It’s no surprise to a Chinese Medicine practitioner that acupuncture doesn’t show a “positive outcome” using the bio-medically modeled scientific research methodology.
One important thing to remember when using research to weigh up whether you should choose acupuncture as a treatment is that in real life, an acupuncturist treats a person not a disease. The treatment is FAR MORE specific than applying one treatment protocol for a particular disease, which is the way a research project is conducted. Testing ONE variable (treatment) against ONE symptom or disease /syndrome group of symptoms is the primary objective in any research project. In the acupuncture clinic, a practitioner sees patients with multiple symptoms, sometimes from many different “diseases” or causes, and designs a treatment strategy specifically for them. A research project will never do this because there are too many variables.
Many research projects do not take into account the differences in patients that a Chinese medicine practitioner does, such as pulse diagnosis, and other individual variations. This is often a big gap between “real life practice” and a research trial.
Research projects will never be able to fully appreciate /capture the individualized nature of true Chinese Medicine practice. However, the Acupuncture evidence project provides a good starting point for people with these eight conditions; we have the most evidence to support the use of acupuncture for a positive effect according to these parameters.
A good acupuncturist will seek to help their patients in general health as well as the main complaint they seek help for. Sleep, digestion/bowels, mental health, energy are common areas that acupuncturists are interested in for health promotion, healing and prevention.
When the body is out of balance, after a while, it’s not just one thing that gets affected. For example, pain can often affect sleep, which in turn affects your body’s repair ability, perpetuating the cycle of pain —> insomnia–> poor healing –> pain doesn’t go away –> more insomnia.
Being under the care of a Chinese medicine practitioner, patients may experience improvement in health, including an overall general sense of wellbeing, sleep, digestion or other aspects of your health that might seem unrelated to your main complaint.
What does Acupuncture feel like?
Mental health benefits of an acupuncture treatment include an often-instantaneous feeling during acupuncture ranging from relaxation to a “high” feeling. Patients often report feeling good, relaxed, peaceful, sleepy, zoned-out during and after the treatment. A relaxed sensation can linger for up to a day after the treatment. Negative feelings/emotions such as worry often go away during an acupuncture treatment and can lessen for a period of time after the treatment.
Does Acupuncture hurt?
It can do, but your practitioner will do everything possible to minimise any discomfort. You should feel something from the treatment, maybe not in every point but at least in some points its normal to feel heavy, tingling, dull ache, numbness – these sensations are considered normal and expected part of the treatment.
The size of acupuncture needles are very small, compared with a hypodermic needle (used for an injection or taking blood), this is what people normally equate to pain of a needle. Around 20 acupuncture needles can fit into the shaft of a hypodermic needle – so the size and flexibility of the acupuncture needle means sometimes you don’t even feel an acupuncture needle go in.
For more information, watch our Acupuncturist Marie Hopkinson’s video ‘Does Acupuncture hurt? ‘. Click here to view.
As with all medical treatments, acupuncture can have risks and side effects. This is why a professional diagnosis is so important. Practitioners spend many years training in diagnosis and therapeutic technique, and this professional judgment is part of the individualized approach of acupuncture. Your practitioner will be able to discuss your specific treatment protocol with you before commencing treatment, as well as explaining the risks of the treatment before commencing each part of it.
Our experienced Acupuncturist is Marie Hopkinson M IntlHlth(Curtin, Adv.Dip.TCM (Aust), Cert TCM (China).
Marie is a highly qualified, well-travelled and super-experienced acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist. Marie studied acupuncture in Perth before travelling to China, where she worked with some very experienced and well-respected Doctors of TCM at the Hangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Marie has an advanced Diploma of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine). Marie has travelled to China over 10 times for study and work in the past 15 years, as well as completing a Masters of International Health at Curtin University in 2006.
Marie is currently studying Classical Chinese Medicine at ICEAM.
Acupuncture consultations are covered by most major health funds.
- McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017. http://www.acupuncture.org.au.