(c) Can Stock Photo / Jochen

(c) Can Stock Photo / Jochen

If we were to ask you to think of an image that summed up traditional Chinese medicine, you would probably picture someone looking like a glorified pin cushion as they underwent an acupuncture treatment. For many of us, brought up on the ‘we have a pill for that’ way of doctoring, accepting that sticking needles into the body at various points could actually improve someone’s health can be a pretty tough call!

Acupuncture has a long pedigree though; for over 3000 years it has been the proven mainstay of Chinese medicine. To understand how acupuncture may work we need to get a feel for the underlying rationale behind it and this means taking a brief detour into some traditional Taoist philosophy.

Taoism describes all aspects of creation (which of course includes us) in terms of the interaction of two complementary but opposing forces, yin and yang. We experience these opposites all the time in everyday life: hot/cold; soft/hard; day/night; good/bad etc. In reality, there are no opposites because the apparent duality simply represents extremes of the same quality.

In terms of our health, when these forces of yin and yang are in balance, our body is well. Universal Energy, called “chi”,  flows along very specific pathways within the body and this constant flow keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. These pathways are called ‘meridians’ and if the flow of energy through them gets blocked we suffer from pain, lack of function, or illness.

By inserting needles into key points on the different meridians, acupuncturists release the blocked energy and stimulate the body’s natural healing response. Balance is restored and the body returns to health. As with the other healing protocols we work with (Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Reiki) Acupuncture facilitates the flow of Universal Energy within the body. When this happens the positive effect is felt holistically throughout the whole person.

Acupuncture has been proven clinically effective for the treatment of many conditions. Case-controlled clinical studies have shown that acupuncture has been an effective treatment for the following diseases, symptoms or conditions:

Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Hypertension, essential
Hypotension, primary
Induction of labor
Knee pain
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain
Renal colic
Rheumatoid arthritis
Tennis elbow

The following diseases, symptoms or conditions have limited but probable evidence to support the therapeutic use of acupuncture:

Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
Acne vulgaris
Alcohol dependence and detoxification
Bell’s palsy
Bronchial asthma
Cancer pain
Cardiac neurosis
Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
Competition stress syndrome
Craniocerebral injury, closed
Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
Female infertility
Facial spasm
Female urethral syndrome
Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
Gastrokinetic disturbance
Gouty arthritis
Hepatitis B virus carrier status
Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
Labour pain
Lactation, deficiency
Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
Ménière disease
Neuralgia, post-herpetic
Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
Pain due to endoscopic examination
Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
Post-extubation in children
Postoperative convalescence
Premenstrual syndrome
Prostatitis, chronic
Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
Raynaud syndrome, primary
Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Retention of urine, traumatic
Sialism, drug-induced (excessive salivation)
Sjögren syndrome
Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
Spine pain, acute
Stiff neck
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
Tietze syndrome
Tobacco dependence
Tourette syndrome
Ulcerative colitis, chronic
Vascular dementia
Whooping cough (pertussis)