What is Acupuncture?

What is acupuncture? 

Acupuncture is a therapy that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of conditions. It’s usage stems from traditional Chinese medicine which views the body as an integrated whole. Through tongue and pulse diagnosis and asking questions the practitioner is able to identify which systems are weak, blocked or over active and can then choose the appropriate acupuncture points to simultaneously treat the symptoms and the root cause of the issue. By doing this, the body system can be bought back into balance, restoring health and well being, increasing the resilience to future problems.


What can it help?

Acupuncture has been used to help conditions including:

Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)(Source: The World Health Organisation. Follow this link for a larger list)

  • Advers e reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • 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)
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • 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
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow

It is recognised to be effective by a variety of organisations and bodies, including the World Health Organisation, the NHS, the Bristol Cancer Centre, the Drugs Rehab Service, the Stroke Association and Cancer Research UK among others. It is even offered on the NHS in certain hospitals and clinics. And has NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines for headaches and back pain.

How does it work?

Currently only a few conditions have been well researched. Scientists found that acupuncture can be very helpful for back pain, knee pain, nausea, headaches and dental pain. Further research is needed to confirm other areas and to understand the mechanisms behind acupunctures effectiveness. To find out more about the research and other conditions studied please visit the research page. From a traditional Chinese medical view point acupuncture works by stimulating the energetic meridians of the body. By doing this the practitioner is able to adjust the flow of energy within each meridian through the acupuncture points. Points can be reduced, tonified or harmonised to help bring the body back to balance and its natural, healthy functioning. There are a few theories on how acupuncture could work. One argument is that it acts as a mic ro-trauma. Just as when we injure ourselves our immune system floods the site of injury with healing compounds so to does it flood the acupoints when they are stimulated with needling. This accounts well for the local healing effects, the flood of dopamine (the bodies natural pain killers). However, it does not account well for the systemic effects or the distal effects, for instance, how a needle could be inserted in the wrist to help the lungs, or the ankles for the kidneys. More research is needed to fully understand how acupuncture function.