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How does acupuncture work? Well, first, you might like to know that your acupuncturist is an expert in not just acupuncture, but many other therapies besides Acupuncture, which is only one of the treatment methods in Chinese Medicine.
Yes, Chinese medicine has evolved many other therapies to treat disease and to maintain health. Some you might have heard of, like moxibustion - see picture on the right.
Another is cupping. This ancient therapy, known about for millennia, and not just in China, is something that you can do at home. I've shown countless people how to do it, and safely. Click cupping for how to do this, and what it's used for.
Most acupuncturists are trained to use these therapies, so knowing how acupuncture works means knowing about them too.
Still others come from a tradition that grew out of the Chinese Medical theory but then developed along its own path, such as in Japan, with Shiatsu.
Acupuncturists often do this too or use acupressure on acupuncture points.
Nutrition is another way to treat disease used by acupuncturists. The Chinese attitude to Nutrition is quite distinct, with insights that complement our Western Scientific tradition.
If you are new to acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the ancient rules about how to choose, cook and eat food in order to stay well, may seem very strange. But people find they work.
Chinese herbal medicine is an extension of nutrition, and probably grew out of kitchen medicine, an awareness of how herbs used in cooking changed people's metabolism.
You could say that the kind of medications you get from your doctor, many of which are still based on the active ingredients of herbs, are like concentrated herbs. Herbs, on the other hand, are like concentrated foods in their effect. But herbs aren't nutritious, any more than medications from your doctor: food is nutritious!
When you visit an acupuncturist he or she may ask about your diet and make suggestions that help you stay well.
These different ways of treating people in traditional Chinese medicine, (eg acupuncture, moxibustion, herbs, cupping, gua sha, diet, exercise like Tai Qi and Qigong, but also Meditation if that will help you clear you mind of tensions and worries) all share the same underlying philosophy of health and disease.
What is called 'Traditional Chinese Medicine' (TCM) is an elegant, coherent and complete system of medicine capable of explaining and treating diseases of great complexity.
For many, TCM and its philosophy is as much a way of life, with links to daoism and shamanism.
But it also gave inspiration to some of the brightest people who have ever lived over the last 4000 years, all of whom questioned it, thought about it and observed its action in countless individuals.
As far as acupuncture goes, they realised something that modern science has hardly yet grasped. That there are passages in the body without substance but which have a major influence on it.
And how does acupuncture work became an important part of what they discovered.
Qi keeps you alive. (Remember, this is Traditional Chinese Medicine and its theory we're talking about.)
Qi 'leads' the Blood.
Every disease you care to name can be diagnosed in terms of Qi and Blood. (It can also be diagnosed in terms of Yin and Yang.)
So if you ask how does acupuncture work, it's like this. Acupuncture needles are very carefully inserted into acupuncture 'points' along these channels (most points lie on the channels) according to the wisdom and teaching of 4000 years of experience by some of the most skilful doctors the world has known.
Why? To influence the movement of Qi.
As it clears away these excesses or deficiencies, it balances out tensions, whether mental or physical, and removes the underlying forces that created the disease.
So, if your disease, let's say eczema, was diagnosed in Chinese medicine as being due to 'Dryness', 'Heat', and 'Blood Stasis' (eczema is often but not always a combination of these factors), acupuncture would use points to 'Clear the Heat', and 'Nourish and move the Blood'.
Your renewed Blood can now moisturise where there is dryness, so helping remove the underlying causes of your eczema.
Does acupuncture have a side effect? Of course! Read about at least one possible acupuncture side effect here!
To read about them, click benefits of acupuncture.
If you wonder not merely how does acupuncture work, but want proof that acupuncture is effective, there is a vast and growing body of data on this subject. Research is carried out all round the world and, for example, WHO carries a list of conditions which it considers can benefit.
There are thousands of research papers on this, some better than others. The World Health Organisation has published a list of diseases which it says acupuncture can help.
One of our members has done a considerable amount of highly-rated research on when, in what circumstances and how does acupuncture work: http://www.hughmacpherson.com
(And, just in case you think Western medicine is perfect, click here!)
However, in my experience, most people come because they've been recommended by someone who has benefited from treatment. You can read what people have said here.
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!
By the author of this website, it explains in simple English how to use stress to improve and enhance your life.
NB You can also order 'Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress' from your bookseller.
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