What is acupuncture?
Letting acupuncture help the body to naturally heal itself and function better is what it is all about. This is achieved by gently inserting fine needles into the precisely defined points on the body. Each acupuncture point has its own therapeutic purposes and point combinations vary depending on the patient’s symptoms. In recent years, there has been increased practice and acceptance of acupuncture in the medical community.
Originating from China, acupuncture has been an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4000 years as well as in Japan and Korea. Each country has developed its own distinct style of acupuncture depending on its history, interpretation and innovation. Acupuncture was first brought to Europe in the 17th century by Jesuit missionaries after returning from China. Traditionally, acupuncture needles were made from various materials such as stones, bamboo, fish bones, gold, bronze and silver. In the late 19th century in China, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was challenged by western medicine when significant developments were made in western medicine in areas of surgery and public health. This led to a sluggish development of traditional Chinese medicine in the early 20th century. Since 1949, traditional Chinese medicine has been scientifically studied and integrated with western medicine. The ultimate aim of integration is to combine the two systems. Despite years of study and integration, the fundamentals of traditional Chinese medicine remain inexplicable to science, causing critics to be sceptical and doubtful.
How does acupuncture help?
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a philosophical model that contributed to the development of Taoism and Confucianism. TCM employs natural healing methods including acupuncture, ear acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion and traditional Chinese herbal medicine to improve human body’s resistance to illnesses. Lifestyle counselling in areas of exercise, diet and mental health also forms part of an acupuncture treatment. TCM therapy focuses on the flow of cyclic energy known as “Qi” within the body which can become yin, yang, obstructed, excessive or deficient. This energy and blood flow through pathways known as meridians, which are connected to physiological systems and bodily organs. It is believed that symptoms are caused when there is a disturbance in the flow of Qi, blood or yin and yang. In this way, acupuncture help restore the level of Qi in the body and correct the underlying imbalances. This is supported by the “yin-yang” and “five-element” theory, which replaced the earlier magico-religious, healing approaches. These theories are predicated on naturalistic and human-centred presuppositions free from supernatural thinking. Early Chinese scholars noted that all natural events could be grouped into yin and yang which directly translates to ‘opposites’ and refers to opposing influences. Yin is associated with the qualities of cold, darkness and passiveness whereas yang is associated with the qualities of heat, light and dominance. The five-element theory rests on the notion that the universe consists of five basic elements; wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The movement and interchange among the five elements are used to explain human body’s physiology. In ancient times, these philosophical thinking were applied to understand, prevent and treat conditions.
There are four traditional examination methods to assess the underlying imbalance: watching, listening and smelling, asking and touching. Observations of the pulse, face, tongue, urine and stool provide vital information about the patient’s health.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is generally considered to be safe, but it is possible that there may be adverse reactions in some, individual cases. Acupuncture needles used in the developed nations are made for single-use, are disposable and are sterilized before they are wrapped in packages. As acupuncture involves the penetration through capillaries, slight soreness, bruising or bleeding at the needle site may occur. Infections may also occur at the needle site from the use of non-sterile needles. When herbs are burned too close to the skin, burn injuries may arise around the needle site.
In the past, there have been incidents of infections, bleeding complications and organ puncture, although more recent studies have not found a significant problem. A 2001 study involving 34,000 acupuncture treatments in the United Kingdom revealed that no major events such as hospitalisation, permanent disability or death were reported and that the rate of minor events such as nausea, fainting or prolonged aggravation of existing symptom was between 0 and 1.1 per 10,000 treatments. Given that over a decade has passed since the study was conducted, it is to be treated with caution and may not be a true reflection of the complications that may arise today.
What can acupuncture help?
Published in 2017, the Acupuncture Evidence Project reviews the evidence supporting the efficacy of acupuncture that is currently available. Of the 122 conditions reviewed, evidence supporting its effectiveness was found at various levels for 117 conditions. Acupuncture may be used to treat the following categories of symptoms:
Symptoms: Bloating, indigestion, reflux, constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath, epigastric pain, nausea, vomiting associated with digestive issues
Symptoms: Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain or pain associated with asthma or allergies.
Symptoms: Tiredness, feelings of being run down and poor-quality sleep associated with insomnia, anxiety, stress, and depression.
Symptoms: Lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain associated with chronic pain
Symptoms: Headaches, dizziness, migraine associated with chronic headache
As acupuncture treatment involves tailoring treatments to the individual patients, patients may not see the suggested benefits of treatment.
Furthermore, some of the previous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the efficacy of acupuncture are not without fault. They have been challenged with methodologic issues due to the insufficient sample size, heterogenous study groups and insufficient follow-ups.
What can patients expect as part of their treatment
Generally, a treatment session involves a consultation with the practitioner where patients are asked several questions and are physically examined. Then, a diagnosis and a therapy plan are provided to the patient based on these findings. Each patient has a different experience of the acupuncture treatment. Some may feel a slight pinch as the needles are punctured through the skin whilst some may feel no pain. Patients may feel sensations such as pressure, heaviness, warmth and discomfort at the needle site. The needles may be stimulated manually with slight movements up and down or gentle twisting back and forth. The duration of treatments may vary, lasting from 30 minutes to an hour with the needles being inserted up to 20 minutes. Symptoms may be improved with the first acupuncture treatment or after several treatments. Patients may need to receive treatments periodically to maintain the long-term benefits of acupuncture.
You will get a free consultation upon your first appointment (excluding acupuncture) and then each additional consultation and treatment will be $50.
Assistance with fertility and IVF
Please read the information provided on IVF and Infertility tab. It discusses the impacts of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine on treating female and male infertility.
Contact us for more information.