Acupuncture originates from China from around 100BC to 100AC. It is just one of a host of techniques that encompass Traditional Chinese Medicine, however acupuncture is arguably the most popular technique to have been adopted in the West from this medical system. Other techniques include cupping and moxibustion.
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles at points on the body that have been clinically and in some cases scientifically proven to help the body to heal itself. Acupuncture prompts our body’s own healing mechanisms, making it a very valuable natural therapy. Much research has been done to understand how it works and so far the evidence shows that acupuncture releases pain-killing endorphins in the blood and promotes neurohumoural responses. In short, this means we experience relaxation, reduction in pain and inflammation and improved balance in overall health. Much more research into acupuncture is underway and with time and intense, dedicated research the complexity of acupuncture mechanisms are being revealed.
Acupuncture is not painful because the needles are so fine, but it can leave behind a bruise and draw a small speck of blood on removal of the needle. The needles are single-use, pre-sterilised and made of stainless steel, about the thickness of a hair. They are nothing like the hypodermic needles used for blood tests!
Check out this video for an introduction to acupuncture.
Cupping is an age-old technique used in traditional Chinese medicine to stimulate acupuncture points or larger areas of the body. Cupping is often practised alongside acupuncture but can also be used as a treatment in its own right.
Cups are rounded and can be made of rubber, glass or very occasionally, bamboo. In cupping, the practitioner creates a vacuum inside the cup and quickly places it onto the skin where treatment is needed. The cup is left in place for anything up to 20 minutes. The practitioner will often use several cups in one treatment.
If large areas of the body need treating, a technique known as ‘sliding cups’ is used. A thin layer of massage oil is spread over the skin, the cups are then placed onto the body in the usual way and slid along the muscles being treated. This sliding method helps the blood and ‘qi’ to flow more easily in areas of stagnation.
Cupping is not painful, however it can leave reddish patches on the skin, like circular bruises. Although these marks resemble bruises, the muscles have not been traumatised in any way. The redness on the skin indicates that there has been movement in the circulation of blood under and around the cups. Not all cupping will result in redness as this depends on the complaint being treated.
Moxa is often used in conjunction with acupuncture to enhance the effect of the treatment. The dried mugwort herb, Moxa, is used like incense to gently and safely warm the body, relax muscles and supplement qi.