What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other eastern countries for thousands of years. It is a safe and effective system of medicine, now used worldwide. It involves the insertion of very fine needles at specific points on the body in order to stimulate or unblock the flow of energy or ‘qi’. The qi and blood flow through a system of channels called meridians, connecting internal organs with external organs or tissues. By stimulating certain acupuncture points along these meridians through needling, the flow of qi and blood can be regulated and disease is treated.

What Can Acupuncture Treat?

The effect of good acupuncture is to do more than just relieve physical symptoms. As treatment tends to balance the whole system, many people find it also leads to increased vitality, greater confidence, better appetite and sleep, as well as an overall sense of well-being.

Traditional acupuncture’s greatest strength is that it treats each patient individually. It focuses on all the factors that contribute to pain and illness, not just the presenting symptoms. The focus is on the individual, not their illness, and all the symptoms are seen in relation to each other. Each patient is unique and so two people with the same western diagnosis may well receive different acupuncture treatments. Consequently, traditional acupuncture does not neatly fit the prevalent research protocols that have been developed in response to symptom-based treatments.

The British Acupuncture Council has summarised the currently available research into the following conditions and has provided this information in the form of fact sheets and review papers:

anxiety HIV
arthritis insomnia
asthma irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
back pain male infertility
Bell’s palsy menopausal symptoms
chronic fatigue syndrome migraines
chronic pain nausea and vomiting
colds and flu post operative pain
cystitis pregnancy and labour
dentistry rhinitis
depression sciatica
endometriosis sinusitis
female infertility stress
frozen shoulder stroke
fibromyalgia substance misuse
gastrointestinal tract disorders urinary incontinence

In 2009 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended that acupuncture should be made available on the NHS, as a cost-effective short-term treatment for the management of early, persistent non-specific lower back pain.

Acupuncture is regularly recommended as a treatment in NHS pain clinics.