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About Acupuncture

Treating with Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners insert fine needles into into parts of the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes. The needles may be manipulated manually or stimulated with small electrical currents (electroacupuncture). 

 In Chinese character 針灸 means "Acupuncture and Moxibustion". According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture is used in 103 of 129 countries that reported data. Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain in the West. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management, digestive issues, infertility, and more. 

A brief history of acupuncture

Acupuncture first developed in China at least 2,500 years ago. The most famous book about the practice of acupuncture is popularly known as the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine. The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine along with another text the Classic of Difficulties Nanjing (難經), compiled in the 1st centuries 2nd AD, contain the foundational theories of acupuncture. These books introduce the acupuncture points, the meridians, needle techniques, the causes of disease, and methods of diagnosis such as taking the pulse.

Acupuncture has gained popularity worldwide since the 1970s. In 1979, the WHO held a symposium on acupuncture. They created a list of 43 diseases that acupuncture can help with. In 1997, along with several National Institutes of Health, they published a Consensus Statement on acupuncture.

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There are different styles of acupuncture. These can be divided into three broad categories: traditionally based systems of acupuncture,  western medical acupuncture, and microsystems: eg, ear acupuncture.

Traditional Acupuncture

The Chinese word for acupuncture is zhenjiu (針灸). The first character ‘zhen’ means needle, the second character ‘jiu’ means moxibustion. Moxibustion is the burning of an herb called moxa (Chinese Mugwort, Artemisia argyi) to warm specific parts of the body, including acupuncture points. Archaeological evidence suggests that moxibustion was the most commonly practised method of stimulating the points when acupuncture first began. The use of moxibustion is perhaps one of the most obvious differences between traditional and medical acupuncture. Other techniques such as cupping, guasha and tuina massage have also been used alongside acupuncture for thousands of years. In addition, acupuncturists may make dietary recommendations or suggest specific exercises such as tai ji quan and qi gong. In short, the traditional practice of acupuncture involves more than the insertion of needles.


Traditional styles of acupuncture utilise an understanding of health and illness that has developed for over 2000 years. This theoretical knowledge guides the diagnosis, selection of points and whether to use moxibustion or needles.  In traditional acupuncture there is no mind-body split. In other words, the physical, emotional and mental aspect of life are seen as interdependent. The mind-body is seen as a system and understanding the relationship between the various parts is central to making a diagnosis and treatment plan. The focus is on the whole individual rather than a particular sign or symptom in isolation. In practice this means when treating headache, for example, an acupuncturist may wish to understand whether there are any problems with the digestion. If there are problems, this will change the diagnosis and result in the selection of different acupuncture points.

Western Medical Acupuncture

Western acupuncture, also known as Medical acupuncture is an adaptation of traditional acupuncture using current knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and the principles of evidence-based medicine. While Western medical acupuncture has evolved from Chinese acupuncture, the therapy is different as it does not follow the concept of qi energy, instead using fine needles to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities. It acts mainly by stimulating the nervous system. Practitioners of Western medical acupuncture tend to pay less attention than classical acupuncturists to choosing one point over another, though they generally choose classical points as the best places to stimulate the nervous system.

Although Western acupuncture is sought by patients for a broad range of purposes, it is most commonly used for pain relief.


Auricular Acupuncture

Auricular acupuncture is a type of acupuncture that involves stimulating specific areas of the ear. 

Research on auricular acupuncture for chronic back pain and cancer pain has had promising results. 

  • In a 2019 review of 15 studies (930 participants) of auricular acupuncture or auricular acupressure (a form of auricular therapy that does not involve penetration with needles), the treatment significantly reduced pain intensity, and 80 percent of the individual studies showed favorable effects on various measures related to pain.

  • A 2020 review of 9 studies (783 participants) of auricular acupuncture for cancer pain showed that auricular acupuncture produced better pain relief than sham auricular acupuncture. Also, pain relief was better with a combination of auricular acupuncture and drug therapy than with drug therapy alone.


What is acupuncture used for?

Acupuncture is used for a broad range of conditions:

  • Gastritis     

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Hepatitis

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Menstrual pain

  • Infertility

  • Menopausal hot flushes

  • Rhinitis

  • Sinusitis

  • Sore throat

  • Headaches and Migraines

  • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Postoperative pain

  • Stroke

  • Cancer pain

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Insomnia

  • Nervousness

  • Neurosis

  • Allergic rhinitis

  • Sinusitis

  • Bronchitis

  • Asthma in adults

  • Cancer pain

  • Cancer-related fatigue

  • Hypertension
    (with medication)

  • Nausea induced by chemotherapy

  • Obesity

  • Arthritis

  • Back pain

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Knee osteoarthritis 

  • Muscle cramping

  • Muscle pain and weakness

  • Neck pain

  • Plantar heel pain

  • Postoperative pain

  • Post-stroke spasticity

  • Prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain

  • Sciatica

  • Shoulder pain

  • Irritable bladder

  • Prostatitis

  • Male infertility

  • Some forms of impotence

  • Addiction

  • Dry eye

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