Acupuncture philosophy centres around the Qi (this could be described as vital life force) which inhabits every living thing and travels through the body via channels or meridians. Acupuncture points lie at specific locations along these channels and this is where the energy is at its strongest and can be most easily accessed. An acupuncture treatment involves the use of fine, sterile needles inserted into acupuncture points and stimulated in order to move blocked or stagnated Qi, blood or fluids. The aim might be to reduce pain or to build Qi and blood circulation to encourage the body to function normally again. Needles may be inserted locally into a problem area or on other parts of the body in order to affect change. Many new studies are now being done investigating the benefits of acupuncture for the treatment of varied conditions.
Chinese herbal medicine has developed over thousands of years and involves the use of primarily plant-based products ranging from exotic species to more common ingredients such as ginger and liquorice. While it originated in China it is now used across the world to provide treatment for a wide range of conditions. It is a health system that is used preventatively, the idea is to treat imbalance before it becomes chronic or is too hard to change. Herbal medicines are individually prescribed to each person as they present on that day and are altered as patterns begin to shift or the focus of the treatment changes. Herbs are used more for internal conditions as they can directly affect the physiology of the body, such as the organ systems and the blood or fluids.
Cupping has a history almost as long as acupuncture. This therapy involves using cups made of varying materials (usually glass, plastic or silicone) that are placed on the skin after the oxygen has been removed. This creates a vacuum causing the skin to be pulled up into the cup slightly. The cup may be left in one position or moved around the musculature (called sliding cups) and this is what causes the dark circular marks that are so recognisable. Cupping is used to move stagnated qi, blood, lymph and other fluids and assist tight muscles & fascia to stretch, enabling more flexibility and flow to occur again. It is most often used for tight and painful musculature on the back and for respiratory conditions where it can help to detoxify pathogens via the skin.
Gua Sha, sometimes known as scraping, is the practice of using a round edged massage tool, usually a spoon, to scrape the skin and stimulate blood flow or release toxins. The friction from the scraping action causes small red dots to appear on the surface of the skin and open up the pores. Gua sha literally means “scrape-toxin” and, similar to cupping, helps disperse the climatic factors that cause build-up or blockages. It might be used to remove cold, heat, numbness or stiffness and pain in the body.
Moxibustion (moxa) is a dried and compressed form of the herb mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). It’s usually rolled into a stick or placed on the end of a needle where it is burnt near the skin to produce a warm sensation on that specific point. The intention might be to add warmth and Yang energy to an acupuncture point or region which helps to remove stagnation caused from cold. It can be used to disperse fluids, boost the immune system or maintain general health.
Electro is an increasingly popular form of acupuncture that can be used on many different conditions. It works just like a tens machine but instead of pads attached to the skin, a set of wires are connected to acupuncture needles around the problem area and a pulse is directed through them. The intensity and speed of the pulses are altered by the practitioner depending on the condition being treated. This technique uses two needles at a time so the electric impulse can pass from one needles to another and several pairs of needles can be used simultaneously. The aim of the treatment is to facilitate Qi and blood flow and promote healing and it’s considered useful for chronic conditions that have a lot of stagnation or areas that don’t have a huge blood supply, such as the knee joint. Electroacupuncture should not be used on patients who have a history of seizures, epilepsy, heart disease or strokes, or on patients with pacemakers.
Like usual remedial massage, this is soft and deep tissue massage that works on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin. The difference is that the Chinese Medicine framework is taken into account. The practitioner will work on the meridians and acupuncture points, will include some acupressure and work with things like the direction of the Qi flow and the function of each of the points used. This is often a mixture of both western and eastern disciplines, it is a relaxing and energetic form of massage for both tired aching muscles and stress conditions. Some massage will often be a part of your acupuncture treatment.