Traditional Chinese medicine of which acupuncture, Chinese herbal remedies and tui na massage and Chinese dietary therapy are the four major constituents, has developed over millennia in China as the only form of medicine in use until the last fifty years. These days traditional Chinese and modern western medicine are available side-by-side in Chinese hospitals, the choice of therapy being often up to the patient. Traditional Chinese medicine was primarily a system of preventative rather than curative medicine, used by a society whose understanding of their bodies and minds was intimate. This knowledge and the factors affecting health and disease were passed down from generation to generation as part of their life philosophy known as the Tao or the Way.
Nowadays Acupuncture is practised widely in the Western world, there are over three million practitioners worldwide and this number continues to grow. It is a holistic therapy which means that it addresses the body as a whole, integrated with both the mind and the spirit. Hence to experience a persistent negative emotion will ultimately lead to sickness of the body in the same way that to suffer physical distress over a prolonged period will lead to a changed emotional outlook and depression of the spirits. Chinese medicine therefore treats the whole person and treatment will heal first on the level where it is most urgently required.
Acupuncture is based upon the premise that good health depends upon the unobstructed flow of Qi (pronounced chee), the life force energy of the body, throughout the body. The body's energy flows through an interlinking path of twelve meridians which are linked to the organs of the body. In a positive state of health these pathways are balanced one with another. However, our lives are full of stresses. Stress, whether long-term, short-term, physical or emotional can easily throw the pathways of Qi out of balance, causing undesirable symptoms. Maybe stress in a marriage will result in persistent migraines and insomnia; perhaps long-term illness will lead to depression which can further complicate the initial problem. Sometimes discontent with one's job might result in chronic fatigue.
The body has a remarkable ability to heal itself. However, if the stress is too great or if the body is already for some reason in a weakened state, it may take a long time to heal. Worse still, the body may fail to heal altogether, leaving one with a persistent distressing symptom. By inserting needles on the surface pathways of Qi the energy is stimulated and balance and harmony to the body is restored. The needles do not of themselves make you better: they simply remind the body how to heal itself.
Many people ask if acupuncture hurts. The needles themselves are as fine as a horse hair and are very sharp. The insertion is virtually painless: some people are unaware that the needle is in. However the movement of energy prompted by the needle sometimes produces a slight jolt. People describe the sensation variously from a tingle to a dull ache or a slight shock. In this day and age needle sterilisation is more of a worry than ever before. Rest assured that all members of the British Acupunctures Council (BAcC) use needles which are guaranteed sterile and are disposable. You can find a practitioner in your area by going to www.acupuncture.org.uk.
The BAcC works alongside the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) which accredits acupuncture courses, ensuring high standards of training in acupuncture. There are eight institutions across the UK which have full accreditation for their acupuncture courses, which means that graduates are automatically eligible for entry to the BAcC. With Statutory Regulation on the horizon, a well-recognised course is more important than ever, and prospective students should be aware that not all accrediting institutions are equal! If you are thinking of studying acupuncture as a change of career, always check the credentials of the accrediting organisation, as well as those of the college itself. Be safe, not sorry.
About the author:
LCTA is one of the UK's leading schools of Oriental medicine, based in North Finchley, London. We run courses in acupuncture, oriental herbal medicine, tui na massage and qi gong as well as a thriving Teaching Clinic that is open to the general public. Our postgraduate and undergraduate courses are fully validated and accredited, degree level, and are tailored to suit those of you with no previous experience as well as healthcare practitioners from all systems of medicine.
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