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To learn more about alternative medicine, download our “Guide to Understanding Acupuncture ” Download Here →

Modern Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine: How it Works

What is the basis of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine? A widely held belief is that all nature is made up of energy. In a healthy body all the energy is in balance. Sickness and illness is a result of the lack of balance in the natural energy of the body.

An advanced understanding of human physiology and anatomy is displayed in Chinese medical practises. These practices are usually grouped together under the term “Chinese Medicine” and include the following:

  • Natural herbal medicine
  • Dietary therapy
  • Acupuncture treatment
  • Massage therapy
  • Exercise

Chinese medicine in general and acupuncture in particular offer an alternative to modern medical treatments. They provide complementary therapies to patients who seek to try something different in taking care of their health.

What is acupuncture?

It is a type of traditional Chinese medicine which involves inserting fine needles into the skin at specific points of the body. Unlike western medicine, acupuncture is based on beliefs and not scientific evidence and some people are sceptical about how effective it is at treating ailments.

How does it work?

The basis of acupuncture is a belief in the life energy or Chi which flows through the body. In a perfectly healthy body energy flows freely. It is when the body’s meridians become blocked and impedes free flow of Chi that the body experiences illness. Acupuncture is able to free these blockages by stimulating nerves and muscle tissue thus curing illnesses.

How is it used?

People who are qualified to perform acupuncture are called acupuncturists and apply the skill to treat a variety of illnesses. Treatment usually involves a general medical assessment of health, medical history and an examination. This allows the practitioner to assess the suitability of the procedure to your health condition, after that you are ready for insertion of the acupuncture needles.

An acupuncture session usually lasts between 20 and 40 minutes. To get the most from the treatment 6 to 12 treatment sessions are required but will generally depend on the patient.

There are over 500 acupuncture points on the body and only 1 to 12 points are used in per session. The acupuncturist will ask you to sit or lie down for your session and may require you to remove some of your clothing. This will allow them access to the relevant parts of your body to insert the needles. Fine needles around 30mm long are sterilized used only once and disposed of after use. . The needles are inserted just under the skin and sometimes deeper to reach the muscle tissue. Often a tingling ache is experienced when the needles are inserted and may stay in place for the duration of the session. You should not feel significant pain and should let your acupuncturist know immediately if you do.

Uses of acupuncture

Acupuncture can be applied to treat a variety of health conditions on its own or to complement conventional medicine. What makes it an effective complementary treatment is the fact that acupuncture is a natural practise and will produce not interactions with western medicine. The conditions were acupuncture is commonly used as treatment includes the following:

  • Persistent lower back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Dental pain
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Infertility and menstrual problems
  • Digestive disorders

The list above includes pain related problems as it is used extensively as a chronic pain management method. One very important factor to consider before taking acupuncture treatment is to ensure your acupuncturist is qualified to practise.

Advantages of acupuncture over western medicine

The biggest advantage of acupuncture has to be that it is noninvasive to a degree. There are little known side effects to the practice and very fast recovery time.

  • Reduced dependence on medication
  • No unwanted drug interactions
  • Suitable for almost all people apart from hemophiliacs due to small risk of bleeding
  • It is a holistic treatment seeking to eliminate cause of illness instead of treating the symptoms


There are some negatives to acupuncture and they include the following:

  • Experiences of soreness just after treatment and the needles are removed
  • The cost associated with acupuncture as it is not widely available
  • Failure to treat some conditions
  • Other people have experienced worsening of symptoms
  • Infections due to unsterilized needles (not a disadvantage of the procedure but using unqualified practitioner)

This however should not put you off experiencing if acupuncture could work for you if you are looking for an alternative or complementary treatment.

The other treatments

As mentioned at the start of the article, Chinese Medicine is a name applied to a number of techniques or practises. Acupuncture is just one of them, the others being Chinese Herbal Medicine and Tui Na (massage).

Herbal Medicine

This is a complementary qualification which most acupuncturists hold allowing them to add to the services and treatments they provide. Herbal medicine involves using herbs and formulas in treating a variety of illnesses.

The focus of Chinese herbal medicine is restoring the balance of energy, mind, body and spirit to restore health. The herbs have been in use for centuries and offer the following benefits:

  • Restores body balance energy
  • Provides support to the immune system
  • Enhances fertility

Tui Na

. A very important element of Chinese Medicine. It is a form of manipulative therapy and massage, and is often used in conjunction with acupuncture. Tui Na is a hands-on treatment involving brushing, kneading and rolling to stimulate certain areas of the body. It is very helpful treating the following conditions:

  • Neck pain and Stress
  • Headache, Migraine
  • Diabetes, Low energy
  • Back pain, Sciatica
  • Rheumatism, Arthritis
  • Joint pain or Moving pain
  • Ankle or Wrist pain
  • Sports injuries

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers an alternative to conventional western medical treatments. It offers a variety of treatment for a number of illnesses and presents real benefits to someone looking to try something different.


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