Curiously enough acupuncture is not just sticking needles into people. It is part of a coherent and observation based medicine that experienced practitioners of the art have handed down over the centuries. This form of medicine has it’s roots firmly based in Nature. Our relationship with our environment, with ourselves and with others is seen as a direct reflection of our health.
If you’re familiar with acupuncture or not, the idea of placing very fine, sterile, disposable needles into specific points on the body to regulate physiology and somehow improve health and wellbeing may seem or still seem a little odd to say the least.
Curiously though, this practice has been going on over millennia in various forms. Current modern scientific evidence points to acupuncture as a potentially effective therapy to manage a range of health symptoms (link). There are many quality articles already on the net about the potential mechanisms of acupuncture if you wish to read some here, here or here. I find most people have just a passing curiosity with how it may work and are more interested in ‘Will it work for me’? In other words, just like we drive a car, we are generally not too concerned with how the engine works if it gets us to where we need to go, safely. We’re not too interested in the ‘how’ but more in end result and outcome.
In the West acupuncture has mostly become best known for its ability to assist in pain management, however, its’ historical and practical scope is actually much much broader. In Australia the potential uses of acupuncture for various health conditions is generally not common knowledge due to under representation in the media and in the marketplace. Advertising acupuncture services is highly regulated and claims of benefit for various conditons must fall within strict scientific guidelines. Acupuncturists don’t do themselves any favours either by using jargon or insisting on explaining treatments to clients through the theoretical lens of Chinese medicine. Unless a person has a foundational understanding of these concepts any descriptors can end up sounding like gobbledegook to the average person or client and does not help to promote a positive understanding of the profession or its’ capabilities.
In Australia, most people know something of acupuncture but they’re not very familiar with its’ context.
Acupuncture is just one therapeutic pillar of eight in Chinese medicines deep understanding of restoring health, increasing longevity and above all the practice of what’s known as ‘Yang Sheng’ – to nourish or sustain a full and healthy life and avoid falling into chronic ill health.
The eight pillars are:
Taiji/Qigong (exercise/moving meditation)
Moxibustion (heat therapy) /Gua sha /Cupping (or external therapies)
Herbal medicine (internal & external applications)
When we consider that acupuncture sits within such a larger therapeutic framework and has interlinks and connections on many levels to all the other seven pillars, we realise that it is just one strand, albeit a powerful strand, in the web of potentially beneficial practices that we can all use or practice to keep ourselves healthy and at our best.
So, now that we know a little more about the context of acupuncture in a complete holistic health system, what about the context for its use?
How or why would we use acupuncture as a therapy?
The answer to that is twofold:
- Acupuncture can be used as a preventative health treatment and to maintain health and balance and keep our body/mind strong and optimal.
Again, I use the analogy of car. If you run it and run it and never check or change the oil, water or tyres eventually you’ll find yourself stuck on the side of the road, calling NRMA. Obviously humans are inherently more complex than a motor vehicle but you get my point, we don’t have to wait to get sick, rundown, or lose our mojo before we act. We can be proactive and use acupuncture in conjunction with an overall healthy lifestyle, just as we can choose to eat better quality foods and exercise.
- Acupuncture can be a powerful restorative therapy to return the body to homeostasis and wellbeing.
Even with the best will in the world, sometimes we will fall behind and succumb to sickness, are hit with bad luck, or find ourselves seeking support for ill health, acute or chronic. When this occurs acupuncture can help you access your internal pharmacy. It is not a magic bullet that can ‘fix’ or ‘cure’ illness or disease. Instead it acts as a triggering mechanism for your body’s own natural healing capabilities.
So, if acupuncture isn’t a ‘cure all’ or ‘magic’ then what in fact is it?
Simply, it is a natural therapeutic process that starts and ends with you and your unique situation whether that’s preventing illness or promoting health recovery. Like most processes, sometimes patience is required to see results.
If you believe that after one acupuncture session your health issues will magically be resolved, this isn’t realistic, even for acute cases a number of treatments are generally required. Before you proceed with any acupuncture treatment at Kintsugi Therapies these aspects will always be discussed with you in an open and honest way, so there are no surprises and your expectations are managed.
Some believe that certain therapies including acupuncture are passive by nature, in other words they can encourage reliance on a practitioner or on on-going weekly treatments that disenfranchise a person and their ability to move past a health problem. In the case of acupuncture the person lies there passively while needles are inserted, hoping that something will improve. That’s certainly one view but it doesn’t tell the full story. To get to that point many questions will have been asked already of the person, they will have become engaged with their health, their choices and their circumstance. This alone can be very reflective for them in trying to understand how or why they’ve found themselves in a health challenge. In treatment their body is also being challenged to ‘kick into action’ and begin to activate its own innate healing capabilities. Areas of the person’s life may need to actively shift away from certain behaviours and more towards positive changes. This can be facilitated with the acupuncturists aid or by another qualified practitioner in a different therapeutic area or sometimes just by the person themselves if they feel they have the resources and motivation required, indeed it could even be a mixture of all three.
So, looking from the outside, the physical nature of acupuncture may give the impression of being passive, however the therapeutic dynamic for both practitioner and client makes it far from a passive treatment. As practitioners we want the person to engage with their own curiosity about why they find themselves seeking acupuncture and assess if there are changes they can make themselves or with help, information and support. In my experience, I would say that in an acupuncture treatment there is an active opportunity provided for a person to slow down and find space and time to connect with themselves. It seems many people find this valuable in and of itself not to mention the physiological benefits and positive effects it seems to have on activating the parasympathetic or rest and digest aspects of the nervous system. We now know that this activation plays a lead role in cell regeneration and healing processes.
The goal of acupuncture treatment is the resolution of imbalance, manifesting as illness or dis-ease.Resolution of imbalance requires change to take place and change requires action. This is done by stimulating the persons innate healing capabilities within and ensuring they have adequate knowledge, information, resources and support without. The support offered is there for as long as the person feels they need it. Each person’s road to improvement or recovery will be different based on their unique situation and their ability to access personal and external resources. The practitioners bears the responsibility to understand and make the correct therapeutic judgements at the right time and to always act in the clients best interest.
Finally, not to get too esoteric but I’m sure at some stage you’ve come across this symbol.
It’s pretty much synomomous with Chinese medicine, but, you may wonder what’s its’ importance or meaning. The symbol presents as static, and perhaps that’s how we find ourselves within a health challenge, a bit stuck, however, the symbol when in active motion represents the universal laws of change, or Yin & Yang. When viewed this way the symbol is dynamic, each flows into the other, each has aspects of the other and each is in communication with the other. They are two sides of the same coin representing all potential change. Understanding the changing dynamic of life and illness is at the very heart of Chinese medicine and acupuncture practice.
If you’ve read this far and have some further questions about acupuncture and the acupuncture treatment process at Kintsugi Therapies, please visit my comprehensive frequently asked questions page linked below and check under the ‘acupuncture questions’ heading. If you still can’t find the information you’re looking for, I’ve included a form on that page if you need to get in touch with any further questions or queries.