How to Use Acupuncture to Treat Various Illnesses


Acupuncture has been in use by the Chinese for around 3500 years and has also been extensively developed in Japan and Korea for many centuries. Its exact origins are not known, but some believe that its power was first noticed when soldiers who had been shot by arrows, not only survived, but were also cured of other long-standing ailments. Others feel the system was developed gradually by Taoists with deep awareness and sensitivity to subtle energy. It was an oral tra­dition, passed on from family to family and was first put in written form around 3000 BC. With each passing Chinese dynasty, techniques in its use have been developed, leading to a complex system of medicine. It lost some popularity during the Ch’ing dynasty (1644-1912) when Western medicine became more widespread. Acupuncture is now widely used again in China and the rest of the world, including the UK. The first edition of the medical journal The Lancet, in 1823, reported its use in treating rheumatism.

The basis of Chinese philosophy is that health depends on the flow of Qi (pronounced chee) or vital energy. This is not just your child’s physical health, but mental, spiritual and emotional. This constantly moving flow travels around the body via invisible channels, or meridians. The flow depends on the perfect balance of the opposing yet complementary forces of yin and yang. They are always changing, as day turns into night, spring into summer, but Yin is perceived as the female force and represents dark, cold, passive and negative, while Yang is the male force, light, warm, aggressive and dry. They also correspond to different parts of the body. Yin organs are dense and blood-filled such as the liver and heart. Yang organs deal with absorption or discharge in the body, such as the stomach and gall bladder. If there is an imbalance between yin and yang, when one becomes deficient (or excessive), the energy flow becomes stagnant or blocked and the Chinese believe this leads to illness and disease (or dis­ease). This imbalance can be caused by stress, unhealthy diet, anger, drugs or the environment.

How the therapy works

It is the role of the acupuncturist to identify the imbalance and redress it by inserting needles at appropriate points on the body. There are 14 meridians or channels that run through the body, seven each of yin and yang. Along these there are traditionally 365 pressure points, although modern acupunc­turists believe there are up to 2000. By inserting the needles in the right points after diagnosis, the Qi should be released to flow freely again, restoring good health. This can also be done with acupressure or Shiatsu massage, which uses pressure rather than needles.

Moxibustion may also be used when it is felt the patient needs more energy and heat. The same acupuncture points are used, but the herb moxa is burnt (on a stick, cone or needle) and applied to the point. It heats the skin but doesn’t burn.

Acupuncture is also commonly used with Chinese herbs as part of traditional Chinese medicine. A com­bination of herbs may be prescribed, which usually have to be boiled and then drunk.

What to expect from a first visit

Expect a long first consultation of about an hour, although subsequent visits will be a lot shorter. The acupuncturist will need to build up a detailed picture of your child before diag­nosis. This will involve questions about why you have come, your child’s general health, family medical history, their per­sonality, likes and dislikes, what they like to eat, their bowel movements, how they form part of the family and so on. They will then examine the child’s tongue. The Chinese see the tongue as a great indicator of health. Its color, texture and shape can reveal much about deficiencies. Your child’s pulses will be taken on both wrists – there are twelve in Chinese medicine – to gauge the energy of particular organs. Only then will diagnosis be made.

Fine sterile needles will then be inserted into the appro­priate points. The needles should be sterilized according to procedures set out by the Department of Health.

In adults, the needles are usually left in for a few minutes. But with children this is obviously more difficult if they won’t keep still, and as they also generally respond more quickly to treatment the needles are inserted, gently manipulated for a few seconds and then withdrawn. The child may feel a slight sensation, but it should not hurt, although the surprise may make them cry. Young children tend to have four to six points used at each session, while older children may have more. Most children don’t seem to mind the fine needles and it is the parents who may be more anxious, but acupressure or a stimulator pen can be used if it is a problem.

The total number of treatments will depend on your child’s illness and how they respond, but may be anything from one or two to about eight. If there is no change after at least five sessions, you should maybe think again about treat­ment.

Finding a therapist

Most acupuncturists who have undergone comprehensive training in this country are now members of the new umbrella body, the British Acupuncture Council. The Council sets guidelines for codes of practice, ethics, discipline, training and education.

The acupuncture profession is also moving rapidly towards statutory recognition following in the footsteps of chiropractors and osteopaths. This will mean that, in the near future, only those with the appropriate qualification will be able to practise. Always ask the practitioner what experience they have of treating children, as this is a specialist field and experience is advisable.

Although the head, neck and chest are potentially danger­ous areas, acupuncture with a trained practitioner should pose no danger at all, as the fine, sterilized needles need not penetrate deeply. In the event of teenage pregnancy, advise the therapist, as certain points can induce labour. If you are in any doubt about your child’s symptoms, always consult your GP.

How much will it cost?

Many therapists will charge lower rates for children, but it is up to the individual practitioner. Expect to pay around £25- £35 for the first visit and less for subsequent ones. Acupuncture is now covered under many private health insurance schemes.

Availability on the NHS

Acupuncture is now more widely available on the NHS, with some doctors happy to refer on, while others practise it them­selves. It is also becoming more popular as a method to treat pain in hospitals, particularly since it was discovered that acu­puncture can stimulate the release of endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural painkillers.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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