Traditional acupuncture has developed over a period of nearly two thousand years. Initially from China, where it is used in hospitals on a daily basis, its use has spread over the years and is now widely available throughout Western countries.
Pain or illness are seen as signs that the body is out of balance, and the aim of acupuncture treatment is to restore equilibrium. This is done by inserting very fine needles (all single-use, sterilised) into specific points around the body, which serve to trigger the body’s natural healing response.
Note that physical and mental health are seen simply as different aspects of the whole; acupuncturists will always aim to treat the individual, and not just an isolated set of symptoms. Each patient’s treatment plan will be uniquely tailored for them.
Two of the most widely practiced acupuncture styles in this country are known as “traditional Chinese medicine” (TCM) and “Five Element Acupuncture”. Although both draw on many of the same traditions and principles, they differ in the approach to deciding on the most appropriate treatment for a given patient.
My training was at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, in Reading, where both techniques are taught.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Acupuncture is just one component of traditional Chinese medicine, although probably the best known. Other elements include massage (e.g. Tui Na), acupressure (applying pressure to acupuncture points, without the use of needles), and diet and lifestyle changes.
Five Element Acupuncture
“Five Element” acupuncture was introduced into the UK by J R Worsley, and is an adaptation of the traditional Chinese model. It identifies five fundamental elements as wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Diagnosis focuses on identifying which of these elements is the cause of imbalance in the patient, and then treating accordingly.
There is a lot of information about acupuncture – its history and much more – at the website of the British Acupuncture Council. Research fact sheets relating to a wide variety of conditions can be found here.