Understanding Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been practised within the context of Traditional East Asian Medicine for many hundreds of years, based upon a system of medicine which interprets the body and mind as a whole-system, subject to disharmony. Its strength lies in the interest it has in preventive medicine, seeking to strengthen the individual against disease rather than in combating individual pathogens or interpreting pain or difficulty in isolation from their context.

Research evidence, in the form of randomised double blind controlled trials, for the efficacy of acupuncture is not yet fully available, although across the world many people are involved in studying the effects and uses of acupuncture, notably in Germany, Japan, China and Norway. It is already used as adjunctive therapy in some NHS departments- hospital pain clinics, fertility units, and drug dependency services, and is widely available privately. Until research evidence is overwhelmingly supportive, it is unlikely that the NHS will be able to offer a comprehensive acupuncture service.

Current physiological research has demonstrated that needling produces changes in the body’s biochemistry, stimulating the release of endogenous opioids (the body’s natural painkillers), causing alteration in serotonin levels, stimulating cortisol release, and causing increase in the numbers of white cells in the blood. These changes could be the triggers for the sort of analgesic, anti-inflammatory and immunity- enhancing effects noted so frequently by patients undergoing treatment.

To read a little more about Chinese medicine, try the following books:

• “Chinese Medicine. The Web that has no Weaver” by T. Kaptchuk
• “Understanding Acupuncture” by Stephen Birch

Or look at research websites on my links page

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