An Introduction to Acupuncture & Moxibustion
Danny T. Siegenthaler
The initiation and development of the art of acupuncture and moxibustion have undergone a long historical process. They are summeries of experience of the Chinese labouring people of many centuries in their struggle against disease. As early as in the Stone Age, people used needles fashined of stone for curative purposes. These are known as bian and are a rudiment of acupuncture. When human society entered the Bronze and then the Iron Age, needles made of these metals were substituted for the stone bian. And with the development of social productive technique, needling instruments were constantly impoved, providing conditions for the further refinement of acupuncture.
Moxibustion originated after the introduction of fire into man's life. It is assumed that while warming themselves by the fire, people in ancient times accidentally found relief or disappearance of certain pain or illness when definite areas of the skin were subjected to burning. Maxa leaves were later chosen as the material for cauterization as they are easily lit and the heat produced is mild and effective in removing obstruction of channels and collateras. And so the art of moxibution was established.
Today, Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) dating back thousands of years. It involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the skin or applying various other techniques to the acupuncture points to bring about healing.
The foundation of Chinese acupuncture is the belief in an energy force called Qi (pronounced 'chee'). This energy, or life force, circulates around the body through invisible channels called meridians. If the flow of Qi in the meridians is disrupted, then disease may follow. By inserting fine needles into particular acupuncture points, the disruption can be corrected and the flow of Qi restored. Whether or not you believe in the philosophy of Qi makes no difference to the effects of acupuncture. Scientific trials around the world have found that acupuncture is a safe and useful treatment for many different disorders.
Yin and Yang
The ancient Chinese proposed that a balance of two opposing yet complementary forces of energy, called Yin and Yang, sustain every living thing. Half the body's organs and meridians are defined as Yin in relation to the other half, which are defined as Yang. When Yin and Yang are out of balance in the body, disease may occur.
Research has found that acupuncture is effective in treating a range of disorders. Some of these include:
- Digestive - colitis, constipation, diarrhoea, gastritis, ulcer.
- Emotional - anxiety, depression.
- General - chronic fatigue syndrome, giving up smoking, muscle injuries, obesity, stress management, tiredness, travel sickness.
- Gynaecological - heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, menopausal symptoms, pre-menstrual syndrome.
- Musculo-skeletal - back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow, whiplash.
- Neurological - Bell's palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, headache, Meniere's disease, migraine, pain, paralysis, shingles.
- Respiratory - asthma, bronchitis, common cold, hayfever.
- Vascular - haemorrhoids, high blood pressure, varicose veins.
How acupuncture is performed
Pre-sterilised disposable needles should be used. Depending on the location of the treatment, the patient will either sit or lie down. Properly done, acupuncture is painless because the needles are very fine (around 0.2mm in width). Once inserted, the patient may feel mild tingling around the site, warmth or heaviness, or even nothing at all. An acupuncturist may use other techniques including:
- Cupping - suction designed to bring Qi and blood to the acupuncture point.
- Chinese herbs - either mixed by the acupuncturist or in pre-prepared tablet or granulated form.
- Laser - used instead of the needles to activate acupuncture points.
- TCM remedial massage - techniques applied to specific acupuncture points or meridians.
- Moxibustion - burning herbs held over or applied to acupuncture points.
A feeling of relaxation
After a session of acupuncture, the patient normally feels relaxed and refreshed, but specific responses depend on the individual. For instance, some people feel energised, while others feel sleepy. Occasionally, the symptoms get a little worse before they improve. The number of treatments you need depends on your condition. In most cases, patients experience a reduction in symptoms within a few sessions. The idea of acupuncture is to restore the natural balance of energy inside your body. Once the balance is restored, the body can take care of itself and no further treatments are necessary.
Choosing an acupuncturist
Some health care practitioners offer acupuncture after completing a short course. However, the philosophy of acupuncture is complex, so you should only use a qualified acupuncturist. From 2000, all Victorian acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists have to be registered. You don't need a referral from your doctor to see an acupuncturist.
Where to get help
- Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA)
- Federation of Chinese Medicine Associations (FCMA)
- Your doctor
- Your Chinese medicine doctor
- Australian Medical Acupuncture College.
Things to remember
- Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine and consists of inserting fine needles into specific points on the skin.
- Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for a range of disorders.
- The treatment is effective even if you don't believe in the underlying philosophy.