Acupuncture is a branch of traditional medicine that has been practised in China and the Far East for thousands of years. It’s been developed, tested, researched and refined to give a detailed understanding of the body’s energetic balance and has steadily grown in popularity in the UK since the 1970s
A treatment designed to help body, mind and spirit
Acupuncture sees body, mind and spirit as interdependent aspects of a person, with good health depending on them being in balance. Pain and illness are viewed as signs of imbalance, which happens when the body’s Qi, or vital energy cannot flow freely. This can be for many reasons, with emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, infection or injury amongst the most common causes.
A key strength of acupuncture is its focus on the person as a whole. Treatment is tailored to meet each patient’s needs and addresses the underlying cause of their condition, not just individual symptoms. Acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques on which to base treatment, using the four examinations of looking, listening, touching and asking questions.
In traditional acupuncture, body diagnosis is one of the four examinations. It involves looking at someone’s general appearance and posture; palpating their feet, lower legs, abdomen area and hands, as well as touching the face. An acupuncturist will feel for any bumps, dips or tender spots, as well as assessing skin quality, temperature and colour.
People quite often have hot and cold spots in different parts of their body, although they may not be aware of them. Their skin can range between being very dry or hot, to damp, cold or clammy and this often corresponds with ill health symptoms they’re experiencing. Also their facial and body colours can give helpful clues about their current state of health.
In Chinese medicine, pulse diagnosis is a subtle and skillful art form. For acupuncturists, it can be an important diagnostic tool to assess the health of all the body’s major organ systems. Some general influencing factors are:
- Age – the pulse’s strength and quality declines as a person gets older
- Gender – men are generally stronger on the left wrist, women on the right
- The yearly seasons –
- In Spring the pulse is more wiry (or tense)
- In Summer it’s stronger
- In Autumn it’s slightly more floating, or superficial
- And in winter it’s deeper
Part of the diagnostic process involves feeling two sets of paired pulses in three positions on each wrist, that’s 12 in total. Information from someone’s pulse helps an acupuncturist understand more about a person’s state of health and plan how to treat them. One key aim will be to balance the person’s pulses as part of helping them achieve better health.
The tongue is seen as an external mirror for what’s going on inside the body and in acupuncture, tongue diagnosis is also an important diagnostic tool. Different areas of the tongue are said to represent our organ channels inside the body, so a traditional acupuncturist will look at the tongue shape, colour and coating to help assess what might be going on internally. The normal body colour of the tongue should be pale red; normal coating should be thin and white; its shape should be neither swollen, nor thin, quivering, or deviated to either side when extended.
Following diagnosis, acupuncture treatment involves gently inserting extremely fine, sterile needles into specific points along the body’s energetic pathways, or channels. These channels contain and carry Qi to all parts of the body, from the most superficial level – skin, hair and nails – to the deepest level of organs, bones and blood. The aim is to direct the flow of Qi where needed and trigger the body’s healing response to restore physical, emotional and mental balance.