About Acupuncture

Acupuncture seems to be something quite miraculous to me. How is it that inserting fine stainless steel needles and burning moxa can help people to better health? Whilst there are many Western theories about how acupuncture might ‘work’, none really describes it’s mechanism of action in a way that convinces. The Western epistemological perspective on a phenomenon or process tends to start with questions about ‘what is it?’ – whereas the Chinese perspective asks a different question, which is ‘how should I interact with it?’.  Asking ‘how’ instead of ‘what’ leads to a different type of science, one that is based on observational study and research. Clinical experience is also important – and acupuncture is not something that can be learned from books alone.

I think we can perhaps better understand how acupuncture works – in a more meaningful way – through looking at the philosophies and theories that guide its clinical application. I have studied in the UK, Europe and the Far East after qualifying in 1991 – and have many approaches and traditions and a wealth of clinical experience to draw from.

A guide to different acupuncture approaches and traditions

Acupuncturists treat what we call ‘Qi’ to release blockages and create balance and harmony in a person’s body. There is no one ‘right’ way to help someone and what works well one day may not be so effective on another – or it may not work as well on the same patient at a different time. This is one of the challenges of practice. Also, it is not that one style is ‘better’ than another – acupuncture is like music and the different styles are like different instruments to play the melodies – is the flute better than the harp? Whatever the style or approach, my treatment decisions will be guided by many factors.

Here is a bit of background information about the different styles I have studied and worked with:

TCM – this is the most widely used style of acupuncture and it came out of efforts to standardise Chinese medicine in the People’s Republic of China. Herbal medicine and acupuncture are combined. Using the eight principles and an understanding of the pathology of the organs, patterns of disharmony are identified. When you hear someone talking about things like Liver Qi Stagnation, or Dampness and Phlegm – this is coming from a TCM approach.

Five Element treatment.  Five Element acupuncture treatment strengthens the core of a person at a profound level through working on a person’s constitutional or guardian element. It is particularly good (in my view) for supporting a person at an emotional level. Some people are uncomfortable about using words like spirit but I think acupuncture does touch a person at a spirit level and five element approaches aim to do just this.

Meridian Therapy – These Japanese approaches involve diagnosing the root pattern or ‘sho’ and using a range of treatment approaches to work on supporting the root and targeting symptoms directly. Needling is subtle and delicate. These are the most gentle of approaches.

Toyohari – a form of acupuncture that evolved from Meridian Therapy and the ‘Return to the Classic’s movement in Japan and developed in the latter half of the 20th Century. It was mainly practised by blind physicians until more recently when Stephen Birch and Junko Ida have worked tirelessly to bring the knowledge and skills of these extraordinary physicians to the West. The sense of touch becomes more highly developed with blindness and the teachers of Toyohari are so generous with sharing knowledge to help us help our patients.

Shonishin – Japanese acupuncture for children. Simple techniques can also be taught to parents so that they can administer treatment to their children. Children usually love this treatment. Needles are not necessary. Children’s Qi is vibrant and they respond very quickly to what seems like minimal intervention.

Manaka – Manaka was a Japanese acupuncturist who was a true innovator. He dealt with many patients after the nuclear explosions and treated burns victims routinely – learning how to balance the body and help them recover- he was also an inventor and took acupuncture in new directions.

‘Advanced Acupuncture’ – following the lineage of Jeffrey Yuen. ‘Advanced acupuncture’ is a term used to describe acupuncturists working with the complement channels, which include the divergent channels, the eight extra channels, the connecting channels, sinew channels and cutaneous channels – as well as the twelve primary meridians.

Please get in touch if you have any further questions or queries about acupuncture, moxabustion or cupping. I am as passionate today about this amazing healing modality as when I first started receiving treatment myself in the 1980s, and experienced the benefits of this healing modality.

Taking a person’s pulses – six different pulses are felt in each wrist