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Needles and Pins

Written By Shirmilla Julka, Chartered Physiotherapist

Published : DAVID LLOYD Fitness

“That a needle stuck into the foot should help a case of migraine is obviously incredible; it makes no sense. Within our system of explanations there is no reason why the needle prick should be followed by an improvement. Therefore we say it cannot happen. The only trouble with this argument is that, as a matter of empirical fact, it does happen”.

These results of Aldous Huxley’s research have, in the last two decades, been mirrored by a tremendous change in the attitudes of the public and the medical profession towards acupuncture. It is indeed a somewhat bizarre form of treatment, involving pushing needles into the skin at various points away from the site of the medical problem – possibly even on the opposite side of there body. However, it does work.

Medical research shows that 70 per cent of patients gain pain relief with acupuncture treatment. It does not always work for everyone or every condition, but excellent results have been achieved where more conventional medicine has perhaps failed. That is particularly evident in chronic conditions.

Acupuncture probably began in China as early as the Stone Ages; Ancient Egyptians, Arabs and Eskimos are also known to have used acupuncture like techniques. It was only in the 1970s that acupuncture was introduced to the West and thereafter spread throughout the Unites Kingdom. It is now practiced by a number of Chartered Physiotherapists as well as other medical professions both in the NHS and the private sector. Some GPs and consultants also practice acupuncture.

Broadly speaking, traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on the theory that the entire universe is balanced by forces of opposite polarities known as Yin and Yang. Yin is described as the negative, dark or feminine force whilst the Yang is the positive, light or masculine force. These forces are also present in each human organ. The Yin and Yang components of the organ are ‘nourished’ by the flow of vital energy known as Qi (pronounced Chee).

Qi circulates around the body through meridians and these form a network within the entire body linking all arts and functions together so that the body works as one unit. When this energy flows smoothly through the body, then that person is in a state of wellbeing. However, when there is a block in the flow of energy, illness can occur.

The aim of acupuncture is to correct the blockage – hence restoring the smooth flow of energy. This is done by inserting thin needles in particular points of the body. The needles used are disposable and pre-sterilised, and perfectly safe. Modern science has shown that this stimulates the brain to produce endocrines which are natural pain easing chemicals.

Many things can upset the balance of the body and disturb the flow of Qi. Chinese medicine lays great stress on the importance of trauma, such as accidents, falls and operations. Other equally important factors are; emotional status, such as stress and worry; grief, diet, such as over eating or over eating erratically; drugs, especially alcohol, tobacco, medicines with notable side effects, and exercise, where too much or too little can affect the balance of energy.

Chartered physiotherapists who are increasingly training as acupuncturists, can treat a wide variety of conditions using this form of treatment. There have the added advantage of using acupuncture in combination with other techniques such as manipulation, massage, heat, exercise, electrotherapy etc, Sports injuries, like tennis elbow, frozen shoulder and knee pain, respond well to acupuncture. Spinal problems such as neck and back pain, headache, migraines and sciatica also respond well.

Work related injuries such as repetitive stress injury and various respiratory, gynaecological and arthritic conditions are also known to have been treated with acupuncture.

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