Some people come along for acupuncture quite happy to relax into the session without needing to know what it is all about.
Others – and this may be you – want to know more.
What does acupuncture do? How does it work? What are the needles doing and how do I chose where to put them?
If you are curious to know more, this is a post for you.
What is acupuncture?
We all know it involves putting needles into the body in specific places. These are acupuncture points and there are about 400 of them on the body.
The points connect up with each other along pathways known as Channels or Meridians. Like rivers flowing through the whole body they carry energy.
These Channels take their names from the main organs of the body.
For example the Heart channel runs from under the armpit down to the little finger. There are 9 points on this Channel.
The Bladder channel runs from the inner corner of the eye, over the head and down the back to the ankle. There are 67 points on this channel.
Most Channels are bilateral but there are also two that run up the central axis – front and back – called the Conception and the Governor Channels.
Why do acupuncturists put needles so far away from the painful area?
The answer lies in the pathways of energy.
For neck pain we may use points on the ankle because we are working on the Bladder Channel. For back pain we may use a point on the knee.
Heart palpatations may be treated by using points on the wrist.
What are the needles doing?
Acupuncture is a method of balancing, moving or strengthening life energy, This energy is called Qi (pronounced chee). Qi flows not only along the channels but throughout the whole body. The Channels and the Points are places where we can contact the Qi more easily. Like springs of water that flow to the surface.
The needles are left in for up to half an hour and are making contact with the Qi energy in order to help it flow better. Different points have their own ways of working so there are some that are calming, some that move the energy, and some that have specific aims such as easing pain or helping digestion.
Not only about the body
Strong vibrant Qi is important for emotional and spiritual health. This is how acupuncture treats non-physical symptoms too, like depression or anxiety.
Qi is always flowing and finding balance. We are born with energy inherited from our parents and ancestors and throughout life we need to look after our Qi and to learn what brings us health and happiness and what brings us down.
Acupuncturists do more than just put needles into points. We help you understand how the Qi got out of balance in the past. Then we can find ways to strengthen it in the present.
Of course Acupuncture involves putting needles into the body but really it is about working with Qi. The food we eat, how we balance activity and rest, how happy we feel, where we live, who we spend time with, how well we breathe and what work we do, all this and more affect the state of our Qi.
Three Ways to Take Care of your Qi today
Stop right now and take a deep breath. Feel how your body enjoys having a pause in your busy day. Let your muscles relax. Smile.
Eating slowly and with awareness helps your stomach digest more easily. Is the food you have chosen full of nutrients? Is it happy food? Remember that every mouthful is creating new Qi .
Qi likes to move. If you are working at a desk then stop regularly to stretch. Get up and move around. This sounds so simple but how often we forget to move. Even better – put on some music and have a dance – Qi likes to dance!
Please pass on this post by sharing it. We all need reminders of how to take care of our energy. Sharing information means we keep the Qi flowing for a healthier and happier world.
This is the most asked question about acupuncture and for obvious reasons. Who wants to have a treatment that hurts? Here is my best and honest answer.
No, it shouldn’t hurt if done well by an experienced practitioner. All you should feel is a tiny prick at most.
If – and very occasionally it happens – if a point hurts it means the needle must be removed and re-positioned. I don’t believe that acupuncture should hurt.
After the needle is in we often give it a little turn to activate the energy flow. At this moment you might feel a tingling, or a heaviness or a pressure on the point.
But definitely not pain. Please don’t feel you have to tolerate pain.
2. It’s not a magic wand
Many times I felt that something magical was going on when I needled a point and the client felt a big change happening.
A ‘Wow” moment.
As if something that has been stuck and unmoveable for years, shifts position and the person feels lighter and better for it.
But it is important to know that acupuncture can’t wave a magic wand and cure old patterns of illness just in one treatment. Most people come for a series of sessions, perhaps once a week to start with. It is more like gardening than a TV makeover.
Things change and sometimes quickly but it is subtle and the body needs time to heal in a deep way. We need to be patient and trust the body’s wisdom.
3. It’s not just for pain
Acupuncture became famous for helping to shift stubborn pain. It is incredibly effective in treating back pain and sciatica, arthritis and frozen shoulder. But many people don’t know that acupuncture is used for many other problems.
Physical symptoms are usually what bring people to the clinic but acupuncture also helps with depression, insomnia, anxiety, or simply a feeling that you have lost your way in life.
People often ask me how I got into acupuncture and the truth is that I went along for help with asthma but what happened changed my life. I felt like I had woken up to myself. I started to make plans for my life that had never occurred to me before.
Acupuncture helped me be more me!
4. It is best to go to a fully qualified acupuncturist
There are other practitioners who use acupuncture needles in their work but who are not acupuncturists. Many of them do good and using needles is a helpful extra tool. However, acupuncturists who have done a full training of three years or more have a much deeper understanding of what Chinese Medicine really has to offer. When a non-acupuncturist offers acupuncture as an adjunct to other treatment it may be called ‘dry needling’. If you are feeling brave ask them how long they trained for. I am afraid that often the answer will be that they went on a weekend course.
One of the things that surprises people when they start treatment is how different they feel ‘in themselves’. The symptom they came with may be changing or has gone away but what really amazes them is how much better they feel in general.
“I am sleeping better and am more relaxed”
“I feel so happy – I’d forgotten what that was like”
“I’m much more focused at work – it’s easy to make decisions”
“I feel like the old Me again”
Sometimes it is partners and friends who comment “you seem so well now”
If you want to try acupuncture or to talk about whether it could help you then please do contact me by phone or email. You can find my details on the right of this page.
Have you ever had acupuncture treatment? Tell us in the comments what it was like for you.
My father had a sweet tooth. He loved apple pie and custard, toffees and barley sugar, and ice cream. He kept a box of choc-ices in the freezer and a tin of sucky sweets in the car.
I must have inherited a ‘sweet tooth’ gene as I also like sugary treats – bars of chocolate and puddings of every sort.
Our family had a ‘Sunday chocolate’ ritual, meaning that along with the Sunday newspapers my father bought us a large bag of chocolate bars. Every week my mother ordered bottles of fizzy drinks like Lemonade, Limeade, Cola, Iron Bru. When we were thirsty this is what we drank.
I remember a school friend whose mother filled a drawer full of sweets – they were carefully rationed but it was normal to have some every day at tea-time.
My mother used to meet friends for coffee and took me along pre-school. I was allowed to dip sugar lumps from the silver bowl into tea and suck on them. Over and over again.
Sugar! It was an important part of my childhood
Tooth decay was also a normal part of life.
What about you? Was sugar a large part of your childhood?
Try as we might to reduce the amount of refined sugar in our diets, many of us are irresistibly drawn back to the sugar bowl.
Can acupuncture help?
We need the sweet taste in our lives – just as we need bitter, and salty and pungent foods.
But we don’t need refined sugar and we certainly don’t need such a lot of it.
In Chinese Medicine the desire for too much sweet food means an imbalance in the Spleen energy.
The Spleen is an important energy system with more functions than the biological spleen which mainly filters blood. It regulates digestion, and menstruation; it helps our bodies convert food into energy. It balances our emotions and allows us to feel caring and cared for. It helps us feel at home in our bodies and our lives. It connects us to natural rhythms such as appetite, sleep, rest and activity.
When the Spleen energy is out of balance there is tiredness
And poor digestion, menstrual problems, excess weight, doing too much for others and not looking after ourselves.
What things damage the Spleen energy?
Too much studying or computer time, too much information that we can’t absorb, a poor diet, eating when stressed, eating too much, living in a damp home, feeling unloved or lonely.
Feeling unloved can play havoc with the appetite – have you ever stopped eating because you are unhappy? Or eaten too much? Or told yourself that you need a treat and so turned to sugary food?
When your energy is low, you eat more sweet things and weaken your vital energy even more.
What can you do to support your ailing Spleen?
Treat your Spleen with love and kindness. Eat good food in a calm and mindful environment. Make meal times special. Put out flowers, light a candle, use a table cloth and a napkin and create a new rhythm to your eating.
Eat more fresh healthy food and seek out the most natural foods you can find that are grown locally if possible. Go food shopping with an eye for freshness and vibrancy and let your body respond with a yes or a no about eating it.
Of course sometimes your body will say Yes to a doughnut or a chocolate bar. Accept this too and eat them with full awareness rather than zoning out and eating a whole bar of chocolate without noticing.
Eliminate as much refined sugar as possible from your diet. Get sweetness from honey, dates, raisins or sweet vegetables. Let your body tell you when it wants sweet and offer options rather than automatically turning to refined sugar.
Avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. Don’t let them past your lips. If you are going to have sugar, have sugar and be done with it.
Meditate before eating. It doesn’t have to be a big drama. Just do something simple like three breaths and a smile as recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh
It will get easier to resist cravings. You don’t have to stop sugar for the rest of your life. The idea is to change your dependence on it and to allow your body to express what it really wants and needs. If you actually need sleep and you are eating sugar to give you energy, you need to sleep more and stop treating tiredness with the wrong medicine.
Acupuncture can help strengthen Spleen energy and support you in this new way of life. We all grew up with sugar as a powerful emotional reward system and we need to be kind and loving and understanding about how important it has been in our lives. Eating less sugar is a new choice, not a punishment for old mistakes.
The great gift that the Spleen can give us when it is functioning well is that we can truly come home to our bodies. Your body is your true home on this planet so give yourself the gift of feeling loved, nourished, nurtured and energized at home in your body. This is the best present you could ever receive.
What part has sugar played in your life?
Please share your memories in the comments section.
Has anything helped you reduce sugar in your diet?
Sometimes you can’t finish the smallest task. Or you don’t even start because you imagine everything that could go wrong. What if you make a mistake? What if something really awful happens?
It’s normal to have doubts but when you are anxious even small problems seem insurmountable and you freeze. It affects your body too – you get hot and bothered, can’t sleep, tense up your neck and shoulders and get a headache. Perhaps you feel sick to your stomach. Continue reading →