Acupuncture may date back to the ancient world, but it’s still known as one of the most popular natural holistic health treatments today. However, like most things in life, we’re all a little hesitant of what is unknown to us, especially if it involves needles.
In this guide to acupuncture, you’ll discover a little about the history of this treatment, the different types, some of the benefits it’s suggested to aid with and much more. While this information should not replace professional medical advice, it may help you make an informed decision about exploring your options for stress and pain relief, amongst other ailments.
If you like this article, you may also be interested in exploring our guide to holistic dental care in Australia.
The History of Acupuncture
While the creation of acupuncture has always been known to be Chinese, uses of similar treatments could date more than 5,300 years in Europe. Observation of Europe’s oldest tattooed mummy has shown signs of using punctures to aid in relief of acute pain.
Tattoos on the mummy, known as Otzi, show to be grouped where treatment for abdominal problems would be. As you’ll see later on, acupuncture follows meridian lines throughout the body, which connect different areas of our body. To perhaps further support this idea, British scientists also discovered traces of a parasite infestation known to cause acute pain in the stomach.
All of this aside, the first recordings of acupuncture itself were in ancient Chinese medical text. It wasn’t until the 17th century that it was introduced to Western cultures, and the mid-to-late 1900s for it to reach the United States.
What Acupuncture Aims to Treat
In our bodies, there are said to be pathways (known as meridians) our energy (called Qi or Chi) is said to travel. When blockages or imbalances occur in our energy pathways, Traditional Chinese Medicine believes it can cause health issues.
Acupuncture relies on the thought that by stimulating the hundreds of acupuncture points in our meridian system, we can create balance and clear blockages. This is said to help symptoms related, but not limited, to:
- Anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Mouth pain, including in the teeth and gums.
- Issues relating to the ears, nose and throat, such as sinusitis, colds, etc.
- Digestive health problems.
- Bowel, kidney and bladder issues.
- Skin conditions, including acne and eczema.
- Muscle cramping and injuries.
Like any medical treatment, results may vary depending on your age, health and other factors. Please seek professional medical advice before undergoing any treatment. It’s also worth noting that any form of acupuncture is heavily debated in Western Medicine and research can be inconclusive and limited.
What kind of needles are used for acupuncture? Do they hurt?
If you’re concerned about your pain threshold while receiving acupuncture, don’t be. The needles most commonly used for acupuncture in Australia are called filiform, which are incredibly thin and don’t typically cause discomfort or pain.
In China, there are also a range of other needles they use, including:
Three-edged needles, which have a triangular body and a very sharp tip. They are used to pinpoint very specific acupuncture points while aiming to remove just a few drops of blood.
Intradermal needles, which are shorter than a filiform needle and are inserted in shallow areas and taped over.
Press needles are only 1 to 3mm long and are pressed into a point and left for extended time, such as over a couple of days.
Plum blossom or seven star needles are seven filiform needles arranged in a flower shape with a handle attached. The person administering the treatment will tap this needle lightly and quickly over the surface area.
Types of Acupuncture in Australia
This is the type of acupuncture most people will recognise if they’ve heard of or seen the treatment performed. It involves needles (normally filiform) being inserted into acupuncture points and paths from head to toe associated with treating the affected area.
Once the needles have been inserted, you’ll be left to relax for 10 to 30 minutes until they are removed. Some people are so relaxed they even fall asleep during a treatment.
If even the thought of a tiny needle most people can’t feel makes you squirm, laser acupuncture is an option to consider. Instead of needles, a handheld tool is used to send laser stimulation to the exact acupuncture point.
“Works by activating endorphins to provide a natural pain relief, while stimulating blood flow to tissues to speed up the healing process.”
During an electroacupuncture (also known as electrostimulation) session, the practitioner will insert two needles into each meridian point. Each of the two needles will be attached to a machine by a cable and clip. Once the machine is turned on, it sends a small electrical current between the needles.
Electroacupuncture is said to feel a little like a buzzing or tapping, but to be extremely mild.
Auricular (Ear) Acupuncture
As meridians travel throughout the body, connecting different organs and functions, it’s suggested every part of the body may be treated by inserting needles into the ear only. This is known as auricular acupuncture.
Unlike standard body acupuncture, patients are able to move during ear acupuncture. So, if you’re prone to fidgeting or not being able to lie still for too long due to pain, this may be an option to look into.
You may have seen acupressure offered as an option at your local massage parlour. In this practice, firm pressure is applied to a point along a meridian and massaged for several minutes at a time. This helps to relax the muscle and encourage blood flow to the area.
Self-acupressure can also be performed anywhere at any time by yourself. By learning where the acupuncture points are in your body, you can apply pressure with your finger and massage the spot for a couple of minutes and repeat throughout the day.
Nope, the name is pretty accurate for this one — magnets can be used for acupuncture. Instead of needles, magnets are placed on your meridian points with the aim of rebalancing the magnetic and electric fields within your body.
However, before you go doing this yourself, speak to a medical professional. Magnetic energy can be dangerous for those with a pacemaker, insulin pump, are pregnant or have a number of other conditions.
There a three types of moxibustion acupuncture:
- Indirect moxibustion acupuncture, which involves a moxa stick being lit and held over the acupressure points.
- Non-scarring direct moxibustion acupuncture entails a small, cone-shaped piece of moxa being placed on an acupuncture point and lit, but extinguished before the burn can reach the skin.
- Scarring direct moxibustion acupuncture is the same as the non-scarring treatment, however, the moxa is left to burn until it reaches the skin, which can lead to scarring and blisters.
Cupping in Conjunction with Acupuncture
The aim of cupping is to promote good blood circulation and remove toxins from the body. It’s performed by a plastic or glass cup being applied to the skin, and then the air vacuumed out so the skin and muscle are sucked into the cup. There are a few variations to this, but they all lie upon this premise.
It’s becoming more and more popular to use cupping in conjunction with acupuncture for more severe muscle relaxation.
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Yinova. (2020). What is Electro-Acupuncture. Yinovacenter.com
Wang. Y. (2009). Auricular Acupuncture. Sciencedirect.com.
WebMD. (2005 – 2020). What is magnetic field therapy? Webmd.com.
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Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. Neither Localsearch, nor the author, are in any way responsible for any misuse of the information provided.