What is acupuncture?

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a fundamental part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a system of primary health care with an uninterrupted evolution in China and East Asia which started thousands of years ago and is still ongoing today. 

Chinese physicians of all times have developed different techniques to evaluate the behaviour and response of the human body during health and sickness. Accordingly, they have developed several tools to preserve physical and mental health, and to treat illnesses of all kinds. Such tools are Acupuncture, Herbal medicine, Tuina massage therapy, Cupping, Moxa, Gua sha, Qigong, and nutrition.

Traditional Chinese Medicine acts over the so-called meridian system, a ‘vital energy’ circulation system that runs across the body in parallel to the cardio-vascular, nervous, and lymphatic systems. It represents the original source of energy that sustains these systems, the body, and its organs. By stimulating the correct flow of energy from or to different areas of the body that present excess or insufficiency of energy, the person’s own natural healing system is reactivated, and the overall health status improves.  

Acupuncture, in particular, intervenes through the application of extremely thin sterile needles on special points - the acupoints - located on the skin along the body meridians. The proper application of the needles triggers the drainage, elimination, and movement of energy from where it is in excess (stagnation, accumulation), and stimulates its flow towards where it is lacking or insufficient. 

Herbal medicine is, together with acupuncture, a fundamental pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The herbal remedies I apply - when necessary - in my clinic, are provided as pills or dyeing (tincturae). I only make use of the 95 formulae developed and sold on the market by the renowned line of Giovanni Maciocia. Maciocia is a famous Traditional Chinese practitioner who, over decades of research and clinical experience, as well as special attention to the origin and hygiene of the components, decided to make  his remedies available to practitioners worldwide.  

Cupping is an ancient complementary healing technique. Special warm cups are positioned bottom down on your skin to create suction, and left in this position for a few minutes while they stimulate local blood circulation. This treatment helps with local pain, inflammation, and poor blood flow. It is also an effective type of deep-tissue massage for relaxation and well-being.

Gua sha is a traditional healing technique consisting of passing (press-stroking) a stone tool over a lubricated area of the skin. The objective is to intentionally create transitory therapeutic petechiae, called ‘sha.’ Modern research shows that a single Gua sha treatment is able to produce an anti-inflammatory and immune protective effect that can persist for days, making it useful for pain, stiffness, fever, chill, cough, wheeze, nausea, vomiting, and so on.  Gua sha is also effective on acute and chronic internal organ disorders, including liver inflammation in case of hepatitis.

All the healing techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine are based on a holistic view of human health as the best way to cope with the complexity of the manifestations of the physical and mental nature of a human being. 

While western medicine has, for centuries, been opposed  to the existence of the meridian system, and therefore to the validity of TCM, an increasing number of medical professionals and specialised media in western countries are now recognising the tangible effects of acupuncture. Acupuncture is officially recognised and covered by national health insurance systems, and is now classified as ‘complementary’ rather than ‘alternative’ medicine.  

 

Why is acupuncture useful?

Traditional Chinese acupuncture is a very powerful tool for the prevention and treatment of many forms of illnesses. Mostly known as a tool to stop smoking, treat pain, or lose weight, acupuncture can in fact successfully intervene on these and many more health conditions.  

With its diagnostic approach, it is able to address symptoms that may be seen as unrelated to each other. 

Often it is also able to investigate the overarching cause underlying those symptoms for which a long-lasting resolution can be difficult to find. These symptoms (such as recurring headaches, bowl discomfort without proven reasons, painful menstruations, stiff neck, and so on) can negatively affect the quality of a person’s daily life, making a form of relief desirable.

Acupuncture is a treatment that does not make use of chemical substances. By applying extremely thin needles on the skin in order to recover the correct flow and amount of energy along the body meridians, acupuncture is, for instance, able to reinforce and stimulate a person’s  metabolism, and  trigger the correct absorption and transportation of the nutritional substances where they are needed, both locally and at system level. In this way, for example, a global inflammatory status could improve, and a local shoulder pain could disappear.

In this sense, acupuncture makes use of the rich and sometimes blocked resources of our body to stimulate its own capacity to heal. In its preserving action, it contributes to improve the way our body naturally ages.  

Where a cure seems out of reach, such as in chronic or incurable conditions, or in the case of irreversible damages caused by, for instance,  an accident, acupuncture can still represent a way to improve the quality of life, by contributing to ease the bearing of the symptoms, by assisting the body in keeping strong and  detoxing during or after a medical chemical treatment, and so on.

In addition, acupuncture can address psycho-physical distress, commonly known as ‘stress’. From the perspective of TCM, an emotionally altered status can affect the body’s organs and its  overall health conditions.  On the other hand, an ill part of the body is able to trigger or nourish altered emotions. By looking at body and psyche - connected by the meridian system - as a whole, acupuncture can positively contribute to the relief of stress-related and psychosomatic conditions.

Examples of treatable conditions