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The ancient Chinese explain acupuncture on the basis of their philosophy.

Qi (Chi) which is the vital flow of energy over the body, blood and body fluid are important substances and structures of the body. They sustain the vital activities and they nourish the body, thereby keeping the functions of the tissues, organs and channels in good order. The channels are the representation of the organs. They are a functional system in their own right and are responsible for conducting the flow of qi and blood through the body. The flow of qi can be disrupted by direct damage to the channels, such as trauma or by an internal imbalance of yin and yang within the body.

Yin and yang are opposites and at the same time interdependent.
The ancient Chinese used water and fire to symbolise yin and yang; anything hot, bright and overactive is yang, and anything cold, dim and under active is yin.

The central principle of traditional Chinese medicine is to diagnose the cause of internal disease by using the relevant acupuncture points, to correct the flow of qi in the channels and correct the internal disease. In ancient China a physician was only paid while his patient was healthy, not while his patient was ill!

Arthritis falls in the group of diseases of the superficial channels of the body. The flow of qi and blood through the channels is disrupted. This usually gives rise to pain – if the flow of qi and blood is restored the pain will go. This can be achieved by insertion of needles along the channels. These needles are very fine and differ in length according to the area of the body, to which they are applied and are usually left in for 15-20 minutes.

The best method of knowing that you have stimulated an acupuncture point is to obtain deqi (der-chi) over that point. Deqi means needling sensation and the sensation is usually quite strong, but not painful. Electrical stimulation can also be used as well as the manual stimulation technique.

A course of treatment usually comprises 6 – 8 sessions and there are no real contraindications for its use, but if the patient has a phobia of needles etc, then maybe an alternative treatment should be sought.

The improvement from acupuncture may be permanent, but for such conditions as arthritis, acupuncture may have to be repeated at intervals to keep the affected area pain free.

Acupuncture is sometimes available on the NHS or privately, and some doctors do actually use it in their NHS clinics to treat certain conditions.

Author: Rosemary Jones MCSP SRP
First published: October 1993, Skin ‘n’ Bones Connection Issue 1. p7-8.