Acupuncture involves the insertion of sterile one-time use disposable needles into muscle tissue. The needles are solid, flexible, made out of stainless steel and are approximately one-third the diameter of a regular medical injection needle. The depth of needle insertion varies depending on the location on the body.
Needles are inserted into pre-determined locations on the body known as acupuncture points. Hundreds of acupuncture points are ‘mapped out’ along the course of subtle channels of energy running just under the surface of the skin. Acupuncture points ‘communicate’ with each other energetically as well as with organs and tissues deep within the body and central nervous system. When an acupuncture point is stimulated it leads to changes in blood flow, transmission of nerve impulses, endocrine functioning and a powerful immune response.
For some types of conditions such as sports injuries a low level of electrical stimulation may be added to several of the needles. The electrical stimulation is delivered through an electro-acupuncture device similar to a TENS machine commonly used by physiotherapists.
Micro-system acupuncture is a modern variation of classical acupuncture that focuses on a collection of points in one part of the body used to treat the whole body. Foot reflexology is an example of a micro-system therapy. In acupuncture, two of the most common micro-systems are the ear (known as auricular acupuncture) and scalp acupuncture.
Historically the application of heat to acupuncture points pre-dates the use of needles. Traditionally in both China and Japan, heat is applied to a point by burning a dried form of the herb Mugwort. This herb is said to have special heat-transmitting properties and when burned on or near an acupuncture point it will generate a distinct immune response. Mugwort used during acupuncture treatments has been dried and processed such that it burns at a low temperature and will not harm or scar the patient.
A traditional method of increasing blood circulation and drawing out stagnant energy from the body uses heated cups. This form of therapy will be familiar to most Asian patients as well as some of those of European ancestry. Cups are heated and then placed on the back or abdomen. The heat creates a suction that draws out ‘bad Qi’ and brings increased circulation to the area.
Also known as traditional Chinese massage, Tui Na is a hands on method of working the muscles and increasing blood circulation to local parts of the body such as the back, arms and legs. This style of massage is vigorous and works well in combination with acupuncture to treat a variety of musculo-skeletal disorders.