Pain, in Acupuncture circles, is viewed quite differently to that in the west. In the West pain generally indicates an organic (physical) problem. To an Acupuncturist, pain can mean many things and this article is a great starting point in your understanding of how Acupuncture works. If you can understand this then the rest is easy.
With that in mind, I hope to give you a very quick lesson in Acupuncture theory, by looking at Painful Obstruction Syndrome (Pain). Chinese Medicine - and in particular Acupuncture - is an energetic medicine. We talk about energy, it’s flow through the body and its connections with both the internal world of your BodyMind and the external world - out here. It is said in the ancient Chinese medical classics that when one is healthy the energy (called Qi - pronounced chee ) flows freely; one's body is like that of a graceful bird, and one's mind is sharp and clear.
There are basically two disturbances that interfere with the flow of the Qi: obstruction and depletion. When the flow is obstructed the Qi slows down and, initially, this can cause a sense of heaviness, as if the body becomes stuck or slow and the Mind becomes shrouded in fog. If the Qi is further impaired it becomes stuck and this results in obstructions and this creates sharp, intense pain.
The other common presentation is the depletion of the Qi. This is often a more serious condition because it usually comes as the result of a long standing problem. In this case the pain is often more chronic, non-responsive to almost all other forms of treatment, and variously described as deep, dull, non-fixed and aching - or a weak pain that drains the sufferer. It is also accompanied by other symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, depression and general malaise.
For me, it is not about treating a headache, upset bowel, coughing and sneezing, or a back pain. No, I treat disorders of Qi - disharmonies in the body’s landscape. I interpret the flow, the nature of the impairment, and the likely causes. I then set about correcting the flow of the Qi. Once corrected the BodyMind is in a better position to reclaim its authority over the terrain - restoring harmony and balance. The pain then dissipates.
For me, it really is that simple. The challenge lies in reading the landscape of your BodyMind; working out how best to restore it to Harmony and then placing the needles delicately and decisively, in just the right places, at just the right time, Your Body and your Mind does the rest.
Painful and Obstructive conditions are - broadly speaking - all of those conditions that involve bones, muscles, tendons and soft tissue. So, we are talking about muscular aches, pains, sprains, and strains.
A recent report provides some evidence for the efficacy of Acupuncture treatment for a range of painful muscular-skeletal conditions. Acupuncture's gentle and subtle nature makes it a great choice for those in pain. Some conditions for which Acupuncture may be helpful include, but are not limited to:
elbow pain and stiffness
wrist pain and stiffness
general muscular aches and pains
tendon and joint injuries
post trauma pain
post operative pain
and more ….
A large spectrum of emotional issues respond well to Acupuncture treatment - especially where stress is a contributing factor. When we find ourselves being obstructed by others behaviour towards us, or our own negative and obsessive thinking then the Qi becomes blocked.
When the Qi is blocked the flow becomes obstructed and this often manifests in emotional disharmony (i.e. we become sad, angry, frustrated, anxious, fearful, or just plain emotionally exhausted).
Acupuncture is a fantastic and supportive treatment for those suffering from the wear and tear of everyday life and the stresses it brings to the body. It aids in the restoration of flow, which in turn brings about a more harmonious state in the body-mind landscape.
Consider for a moment all of the symptoms that you could attribute to Stress, other than the ones I listed above, and you have an idea of how useful Acupuncture could be in your life.
So many people come to me with vague signs and symptoms of an impaired digestive system. Whilst the more serious of these conditions may need to be referred to an appropriate medical and dietary specialist, I often find that Acupuncture can assist the work of these modalities.
I find digestive distresses of this sort are often part of a very complex pattern. This makes it very resistant to standard forms of treatment alone. However, the Acupuncture paradigm allows me to generate a clearer picture of your overall state of wellbeing. Given the diversity of my experience and theoretical models, I believe I am able to create a helpful explanation, and wellness intervention for you.
Historically, Acupuncture has been used to help enhance and strengthen the individual's resistance (known as Wei Qi - protective energy) against the day to day stressors. To this end I have a special interest in working with people who wish to take care of their general wellbeing.
Utilising a combination of Acupuncture, Oriental Dietary Therapy, various Exercise Therapies (eg. Tai Chi and Qi Gong), Mindfulness and Breathing Techniques I can work with you to improve your bodymind's strength and resistance to ill health.
Honest answer is: not much - if at all! If you were to take a look at an Acupuncture needle you would notice that it is very, very fine. The needles I use are made of the very best surgical stainless steel.
The other thing that must be remembered about Acupuncture needles is that they are solid. This means that they actually push the skin and tissue aside when inserted; they don't cut like a normal hypodermic (injection) needle does. This means little or no pain on insertion.
Finally, the main source of pain with an injection is the liquid being forced into the tissue. With Acupuncture, there is nothing being injected; therefore no pain.
Combine this with 30+ years experience and hundreds of thousands of needles inserted by my very own hand, and I think I am reasonably good at painless insertions.
Of course, having said that, I must say there are always those who are so nervous that they will feel something. For you folk, all I can suggest is that the most common remark I have after a first session is, "is that all there is to it; I hardly felt a thing."
In fact, a recent client who was recommended to me took almost 4 year to build up the nerve to come in. He is now a convert; and yes he is still anxious before every treatment. However, after the first needle he relaxes into it.
So if you like your needles with a touch of pain, perhaps you will have to look elsewhere.
If by this you mean how many treatments will you need, all I can say is how long is a piece of string? If you mean how long does a session last ? About 30 - 60 minutes. When you compare Acupuncture to drugs, the response time is certainly much slower; but then Acupuncture doesn't have side effects. When you compare it to doing nothing then Acupuncture is much quicker - and still without side effects.
In all honesty I would rather we reframe this question. It really isn't helpful to lock ourselves into precise time frames. Everybody varies; everybody's experience of pain is subject to so many variables and everybody has a different level of wellness. For some, to be well is to have no pain; for others it is a little pain, and yet for some it is pain, but without the discomfort.
Let me make you this promise instead. I will provide you with the very best treatment that I can, and I will always aim at achieving the very best results in the shortest possible time frame; all this without ever compromising your comfort and wellbeing. How does that sound?
Let me put it to you like this. Acupuncture has undergone the longest clinical trials in the history of any medicine. Billions of cases over 5,000 or so years. What does that say? I don't know about you, but I think that speaks volumes! You don't last that long if you don't have something to offer. Right?
When I began practice 32 years ago there are about 300 Acupuncturists in Australian; today there are more than 5,000 (and that is not counting the thousands of dry needle therapists). When I began people asked me what Acupuncture was. Now almost everyone I speak with has either had Acupuncture or has someone in their family who has. Thats sort of meteoric rise in popularity doesn't happen by accident. It happens because people speak about their positive experiences.
I expect by the next generation fo Acupuncturists that my modality will be the most utilised after medicine. I'll let you work out why that might be.
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