Acupuncture: a traditional Chinese medical treatment with a long history

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Acupuncture has a very long history. It is one of the oldest treatments in traditional Chinese medicine – at least 2000 years old, but it may be a lot older.

In traditional Chinese philosophy, there are two opposing forces: yin and yang. To be healthy, these forces should be in balance. Energy, or qi, flows through the body along specific pathways. This flow of energy keeps the yin and yang balanced. However, if the qi is blocked, pain or illness can follow.

Although acupuncture has such a venerable history it was only in the 1950s that hospitals in China began to offer it as a standard part of their treatment options. It continues to play a prominent role in Chinese medicine, and acupuncturists now work across much of the world.

How does it work?

Acupuncture promotes natural self-healing.  It does this by stimulating specific parts of the body, called acupuncture points or acupoints. The practitioner inserts thin needles into the acupoints to unblock the qi.

Modern research has found that acupuncture can treat pain, as well as improve sleep, digestive function, and sense of well-being. In the late 1990s, National Institutes of Health in America declared that acupuncture was a safe and effective treatment. In Ireland, acupuncture is a complementary therapy. Therefore, it does not replace Western medicine. Instead, most patients use acupuncture alongside other treatments.

What happens during a treatment?

An acupuncturist won’t simply insert needles into your acupoints. He or she will ask about your health and conduct a physical examination. As a result, the practitioner will assess your health needs and the best course of treatment for you.

Acupuncture is not painful, and most people feel no or minimal discomfort. The needles stay in place for between five and 30 minutes.

Studying to become an acupuncturist

It takes around three years to become a certified acupuncturist. This is partly because many courses are part-time with classes in the evenings or over the weekends. This allows students to work while they study.

People study acupuncture because they want to help others. Some people become interested in the practise after receiving treatments themselves.

However there is a good practical reason to study this discipline. Acupuncturists with their own practice can work flexible hours, which allows them to improve their own lives while improving the wellbeing of others.

Anne Sexton

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