Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical procedure involving insertion and manipulation of needles5. It is one of the most popular complementary therapies in the UK. It is a system of healing that has been practiced for thousands of years6. It is normally used for pain relief but some people have used Acupuncture to cure illnesses8.
What is the aim of acupuncture?
The aim of acupuncture is to treat people with a wide range of problems7. Mostly used for a persons well-being and for stress relief. Its aim is to manage pain, inflammation and enhance the body’s healing capacity.
What is acupuncture used for?
Here are some examples of what acupuncture is used for:
> Common cold
> Bladder problems
> High blood pressure
> Muscular pains
> Skin conditions
> Hay fever
> Menstrual disorders
Chinese people still use Acupuncture for surgical analgesia in their hospitals today. Acupuncture theory is based on the concept of yin and yang (male and female) and aims to restore the balance of these promoting self healing9. It can be used for treating injuries in sports medicines, relieving childhood illnesses such as asthma and eczema and helping overcome drug addiction. It is said to release blockages in the energy flow to help heal pain.
What happens during a session?
Usually, during an acupuncture session the practitioner will take a detailed history about the individuals diets and life style13. The practitioner will examine the clients tongue, colour of their face, pulse and the stomach11. Pressure is put on different areas of the body to find out what triggers the pain, anything between four and ten needles are used during a session and are normally left in the body for about 30 minutes even though sometimes they only get left in for a few seconds or minutes.
It is recommended that people do not do anything too energetic after having an acupuncture session. It is also advised that people do not drink any alcohol after a treatment, Acupuncture is a very subtle treatment, and the affect of alcohol may negate the efficacy of the treatment. This applies just to the day of treatment – taking alcohol on the day before or after is completely ok44.
How many sessions are needed?
It is recommended that several sessions are taken over a period of approximately three months and then follow up sessions may be needed14.
Does it hurt?
It is not usually painful because the needles used are very fine but clients may have a tingling or numbing sensation at the sight of insertion.
Is acupuncture safe?
It is usually a safe procedure but there is a small risk of life threatening consequences. Using unsterile needles is the main risk which can lead to infection, hepatitis, HIV and septicaemia. If the procedure is performed incorrectly then bleeding may occur. Needles used must be sterile or disposable (you should check this with your practitioner). Sometimes it can cause low blood pressure or aggravation of the complaint and occasionally there is a risk that needles are forgotten and left in place. Acupuncture shouldn’t be used if people have heart defects or bleeding disorders.
Where can you find an acupuncturist and how do you know if they are qualified?
In Europe and other countries it is usually only available privately. Finding a good acupuncturist is important and is usually by word of mouth. Care must be taken to choose one who is registered with British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) or British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS).
This ensures that they have received an intense accredited course for three to four years in UK. A list of accredited colleges can be found on the website. Practitioners should also be a member of British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). Statutory regulation of acupuncture is on the way and once complete the title of ‘acupuncturist’ will be protected by law and practitioners will have to be a member of a reputable professional body. Doctors and dentists etc practice acupuncture as long as they have trained and registered with an accredited course. However undergraduates can also apply as long as they have 240 points at A levels.
Training needed to practice acupuncture
There are many different training courses available for acupuncturists. These include ‘the foundation course’, ‘post foundation training course’, ‘the intermediate training programme’, ‘supplementary/ special topic days’, ‘foundation courses for dentists’ and ‘post foundation courses for dentists’10. Professional acupuncturists train for up to 3-4 years full time and may acquire university degrees on completion of their training. Some complete further training in the principles and practice of Chinese herbalism. All accredited acupuncture training courses include conventional anatomy, physiology, pathology, and diagnosis12.
What is shiatsu?
Shiatsu is a Japanese word, translating literally as ‘finger pressure’17. The application of pressure to the body surface is the underlining principle of shiatsu; the therapist won’t only use fingers to apply pressure, but will use palms, elbows, feet and knees17. Natural body weight is used when pressure is applied on special points on the body. Through this pressure the energy flowing in the meridians is influenced. This energy is called chi18. The thumb is the main tool of the therapists. Shiatsu is similar to acupuncture but the only difference is they use finger pressure instead of needles19.
What is its aim?
The aim of Shiatsu is to restore balance to the body and make it stronger thereby assisting the body to heal itself21. Its goal is to restore the healthy flow of energy throughout the body19. Its aim is to fulfil persons need to be touched17. It can be used to maintain good health as well as help improve poor health.
What happens during a shiatsu session?
It is recommended that loose clothing is worn during a shiatsu session. It is also best not to wear any jewellery, aftershave or perfume. Shiatsu is usually performed on a mat on the floor, but if clients can’t lie on the floor then shiatsu can be adapted to another position e.g. sitting on a chair or lying on a couch21. The therapist uses his thumbs and fingers to put pressure on certain parts of the client’s body19. Pressure is applied to ‘meridians’ or ‘energy lines’ through a variety of different techniques that include: stretching, holding and massage20.
Sessions usually last up to an hour and during this time the therapists gets a chance to ask the client about their symptoms, issues and so on. The practitioner may give advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle, encouraging self-understanding and greater independence in health matters. This in turn leads to improved self-confidence and lasting peace of mind for the patient21. After having a shiatsu session it is recommended that clients should take a little rest and drink plenty of water. It is important to avoid any heavy exercise or heavy meals, it is also recommended to keep warm but to avoid having a warm bath45.
How many sessions are needed?
It depends on a person’s condition to be able to say how many sessions are needed. Sometimes people do benefit from a single session, but it is recommended than about 6 sessions are needed for full benefit20. Different therapists recommend different amounts of sessions.
Does shiatsu hurt?
Shiatsu manipulates and stretches the muscles and can be quite uncomfortable but shouldn’t hurt25. It is said that shiatsu should feel like a good-sore sensation26. The only uncomfortable things you should feel during a session are a deep aching feeling as if you just excersied an old muscle, a tingling feeling in your body27.
Training needed to become a shiatsu therapist
The training requirements require a minimum of 500 hours studying shiatsu, of which 350 must be with a Shiatsu Society Teacher. The remainder may be with someone with the skills to teach the required material. Most schools hold end of year assessments22. After qualifying as a graduate, in order to be eligible to apply to join the Register of Professional Practitioners of the Shiatsu Society, it is a requirement to have been a member of the Society for two consecutive years22.
Duly qualified therapists will have the letters MRSS after their name which means ‘Member of the Register of the Shiatsu Society17’. If you plan on using complementary medicine please be aware that it is all too easy for people to set themselves up as complementary therapists who in reality have little or no training. It is important, therefore, to ensure that any therapist you go to is a member of a recognised body and it is essential to satisfy yourself as to whether they have had correct training and that their qualifications are genuine24.
How much does it cost?
A cost for a shiatsu session varies from how long the session you get is. The prices vary from ï¿½30 -ï¿½60 depending on what therapist you get23. A few cancer centers and hospitals in the UK may offer patients shiatsu treatments free of charge. Ask your nurse or doctor if this is an option where you have your treatment.
What is Alexander’s technique?
The Alexander technique is often viewed as a technique of breathing and posture, but this is only a small part of what it really involves. It is, in truth, a method of becoming more aware of ourselves as we go about everyday activities28. It is a way that we can learn how to get rid of harmful tension in our bodies. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination29.