Acupuncture is an ancient art that involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into specific points on the body to create a desired therapeutic effect. The roots of Acupuncture delve deep into Taoist philosophy and so to truly understand acupuncture a knowledge of these esoteric roots are required. Concepts such as Qi, Jing and Shen are interwoven with meridians, channels, heaven and Earth. The study of Acupuncture is a journey into the nature of life itself. Given these mystical beginnings it may be surprising that Acupunctures main benefit is its practical application. Although its function and inner workings are often shrouded in mystery its physical application and benefit is beyond doubt. The World Health Organisation now recommends Acupuncture for 28 different diseases and another 63 are pending.
The first video above introduces some basic concepts within Traditional Acupuncture. The second video explores the concept of Shen or Spirit in the role of healing.
Although often seen as an individual treatment, historically Acupuncture was part of a much wider treatment modality. A treatment may also involve Moxabustion, which is the warming of particular points with a herb. It may also involve cupping, where glass jars are used to create suction over certain parts of the body. The main goal of all these techniques is to effect the flow and the strength of the Qi in particular channels. Herbal formulas are also often used in conjunction with regular treatments. Many different treatments but all have the same goal, to effect the Qi and create balance. Lesser known modalities are also used, such as Qi Gong, Meditation and Tai Chi. Historically these modalities were often used first and have the capacity to empower the patient in their own healing.
What is Traditional or Classical Acupuncture
Many people are unaware that within Acupuncture there are many different styles. For ease of explanation these can be divided into 2 camps, Classical or Traditional and Western Acupuncture.
Within classical acupuncture there are also many different styles that may emphasise one aspect over another. However, all these styles have one thing in common, there theoretical basis comes from the classic acupuncture texts, such as the Ling Shu and Su Wen. These documents set out the theoretical underpinnings of acupuncture, for a style to be truly classical it must have its roots deeply entwined with these works.
The westernised model of acupuncture does not take its root from these texts, instead it applies acupuncture to the anatomy and physiological model that is predominant in Europe and North America.
So other than asking the practitioner, how would you know which style you've received? and what are the main differences in approach? If the acupuncturist you see takes your pulse before and during treatment, their style is more classical based. The pulse can used to determine the underlying cause or root disharmony which is causing the main complaint. Within this approach the treatment is divided into two, the root and the branch. The root is the underlying imbalance and the branch is the symptom. By treating both we can speed up the recovery rate and after a while no more treatments should be required. A westernised approach focuses solely on the branch, the symptom. This means needles will generally be kept to the local area of disease and the root imbalance is not considered. In general the application of westernised acupuncture is very simple where as classical acupuncture can be extremely complex.
Over the years I've met people who have experienced good success with both styles and I feel there is certainly merit to both. However I also feel it's good know the difference, so you can make an informed choice.