Questions & Answers About Acupuncture
— A Patient Primer

Q : What is acupuncture?
A : Acupuncture is a complete medical system used to diagnose, prevent and treat illness, and improve well-being. It is effective for physical, psychological and emotional problems. Acupuncture originated in China more than 3,000 years ago and, due to its proven effectiveness, has now been embraced throughout the world.

Chinese character for “chi”
Brush-stroke Chinese calligraphy for “qi” or chi.
Q : How does acupuncture work?
A : In ancient Chinese philosophy, the human body is described as “energy” rather than “matter”. This is the basis for understanding acupuncture. The Chinese system of medicine utilised what is known as “chi”, or the electrical properties of the body. Chi is present in every living organism and flows along very specific pathways called “meridians”. While energy flows naturally along these pathways, health is sustained, However, when this energy flow is obstructed for any reason, the system of energy is disrupted and this results in pain or illness. When specific points along these energy pathways are stimulated with acupuncture the blocked energy is released, thus enabling health to be restored.

Q : Is Acupuncture suitable for me ?
A : Anyone can derive the benefits of acupuncture. Patients at our clinic have ranged in age from new born to well into the nineties. Acupuncture is used safely and effectively in paediatric care, although it is more usual for children below the age of four years to be treated with acupressure rather than needles.

Q : Is there a scientific basis to acupuncture?
A : Tests and observations by Western medicine have proven that acupuncture points have a wide variety of unique electrical and physical attributes. Stimulation of such points creates definite physiological responses, such as change in heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, blood chemistry, endocrine function, intestinal activity and immunological reaction.

Q : What problems are effectively treated by acupuncture?
A : The World Health Organisation recognises that acupuncture is effective for over 40 diseases and syndromes. Though acupuncture is not necessarily a cure for all medical problems, documentation proves its effectiveness in treating the following conditions:–
RESPIRATORY
Asthma, Pleurisy, Bronchitis, and Emphysema.
SKIN DISORDERS
Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis and painful scars.
EAR, NOSE and THROAT
Common cold, Influenza, Tinnitus, Nerve deafness, Meniere’s disease, Eye problems, Sinusitis and loss of smell.
GASTROINTESTINAL
Hyperacidity, Nausea, Ulcers, Colitis, Constipation, Spastic colon, Diarrhoea and Haemorrhoids.
CARDIOVASCULAR
High and low blood pressure, Angina Pectoris, Palpitations and cold extremities.
NEUROLOGICAL
Headaches (Migraine and Tension types), Tic, Tremors, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Bell’s Palsy, Shingles, Sciatica, Post-Stroke syndrome, General neuralgias and numbness.
PSYCHOLOGICAL
Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia and Nervous Tension.
MISCELLANEOUS
Obesity, Smoking and addictions, Allergies such as Hayfever.
MUSCULOSKELETAL
Arthritis (All types), Tendinitis, Bursitis, Low Back pain, Shoulder/Neck pain and stiffness, Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel syndrome, Repetitive Strain injury, Injuries of knee and ankle. Most sports injuries.
GYNAECOLOGICAL and UROGENITAL
Cystitis, Prostatitis, Bedwetting, Menstrual Disorders including P.M.T., Infertility, Anaesthesia in childbirth.

Q : What happens in a typical treatment?
A : A typical acupuncture treatment utilises five or more very thin stainless steel needles. These are inserted through the skin at special points on the body. Since the needles are so thin, the patient only feels a slight sensation when inserted. A sensation of distention or tingling is often felt when the needle reaches the acupuncture point beneath the skin. The needles are left in position for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, at which time they are removed simply and painlessly. Some patients notice an immediate improvement after the first visit, while others may not notice any until the cumulative effect of four or five treatments. Infrequently there is a slight worsening of symptoms after a first visit, however, nearly always there is an improvement of the condition which follows.

Q : How many treatments will I need?
A : Between four and eight treatments constitute a typical course, with treatment being provided once or twice a week. A course of treatment starts with a one hour full consultation and treatment, subsequent visits being for 3/4 hour. Due to the variation of remedial time- frames, one must complete treatment before conclusively evaluating its effectiveness. In acute or early stages of an illness, quick and dramatic results can often be achieved where more chronic conditions usually call for an extended period of treatment.

Q : What criteria should one use in choosing an acupuncturist?   (NZRA Certification)
A : Acupuncture is a licensed and regulated profession in approximately half the countries of the World. New Zealand currently does not require licensing of acupuncturists. Because of this, it is recommended that patients seek practitioners who have passed the five-hour examination to determine academic, hygiene and professional competence, to become a member of the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists (NZRA). In what is believed to be a first for a country outside of China itself, standards in acupuncture based specifically on traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture are recognised under statute in this country. For the public this means that only the highly qualified members of NZRA are eligible to provide acupuncture to patients under ACC.

Q : Do acupuncturists only insert needles?
A : No. Acupuncture is just one aspect of traditional Chinese medicine. Most practitioners are trained to use a number of adjunctive therapies. These typically include moxibustion, which is the burning of the herb Artemisia Vulgaris over the affected area to provide warmth, various types of massage such as acupressure and food therapy including administration of traditional Chinese medicines.

Q : Are the needles clean?
A : Most acupuncturists in New Zealand today, including the Karori Health Centre, use pre-sterilised, individually packaged, disposable needles.

Q : How does acupuncture relate to conventional Western medicine?
A : Acupuncture is extremely useful in the treatment of certain kinds of medical problems which do not respond readily to Western medical remedies. For example, in conditions involving chronic pain, acupuncture represents an alternative which is usually more effective and beneficial than drug therapy. When analgesic drugs are used over long periods of time, undesirable side effects often develop. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is extremely safe, effective and free from side effects.
However, acupuncture and Western Medicine are not mutually exclusive. Very often, acupuncture is used in conjunction with Western medical and surgical treatments and proves very satisfactory.

Q : Is it true that acupuncture is used for anaesthesia during major surgery in China?
A : The pain killing use of acupuncture in surgery in China opened Western medical eyes to the potential powers of this ancient art. What must be understood is that acupuncture used in modern outpatient clinics involves a different process to that used in anaesthesia. Uninformed commentators in the past have belittled acupuncture as merely masking an underlying condition, however nothing could not be further from the truth. The relief and well being experienced as a result of an acupuncture treatment can easily be observed as involving the underlying physiology.

Most patients will have more questions than these. Your enquiries are considered valuable to us and can be answered by our office staff, or by the practitioner. Please contact us for any further enquiries or details.