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The acupuncturist corrects an imbalance in the body's energy flow, or Chi, by inserting needles at specific points. This woman is being treated for hay fever.

A traditional Chinese acupuncture chart shows meridians, or channels of the body's energy flow, and pressure points. The bust below shows the meridians on the head and shoulders and the poi nts where the needles should be inserted.

An ancient Chinese technique, acupuncture works by releasing the body's vital energy, known as Chi. Once this life force is flowing freely, a number of physical problems can be relieved, from headache to asthma.

In China, Japan and many other parts of the Far East, it is one of the most common forms of treatment. It is particularly effective in dealing with pain and with specific physical problems, such as arthritis, asthma, headache and eczema.


Chinese medicine regards 'Chi' as the body's vital energy and it flows through channels called meridians. The meridians are separate from the circulatory or nervous systems. They are an independent network and have acupuncture points dotted along them.

Chi comprises the two elements known as 'yin' and 'yang'. These are complex entities but yin can be regarded as the male principle. Its opposite, yang, is the female principle.

In health, yin and yang are in a delicately fluctuating balance with each other. However, if they are thrown out of balance, the Chi can no longer flow freely through the body and the result of this is illness.

The acupuncturist will study your eyes, skin and tongue to gain an impression of your general state of health. A pale tongue, for instance, may be a sign of a poor diet or anaemia.

Acupuncture facts

In 1979, the World Health Organisation recognized acupuncture as a successful treatment for 40 diseases, including ulcers, migraines and painful menstruation.

Acupuncture has remarkable pain-killing powers and has even been used during surgery. This may be because, when a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, the body releases its own natural painkillers called endorphins.

The origins of this ancient technique are shrouded in mystery. The founder is thought to have been Shen Nung, also known as the Yellow Emperor, who lived around 2700BC.

Acupuncture can be successful with patients suffering from emotional or psychological problems - such as anxiety and depression - as well as physical conditions.



The imbalance between yin and yang can spring from a variety of causes, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, bad posture, emotional strain and lack of sleep.

If the flow of Chi is disrupted, it won't reach certain areas of the body and often a painful condition will develop there, such as sciatica. If the Chi is blocked, a build-up can cause inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or a migraine. A lack of Chi can lead to a lack of energy.

The acupuncturist aims to set the Chi flowing freely. He looks at specific ailments as well as your breathing and your voice and then take 12 different pulses, six at each wrist, each of which relates to different functions of the body.

Finally, he may ask you about your lifestyle and if your symptoms change at different times of the day.


Having made a diagnosis, the acupuncturist decides where the Chi has been disrupted and inserts sterile needles at the relevant acupuncture points. He may insert the needles around the problem area or in a different part of the body. For instance, he may treat a migraine by inserting needles in the hand, knee, foot or ear lobe.


The actual treatment - inserting the needles - should not cause any pain. The acupuncturist may insert them just below the surface of the

skin, or several centimetres deep. He may leave them in place, or he may rotate them in position. The needles may also be heated with a dried herb, moxa, on the tips - a

process known as moxibustion.

Treatments can last up to an hour and you will usually need a course, depending on the condition.

Many people use acupuncture as a successful means of giving up smoking. It can also be used to treat other addictions - to alcohol, sleeping pills or other drugs.



Taken from THE HEALTH FILE  A Complete Medical Encyclopedia, A MARSHALL CAVENDISH REFERENCE COLLECTION by DR JOHN CORMACK, WEEKLY Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia Singapore Malta RSA Other Countries Namibia.

DR JOHN CORMACK, BDS MB BS MRCS LRCP, is the medical consultant to The Health File. The senior partner in an Essex­ based practice, he is also a member of the General Medical Council and has written for numerous magazines and news­papers as well as for the medical press. He is a regular broadcaster on television and radio and has scripted a number of award-winning educational videos.


Copyright Marshall Cavendish 1995, Printed in Great Britain, Published by Marshall Cavendish Partworks Ltd, 119 Wardour Street, London WIV 3TD

(Due to the urgency of education on this site, spelling will be corrected at a later stage….All photos and charts in the  script have been left out).

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