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Alternative Therapies:  Acupuncture

An ancient Chinese therapy, patients are treated by sticking needles into their skin at particular points. These acupuncture points lie along invisible energy channels called meridians. The needles are said to unblock a flow of energy (called Qi) through the meridians.

Traditional Chinese medicine views the body as a balance between two opposing natural forces yin-the female force- and yang-the male. Yin force is passive and tranquil. Yang force is aggressive and stimulating. An imbalance of yin and yang is believed to cause diseases and ailments. In acupuncture, diagnosis and therapy are aimed at identifying any imbalance and correcting it by inserting needles at appropriate points.

It is important that you only consult a practitioner affiliated to the Council for Acupuncture. A good acupuncturist now uses disposable acupuncture needles from sealed, sterilised packs, or he will sterilise them in a machine called an autoclave. Boiling water is not adequate, as acupuncture needles can transit blood-borne diseases.

Discovery has revealed that the body produces opiates called endorphins and enkephalins, which dull the senses and are part of its pain relieving system. Studies have shown that acupuncture releases these opiates into the bodys central nervous system, and that the amount of pain relief felt after acupuncture relates directly to the amount of opiates that are released. A small number of Western teaching hospitals and pain clinics use acupuncture to relieve pain.

Orthodox research based on a number of experiments involving animals, and the use of drugs on humans, has now discovered that it is possible to stop a pain signal reaching the brain by closing a gate on the nerve along which the signal travels from the source of pain. This stops you feeling pain, and it is thought that acupuncture may work in a similar way. But doctors point to a danger that acupuncture may mask certain symptoms, which are warnings that call for orthodox treatment.

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