What is Acupuncture?
Most people are familiar with the concept of acupuncture, the insertion of fine needles into energy points on the body to elicit a healing response. It does this by stimulating the flow of Qi (energy) through the acupuncture meridians or channels. The acupuncture channels, also referred to as meridians or Jing Luo in Chinese, travel throughout the body on the limbs, trunk and head. Most insertions are pretty shallow unless we’re treating very large muscle groups e.g. glutes.
Acupuncture has its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine and can be traced as far back as 6000bc. We say that the great advantage of Traditional Chinese Medicine in general and Acupuncture in particular is its age, everything that didn’t work was discarded long ago and what’s left is a very effective and highly distilled form of natural medicine. The needles vary in size and can be a small as a couple of millimetres in length. Diameters tend to be measured in fractions of millimetres. They really are very fine
Does it Hurt?
No, not really at all. The experience is subjective in that everyone experiences it differently. You may feel a heavy, pulling, tingly or buzzing sensation upon insertion. This usually comes in waves and eases in intensity as the treatment progresses. Sometimes I may administer a trigger point (often referred to as dry needling) acupuncture treatment in which I want to elicit a twitch response in the muscle so as to relax it. This can feel like a momentary spasm which immediately eases off but is not painful.
How long does it last?
The actual acupuncture treatment itself last approximately 20 minutes, however, depending on whether it’s an initial consultation in which we have to discuss your medical case history or whether you’re receiving it on combination with massage or cupping etc we will likely have to book a longer appointment. A standard acupuncture only return appointment lasts 30 minutes of which 20 minutes is the actual physical treatment.
What are the benefits?
It works. It’s scientifically proven to treat pain effectively. In fact, in many studies it treats pain more effectively than non-steroidalanti-inflammatory drugs and opioids and with no side effects too. It eases your pain and lets you get on with living your life and doing the things you love to do. After all a healthy person has many wishes, a sick person has just one.
How does it work?
I like to explain this like I’m speaking to a 6-year-old. The acupuncture channels are like streets or roads criss-crossing a city. The traffic is the energy (Qi) that flows through the channels. The acupuncture points are like traffic lights directing traffic at the junctions. Sometimes there is a traffic jam and the traffic (energy) comes to a standstill causing traffic to build up throughout the city network. We often refer to this as a Qi or blood stagnation or stasis. If there is a build-up in one place, there is often an absence or deficiency in another. When we insert the acupuncture point, we can strengthen the flow of Qi (energy) to the area or we can disperse a build-up of stagnation thus harmonising the flow of energy and restoring health and homeostasis (dynamic balance).
Yeah but how does it really work?
Ok, so here’s a more scientific explanation. The acupuncture meridians essentially overlay the nervous system like a map. The insertion and manipulation of acupuncture needles has a cascading effect on various functions of the body. Initial insertion stimulates the granulation and activation of fascial fibroblasts which are cellsthat play a crucial role in wound healing. Through scientific research we know that when we insert a needle it stimulates the afferent (sensory) nerves.We know this because cutting the afferent nerve eliminates the effect whereas cutting the motor nerve does not. However, when we practice trigger point acupuncture (dry needling) we stimulate the motor nerve, we know this because it causes a twitch response in the muscle. When observing the brain during acupuncture via a functional MRI scanner we can see activation of certain parts of the brain and deactivation of others. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins (endogenous morphine) and increases sensitivity to morphine resulting in a lower required dosage for effectiveness. ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate which is the unit of energy in the cell) and subsequently adenosine increases during acupuncture.
So, what does all that mean?
Based on the most recent scientific research we can say that Acupuncture stimulates the body to release its own natural painkillers in the form of endorphins and adenosine. It stimulates the wound healing capabilities of specific cells in the body(fibroblasts) and by stimulating the release of ATP it stimulates the release of energy on a cellular level.
There is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of acupuncture to treat the following conditions:
• Migraine prevention
• Low back pain
• Knee/osteo arthritis
• Allergic rhinitis
• Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting
• Post-operative Nausea and vomiting
• Post-operative pain
For the latest information on the science and evidence of acupuncture please visit:
What is Cupping?
So maybe you’ve seen professional athletes and Olympians with big pepperoni like red and purple circles on their back, shoulders, arms etc and maybe you wondered what it was. Well that’s the sign they’ve been for some cupping therapy. Cupping is a component practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been used for thousands of years. It’s also been quite a common folk remedy for a host of maladies throughout Europe and Asia and I often get older Greek, Italian and Eastern European patients tell me how their mothers and grandmothers used to do it on their family back home.
How does it work?
Cupping works by creating a vacuum inside a cup and attaching that cup to a part of the body that requires treatment. As a practitioner trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I use traditional glass cups and an open flame which is placed inside the cup to suck out the oxygen and create the vacuum. The cups are then left on for 5-8 minutes usually in order to have a therapeutic effect.
What does it do?
The cup creates a vacuum and it sucks! Literally. By sucking it stretches the muscles and fascia beneath and stimulates the flow of blood. From a TCM perspective we use the cup to disperse stagnant blood. The darker the mark it leaves the more stagnation was present is the general rule of thumb. Tightness in the muscles can constrict and restrict the flow of blood causing stagnation and this in turn leads to pain. Stimulating movement eases the pain and restores mobility
This is basically a form of heat therapy. Moxa is made of mugwort a resinous herb which we light and hold over a specific point to heat and stimulate movement. From a TCM perspective cold constricts and reduces movement and heat stimulates movement. Heat is an effective treatment for cold type pain and stiffness.
Michael studied acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine under the tutelage or Professor Tom Shanahan at the Irish College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and graduated in 2010. Michael continues to work in clinical practice as an acupuncturist in Avondale Heights and Doreen.