Acupuncture as an ancient holistic healing tradition mobilises the body's self-healing and regenerative potentials in a very direct way. The needles placed by the acupuncturist at selected acupuncture points act as information carriers to indicate to the body where an imbalance has occurred - a blockage in the energy flow of vital Qi, or a state of emptiness or fullness, which has a disruptive effect on the interlocking functional harmony of the organ systems.
Unlike Chinese acupuncture, Japanese acupuncture places great emphasis on gentle treatment that is as painless as possible. After a thorough diagnosis (anamnesis, visual and tactile findings of meridians, abdomen, tongue and pulses), the basic pattern of a patient is treated first (root treatment), then - in the same session - the presenting symptoms (branch treatment). Depending on the findings, moxibustion (heat treatment by burning dried mugwort herb), cupping or gua sha (Chinese scraping technique) are used in addition to the use of very fine acupuncture needles.
Moxa, Cupping, Gua-Sha, Meridian Therapy
- Moxibustion is a collective term for different heat applications with dried mugwort herb. Depending on the indication, moxa can be burnt directly on the skin (e.g. as rice grain moxa or as moxa cones on the skin) or indirectly near the skin, for example with the moxa cigar in "picking moxa" or as a moxa attachment on an acupuncture needle. Indirect moxibustion of the meridian courses with warm bamboo (Ontake moxa treatment) is also very popular due to its strengthening and relaxing effect.
- Gua Sha
A simple, time-honoured manual scraping technique (scraping = "gua") from China, also known as Chinese coin massage. Using oil and a porcelain spoon or special rounded scraper, pressure is applied in one direction to stimulate the microcirculation of the tissue, producing therapeutic petechiae ("sha"), an extravasation of blood and lymph into the subcutis. The mode of action is similar to cupping, but the result of a treatment is more intense and leaves discolouration and slight infiltration of blood into the tissue for about 1 week. Gua sha has a strong anti-inflammatory and immunoprotective effect and can dissolve and relieve pain, myogeloses and chronic muscle stiffness. The treatment is found to be very beneficial, strengthening and liberating.
- Needle-free Meridian Treatment
This whole-body treatment focuses on the energetic meridian system of Chinese medicine. Based on pulse, abdominal and tongue diagnostics, the relevant meridians and acupuncture points are selected that correspond to the patient's symptoms and complaints. The treatment is carried out with warm bamboo (Ontake) and gentle manual stroking of the meridians and light acupressure on targeted acupuncture points. This stimulates the body's self-healing powers, releases blockages and balances the body's energy flows, resulting in beneficial relaxation and rebalancing of the energy household.
- Cupping is a time-honoured method that can be found in many cultures. Suction cups made of silicone or glass in different sizes are used. They create a vacuum-based inverse pressure and either glide over the body in cupping massage or are fixated on indicated areas, e.g. on a myogelosis or reflex zone. Cupping increases blood circulation, loosens muscles and fasciae and has a pain-relieving effect. The discolorations caused by a cupping treatment are not bruises resulting from an injury (external force or trauma) in the traditional sense. The discolorations of a cupping treatment are not sensitive to touch and can be understood as stagnated blood, cellular remnants or pathogens from a previous illness or injury brought to the surface.
Indications - When does Acupuncture help?
Acupuncture has so far been used successfully in the following areas of application:
- Pain of all kinds, especially headaches and migraines, neck, shoulder, elbow and back pain, joint pain, pain of the musculoskeletal system
- Digestive disorders and complaints, reflux, heartburn
- Respiratory diseases, allergies, asthma
- Mood swings, irritability and nervous restlessness, sleep disorders
- Weakness and exhaustion, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Fertility problems and irregularities in the female cycle
- Circulatory and blood flow disorders, cold hands and/or feet
In Japanese acupuncture, the focus is on harmonising and balancing the system as a whole (root treatment), symptoms are only addressed secondarily (branch treatment), as they indicate a lack of balance in the system. Therefore, acupuncture is also very suitable for prevention, to trigger the self-regulating forces of the body long before symptoms appear. The treatment is always based on what is present at the time, so each treatment - even for the same patient - is individually oriented towards the actual condition.
How does Acupuncture help?
- Analgesic: Acupuncture raises the pain sensitivity threshold of the brain so that pain sensitivity decreases. The therapeutic effect of acupuncture is cumulative, i.e. repeated applications can lower the pain threshold of the nervous system in the long term.
- Stress-reducing: Acupuncture promotes the activity of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This is responsible for the regeneration and restorative processes in the body ("rest and digest"). Its counterpart, the sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight"), is over-stimulated in today's society (stress due to work demands, constant overstimulation, etc.) and thus suppresses the regenerative processes of the ANS. Strengthening the ANS can counteract many stress-related phenomena (many autoimmune events and chronic inflammatory conditions have been linked to overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system).
- Calms the immune system: Acupuncture regulates and harmonises the immune system so that auto-immune and inflammatory reactivity is shut down and the immune system does not overreact, anti-inflammatory processes are subsequently activated.
- Stimulates regeneration in the tissues: Acupuncture increases blood flow and improves microcirculation in the tissues and joints. This increases the nourishment of the tissues and assists removal of metabolic residues and/or deposits.
- Balances neuroendocrine communication: winding down the nervous system has an immediate and calming effect on the endocrine, immune, digestive and circulatory systems. Hormone production and secretion normalise, the tendency towards inflammation is suppressed, blood circulation and nutrient absorption and utilisation are increased.
When is Acupuncture contra-indicated?
Acupuncture is a very safe treatment method with few side effects. Especially in Japanese acupuncture, which uses very superficial needling with the finest sterile disposable needles, complications are rare. However, caution is still advised for:
- Patients with a tendency towards circulatory collapse or very low blood pressure.
- Epileptics (risk of triggering a seizure)
- Patients with infectious diseases (please consult a doctor!)
- Patients with acute inflammations, fractures and fresh injuries
- Tumour diseases should only be treated adjunctively with acupuncture, not as a primary treatment strategy (please see your doctor!)
- "Bleeders" - patients with haemophilia or bleeding tendencies or patients taking anticoagulants should inform the practitioner accordingly. In Japanese acupuncture, the likelihood of needling a vessel is vanishingly small (needling depth no more than 0.5 mm subdermally).
- Patients with skin conditions (eczema, hives, dermatitis, etc.) can be treated with appropriate caution
- Patients with uncontrolled movements (e.g. Huntington's disease, Tourette's syndrome, tremor)
- Patients with specific severe mental disorders (e.g. schizophrenia, mania, delusion), however, acupuncture is indicated for depression or anxiety disorders
- Pregnant women, especially in the first two trimesters - here, accompanying acupuncture can be helpful, but there are some acupuncture points that are absolutely contraindicated, as they can induce labour.
- If the stimulation is too strong, the patient may feel dizzy during or after the treatment.
Before a treatment, a detailed anamnesis and manual diagnostics are carried out. The acupuncturist always decides on a case-by-case basis which form and duration of treatment is appropriate. Patients who are already undergoing medical treatment for a condition can seek advice from their doctor before their first visit as to whether he or she recommends acupuncture treatment.