Acupuncture, a healing art practiced in China for over two thousand years, has received attention and acceptance in Western cultures relatively recently. It is based on the premise that illness occurs when the flow of vital energy, Qi, is obstructed or out of balance. Stimulating certain points on the body can help correct this obstruction or imbalance and, consequently, relieve pain and restore health.
Acupuncturists use unique techniques and diagnostic methods to determine patterns of imbalance or disharmony. In a typical assessment session, an acupuncturist assesses a patient's vitality and general physical, mental and emotional condition by:
- examining the patient's tongue, complexion and general appearance
- listening to the patient's voice, breathing and abdominal sounds
- noting body odours
- checking pulses at several points on each wrist and other specific points
- asking questions about body functions such as digestion, sleep patterns and eating habits
- conducting palpation of muscle groups, joints and skin for abnormalities or dysfunction.
Through patients' physicians, acupuncturists also may arrange for additional tests, analyses and x-rays to assist in diagnosing problems.
Once they have made a diagnosis, acupuncturists determine which body points should be stimulated, how and for how long. Treatment may include placing needles, the width of a few hairs, at select points all over the body. Other traditional methods of treatment such as moxibustion, cupping and tuina massage may be employed. Acupuncturists also may recommend herbal supplements, exercises or dietary changes.