What is Acupuncture?


Acupuncture is a holistic system of treatment which  encourages repair and healing in the body by stimulating specific points on the body called acupuncture points.  Acupuncture points can be stimulated by various methods including heat (moxibustion), a partial vacuum (cupping), massage (acupressure), laser, and of course needles. Acupuncture needles are single use, pre-sterilized and made from fine stainless steel wire.  Typical diameters are 0.18 to 0.25 mm, with most acupuncture needles being manufactured in China, Korea or Japan.

In classical acupuncture theory the body is understood to be interconnected by various energy pathways called acupuncture ‘meridians’ or ‘channels’.  Energy and blood are understood to circulate through these channels connecting and nourishing the tissues of the body. If the flow in the channels is depleted or obstructed then symptoms of imbalance manifest and eventually disease occurs. The acupuncturists role is to identify the nature and location of the problem in the channels, and to choose and stimulate suitable points to restore the flow through the channels and bring the body back to health. Diagnostic methods include detailed questioning, palpation of the body to look for imbalance, palpation of acupuncture points, and often examination of the tongue and pulse. In contemporary practice these traditional methods can be  supplemented by the results of investigations such as xrays, MRIs, ultrasounds and blood tests where necessary.

Acupuncture is popular for musculo-skeletal complaints, sports injuries and pain, but is also effective for a wide range of general health complaints such as an anxiety, stress, insomnia, hay-fever and sinus;  headaches, hormonal and fertility problems; complaints of pregnancy including  nausea of pregnancy, turning a breech baby, inducing labor, digestive complaints  and much more.

Acupuncture is believed to have originated in the south of China over 3000 years ago. Apprentice style training gave way to formal education in 624CE (that’s about 1500 years ago!) with the founding of the Imperial Medical Academy. Acupuncture spread to Japan and Korea during the sixth century, and to Vietnam between the eighth and tenth centuries. Acupuncture’s introduction to the West is often linked to the New York Times article about the experience of a member of the United States of America (USA) press corp who had acupuncture in China following an emergency appendectomy. Acupuncture had in fact found its way to the west much earlier and was brought to France by French missionaries in the sixteenth century.  Following popularity in France acupuncture also became known in Britain and the USA in the early nineteenth century. The initial interest in Britain and American did not continue much after the 1830’s, however by 1925 acupuncture was taught in French hospitals. French interest was sustained by George Soulie de Morant who published acupuncture textbooks in 1934, 1939 and 1972.  Acupuncture’s arrival in Russia is attributed to 1928,  and by 1955 VG Volgralik had started using acupuncture for smoking cessation. French experimentation with smoking cessation treatments was documented in 1959 and in 1965 a controlled clinical trial of acupuncture was conducted in Japan. Acupuncture is now widely practiced in the western world

Acupuncture came to Australia in the 1850’s with immigrant Chinese workers during the gold rush and rose to prominence following the establishment of formal training courses in the in 1970’s. Acupuncture is now considered one of the most popular  complementary therapies in Australia and  is taught in publicly funded universities and government accredited private colleges. Acupuncture enjoys private health insurance status throughout Australia and is exempted from the Goods and Services Tax (GST)  under Commonwealth taxation law. Most workers compensation schemes pay a benefit for treatment provided by registered acupuncturists. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are regulated by the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (one of the 14 health boards under the umbrella of AHPRA – Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority.  The minimum standard for registration is a four year bachelor’s degree, or a graduate entry master’s degree.