I’ve always been curious about acupuncture but never really knew the theory behind it, although I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been throwing around the word qi for years, writes Laura Burgoine…
During a treatment and consultation at Breathe, Colombo Centre, acupuncturist Simon Plant explained to me that the qi (pronounced as “chi”) is a natural energy that flows through channels of the body but these channels can get blocked, preventing the qi from flowing freely. This is remedied by inserting needles into certain points of the body to redirect the flow and remove the blockage. In Chinese medicine it is believed that people are born with a certain energy and this reacts with external forces like air, food, environment, which generally are the causes of illness. Catching a common cold for instance is the effect of the weather, a force outside the body.
As such, treating symptoms comes through exploration, after taking pulses, feeling the body’s energy and checking the tongue. Different channels of energy connect to different organs through complex pathways; there are 12 primary meridians (channels): six on the legs and six on the arms.
A thorough health consultation prior to treatment is very necessary in locating points, as is an assessment of the body. First we begin with a tongue examination, which reveals more than one would imagine as each part of the tongue reflects an organ. The tip of the tongue connects to the heart and lungs, the body indicates the health of the stomach and spleen, the sides show the liver and gallbladder and the back shows the kidneys and bladder. The overall shape, colour, tooth marks and patches are also clear indicators of overall health.
“It’s almost impossible to have the ideal tongue in London,” Simon says, highlighting stress, pollution and poor diet habits as all too common big city influences on health.
The pulse is equally revealing; Simon takes my pulse from several different pressure points before determining where to insert the needles.
I have two needles inserted into my lower legs, one in my stomach and one on each wrist. For anyone afraid of needles, these are not like hypodermic injections. The needles are so fine you can’t even feel them being inserted and once mine were in I could only feel one of the five niggling ever so slightly at a muscle in my leg; it’s not a painful process by any means. The needles can be left in for varying amounts of time, often around 10-20 minutes with checks between. The needles loosen as the body relaxes and reacts.
People use acupuncture for different reasons, some on a long-term basis for chronic pain (commonly for recurring neck, shoulder and back pain) and others sporadically when they feel the need. It’s used quite extensively for women trying to get pregnant, either naturally or through IVF. It’s not a quick-fix alternative to western medicine by any means, Simon explains. “There’s no miracle cure, the body is like an onion and you continue to peel back the layers and understand more and more about it through exploration”.
Breathe London Wellbeing Centre Colombo Sports & Community Centre, 34-68 Colombo St, Waterloo, SE1. 020 7261 1658