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What is acupuncture?

Image de Masaaki Komori

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on a holistic view. TCM argues that the human body is an organic whole with structurally inseparable components that function interactively and pathologically influence each other. In fact, according to TCM, at the heart of this integral unit which is the human body are the organs and viscera. These are connected to the various tissues, constituents, orifices and organs of the senses through the intermediary of the meridians. Qi (energy), blood, essence and bodily fluids are the essential substances which ensure the unifying and coordinating action of the organs and viscera. Each organ and viscera has its own function to ensure the physiological activities of the human body. However, the integrity of these activities is ensured by the complementary and restrictive actions of the organs on one another. It is on this conception of the human body as an integral whole that TCM is based to describe its physiological and pathological activities. The external manifestation of a disease is the presence of a number of signs and symptoms. Signs and symptoms are items that are used to make a medical diagnosis. However, according to TCM, identifying a disease through a syndrome (a set of signs and symptoms) allows conclusions to be drawn about the root of the disease. Therefore, TCM pays special attention to identifying the syndrome to thereby find the pathomechanism causing the disease or health disorder.


Acupuncture is an important treatment modality for TCM. This treatment involves inserting fine, single-use stainless steel needles (usually 0.22-0.25mm) into selected acupuncture points. Acupuncture points can also be stimulated by other methods; by pressure (tuina massage), suction cup, heat (moxa powdered mugwort compacted in combustion or electromagnetic lamp). All of these techniques are used in order to promote the circulation of Qi and blood or to reduce any stagnation and obstruction in the body. As a result, the stimulation of acupuncture points helps balance yin and yang, and restore optimal health of body and mind.

The therapeutic effect of acupuncture is influenced by various factors such as the accuracy of the location of the acupuncture point, the patient's state of health, the amount of needles used, the depth of insertion, the type of manipulation and also the intensity of the stimulation. The type of stimulation, the selection of acupuncture points and the method of manipulation depend mainly on the experience and preferences of the acupuncturist. The frequency and number of treatments differ from person to person. Some people experience tremendous relief during the initial treatment. For chronic or long-term conditions, one to 2 treatments per week for several months may be suggested. For acute illnesses, often fewer visits are needed; usually 8-10 visits in total.

Session d'acupuncture

Course of acupuncture treatment

First visit

The acupuncturist assesses the patient's energy profile through questioning, observation, ausculation and palpation of certain areas of the body as needed. Tongue examination and pulse measurement are also part of this assessment. Thereafter, the most appropriate therapeutic strategy for the patient is established by the acupuncturist. An acupuncture treatment with needles varying from 20 to 30 minutes ends this first visit.

Follow-up visit

Assessment of the patient's condition since the last visit followed by acupuncture treatment varying from 20 to 30 minutes.

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