Pinpointing The Role of Acupuncture

With the recent trends of TCM emerging in western culture, acupuncture is considered an effective treatment for physical rehabilitation, in both Chinese and western medicine.

During my stay in Dongguan (two and a half years), I hadn’t chosen to indulge in the experience of acupuncture for any kind of purpose. However, after breaking my ankle in January and having surgery to fit a metal plate and screws to my bones, learning to walk again was a little tough at first. Of course, there are some aches and pains that come along with the process too. So, with some guidance, I decided to head to Donghua Hospital for physiotherapy and see what was in store.

The combined rehabilitation and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) zone in the hospital is clean, quiet and embellished with lots of dark wooden fixtures. Walking into this particular space is a completely different experience to walking through the rest of the hospital. Even my colleague and friend, Jone, who kindly accompanied me, described how it “feels as if time has stopped” when in this area.

The first time I visited the doctor, he encouraged me to start walking without crutches, and with the help of my trusty companion, I very quickly no longer needed to rely on those instruments that were with me day in, day out, for almost three months. He corrected my posture and explained the need for correct posture, which was to prevent other problems from occurring. It made complete sense. Who wants to fix their foot problem to create a back or hip problem? I cannot explain the elation and surreal sensation of walking again after several months of being powerless.

During each and every visit, without fail, the doctor conveys a soothing, calming presence, and I truly feel his warm intention and healing influence. His hands radiate heat as he massages my leg and helps me with various ankle exercises. Following this, he performs acupuncture with sanitary needles. The swelling goes down each and every time, during and after a session with him.

The first time I engaged in acupuncture, I was more curious than anything else. I simply had to look at least once or twice, and it felt peculiar to know that something was piercing my skin and entering my body, but it wasn’t really painful at all, just a slightly strange sensation. I recall the doctor placing a needle into the left side of my foot, but the sensation I experienced was on the right side of my foot, which probably makes sense, but it was still fascinating.

There is extensive scientific evidence showing that this form of healthcare can help with short-term relief of knee, neck and lower back pain.

Traditional acupuncture is a form of TCM, a tried and tested method of healthcare that has been practiced for thousands of years in China. Sharpened stones and bones that date from about 6000 BCE have been interpreted as acupuncture treatment instruments, however it is unclear if they really were, or they were simply used as surgical instruments. Having emerged in Western medicine since the 1970s, there is extensive scientific evidence showing that this form of healthcare can help with short-term relief of knee, neck and lower back pain, as well as tension headaches and migraines.

The Chinese and Western explanations for the effectiveness of acupuncture vary, however both sides agree that it is a worthwhile treatment. According to TCM, acupuncture is linked to the concept of disease or problematic areas caused by disruptions to the flow of energy (“qi”) in the body. Acupressure points are therefore stimulated by needles, in order to release the energy, removing any blockages and fixing the pain and the problem. From a Western perspective, there is no denying that acupuncture’s primary effects include pain relief, reducing inflammation and restoring homeostasis.

In 2009, an estimated 4 million acupuncture sessions were given in the U.K., and this number has continued to increase. Needless to say, whether in the West or here in China, the needles do their job well. Without a doubt, acupuncture has certainly helped my situation. It has reduced both pain and swelling from my ankle and leg, and after each session I feel more energized and more able to walk. So, for now, I have another five sessions booked in and I will probably have more. For anybody looking for an alternative treatment, why not give it a go?