Acupuncture, from Latin acus (needle) and punctura (sting), is one of the four branches of Chinese medicine. This practice consists of rebalancing the energies of the bodyin pricking needles along lines of force called meridians.
The term “traditional Chinese medicine” has been abandoned by experts around the world for the term “Chinese medicine” closer to the term used in Chinese. However, it is still used by official bodies or in the press.
Principle of acupuncture
In Chinese medicine, Qi, also called “Breath or“ Vital energy ”, is one of the five Substances circulating in the body by the meridians, with the Blood, the Body fluids, the Spirit and the Essences. These Substances serve to maintain the organism in a harmonious balance around the notions of Yin and Yang, that is to say unity despite duality.
A breakdown can occur within this harmonious balance, resulting in the onset of symptoms. Acupuncture is then a means of rebalance the body’s energy by applying needles to specific points along the meridians. There is also a whole cartography of these meridians according to the ailments to be treated.
Why consult an acupuncturist?
Acupuncture is particularly recommended for:
- to relieve nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy, surgery or chemotherapy;
- to treat migraine and renal colic ;
- treat hypertension and depressive states;
- relieve them menstrual pain, dental or articular;
- relieve certain musculoskeletal (MSD) and psychic disorders.
The above applications have been validated by the World Health Organization (WHO) following tests and clinical trials, but the scope of acupuncture is much broader. It has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia or in helping to quit smoking, but it still needs further research.
In some cases, acupuncture is applied in addition to classic treatmentss.
Acupuncture is performed usingdisposable needles. In Chinese medicine, a patient’s symptoms appear when energy (Qi) is blocked, absent, or too much in certain parts of the body corresponding to a particular meridian.
“In case of emptiness, it is necessary to tone up; in case of fullness, it is necessary to disperse ”, recommends“ Huangdi Neijing ”, the oldest work of Chinese medicine.
Depending on the patient’s needs, the acupuncturist will apply the needles more or less gently upstream or downstream of one of the meridians to fill the voids or disperse the fullness.
The number of needles inserted under the skin depends on the disorder to be treated. In general, the practitioner uses about ten. He leaves the needles in place for a few minutes then withdraws them more or less slowly depending on the technique used, toning or dispersion.
There are also other acupuncture procedures:
- electrostimulation : slight electric current in the needles;
- moxibustion : stimulation of acupuncture points by heat. This is produced by the combustion of a dried herb, moxa or mugwort;
- the “Ba Guan Zi ” : suction cups that the doctor slides along a meridian;
- the “Pi Fu Zhen ” : using a hammer with needles to tap the skin;
- infrared laser : it makes it easier to treat children or people sensitive to bites.
Acupuncture can be applied to young children as well as adults and the elderly. Only the choice of technique differs.
Contraindications to acupuncture
In skilled hands, acupuncture is a procedure generally safe with few contraindications or complications. According to the World Health Organization, however, the practice of acupuncture remains contraindicated in cases of:
- pregnancy : acupuncture can cause strong uterine contractions, miscarriage or childbirth if the points are located on the lower abdomen and lumbosacral region for the first three months. After the third month, it is not recommended to prick the points located on the upper abdomen and the lumbosacral region; as well as the auricular points.
However, the practice of acupuncture is authorized during pregnancy when it comes to relieving nausea, inducing or reducing the duration of childbirth for therapeutic purposes;
- medical and surgical emergencies : acupuncture is in no way an emergency or first aid treatment, nor a replacement for a necessary surgical intervention;
- malignant tumors : the placement of a needle at the site of a tumor is prohibited. On the other hand, placed on another point, the needle can relieve pain related to the tumor or treatment;
- Acupuncture with needles is also not recommended in cases of haemostatic disorders (bleeding, clotting).
During the first appointment, the acupuncturist doctor submits the patient to a clinical examination involving auscultation and palpation, as well as a detailed questionnaire on his medical history and health problems.
At the end of the examination, the doctor determines the general energy of his patient. Depending on his observation and the disorders mentioned, he chooses the points and techniques for applying the needles.
Extremely thin acupuncture needles do not cause great pain. If there is pain, it can be comparable to either a mosquito bite, or a slight numbness.
It sometimes happens that the patient falls asleep during the session or feels very tired afterwards, due to therelaxing action of acupuncture.
During the following acupuncture sessions, the questioning and auscultation will be shorter but necessary. Indeed, a disease or disorder evolves. It is important to consider the presence of new symptoms or improvement in the patient.
In France, acupuncture is legally practiced by doctors, dentists and midwives. Doctors and dentists should be holders of acupuncture capacity (formerly general acupuncture IUD) and midwives of an obstetric acupuncture IUD in two years (or issued by validation of prior learning after training in acupuncture). Only holders of these diplomas can display the words “acupuncturist” on their plate.
The ability to acupuncture is obtained within two years after passing a probationary entrance examination. In order to prepare for this first exam, candidates for the capacity can do a first preparatory year or IUD initiation to acupuncture.
Certain non-medical acupuncturists, trained by private schools or abroad, also offer consultations that are tolerated in France. The quality and reliability of these acupuncturists are not always there. That is why it is better to rely on acupuncturist doctors.
To select the acupuncturist closest to you, two additional directories are available:
- the directoryFrench beekeeping association,
- the directory of the Federation of acupuncturists for their continuing medical education.
Duration and price of an acupuncture session
An acupuncture session usually lasts an hour. Depending on the disease and the disorders to be treated, some cases will be relieved in two to three sessions; others will require long-term care, from a few weeks to a few years.
It is difficult to establish an average price because it often depends on the geographical area where the patient lives. Count between 60 and 130 euros the acupuncture session.
The Medicare reimburses the acupuncture sessions performed by a doctor, up to 70% on the basis of a consultation with a general practitioner.