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The Sussex College of Chinese Massage & Acupuncture

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Acupuncture Principles and Theories

Acupuncture theory stems from the theoretical principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medical theory maintains that the body has many channels or meridians as they are also known, running throughout its anatomy. Along these meridians runs a substance with many descriptions – Qi, Ki, Prana, Energy, Life force etc. These various terms are all describing this same phenomenon. The Chinese term ‘qi’ is pronounced ‘chee’. This substance is said to permeate every living thing in the natural world. It is said to be the source and driving force behind the entire universe, including our own private mini universe, the body. Qi is our life force, our energy. It is the cultivation and storage of qi that is the main purpose of Tai Chi practice. These principles can be applied for the treatment of illnesses and imbalances within the body.

The energy channels, known as meridians, are the fundamental source of treatment in acupuncture. The word ‘meridian’ comes from a French translation of the Chinese term ‘Jing luo’. Jing luo is the Chinese term for these energy channels that run throughout the body. Jing means ‘to go through’ and Luo means ‘something that attaches or connects’. There are twelve main meridians and each is connected internally to a particular internal organ such as the Heart, Lung or Spleen etc. These internal connections then move to the exterior of the body where the meridians continue their path along the limbs, front, back, head and neck. Therefore, each internal organ has its own individual energy channel that runs along the exterior of the body just below the surface of the skin or deeper.

Along these meridians are points where the qi flows to the surface of the skin. These points are known as acupoints. The Chinese characters for an acupoint mean ‘transportation’ and ‘hole’. Acupoints are many in number and each has its own individual characteristics and therapeutic actions. Acupuncture utilises these points as a way of connecting to the qi within the various channels and their associated internal organ. Therefore, with the use of our finger tips, needle, laser or electro stimulation, we can have a direct influence on that particular meridian and its corresponding internal organ to harmonise the relationship between the organs.


The principles of Chinese medical theory maintain that the internal organs have a relationship with one another. Chinese medicine sees the entire body as a whole, working unit that relies on the strength and balance of the energies of the internal organs for its health and longevity. It is this balanced or disrupted interplay of these energies of the internal organs, that provides us with either good, or poor health. If the internal organs are strong and the relationship between them is balanced and harmonious, the body will be in good health and should live a long life. If on the other hand the internal organs are weak and their relationship is imbalanced, poor health will ultimately prevail and the long-term prognosis is not as good.

Traditional Chinese medicine utilises this understanding of the body’s energies as a very powerful tool for treating the underlying causes and symptoms of many common ailments, medical conditions and diseases. It is for this reason that acupuncture and Chinese medicine, can often help a patient when other forms of healing have not been able to. It is this very deep and vast, yet simple understanding of the body that has allowed traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, to flourish so widely for so long.


The diagnostic methods of Chinese Acupuncture are the same methods that are applied in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They consist of observing and tracing symptoms in relation to the internal organs to form a pattern of an underlying disharmony. Palpation of the pulse and inspection of the tongue are generally considered to be the cornerstones of a TCM diagnosis. There are however, many other aspects of a TCM diagnosis that may even override the signs that are gleaned from the tongue and pulse. The Four Examinations area set of questions and observations that systematically looks at the person as a whole being. The Four examinations considers aspects of a patient’s well-being that the patient themselves may not have even thought about.

The Four Examinations asks many questions but not necessarily directly to the patient. Many of these questions are in the form of observations from the mind and eyes of the acupuncturist or Chinese medical herbalist. These unheard questions may relate to such aspects of a patient as their general appearance, including their physical shape, their manner; such as how they act, and whether they move quickly or slowly, whether they are overweight or thin, agitated or quiet, is their face red or pale? Other observations and questions prior to an acupuncture treatment include listening and asking about a patient’s respiration for example. Is it weak, are they short of breath, do they have a weak voice, a heavy cough, a sudden cough, a violent cough, or a dry, hacking cough? for example. Others questions may include; whether they feel warm or cold, do they sleep well, wake in the night, or can they fall to sleep at all? All these ‘tell-tale’ signs and symptoms inform the acupuncturist about the patient’s internal bodily landscape and are important parts of the jigsaw that help to formulate a correct diagnosis before acupoints are selected for treatment.

The answers to these observations and questions help the acupuncturist come to an holistic diagnosis and decision about what organ/s are affected, and what acupoints are the most appropriate choice for treatment. Chinese medicinal herbs may also be selected and given to the patient.

TCM & the Emotions

The emotions in Chinese medicine and acupuncture play a vital role in health and disease. The emotions can also help the practitioner in their diagnosis prior to the treatment. Chinese medical theory states that each internal organ is related to a particular emotion. The Kidneys are related to fear for example, and the Lungs to grief. The other internal organs also have connections with the emotions. The Liver for example is related to the emotion of anger and more mildly, irritability. This holistic approach to health and disease allows the practitioner to treat the whole person and not just the symptom. For this reason many people feel calmer and more relaxed after an acupuncture session. On the other hand, many patients feel more energised and happier after being treated. It all depends on what the individual person requires, and what acupoints have been selected for that patient’s individual needs.

The Treatment

Due to the connection between the internal organs and their associated acupuncture points, disharmonies of the internal organs can be treated through stimulation or sedation of these points. After a full case history has been taken and a diagnosis made, the acupuncturist is able to select a number of appropriate acupoints to be treated. This helps to re-harmonise the patient’s qi, to help to bring it back to a state of natural balance and harmony. The treatment usually results in the patient returning to a more balanced state of physical and emotional well-being.


The procedure involves the insertion of very fine, sterile needles at specific acupoints on the surface of the skin. The best or at least very high quality needles should be used at no extra cost to the patient. This offers a very comfortable and usually pain free treatment. Acupuncture is a very safe treatment with very little risk of any side effects, provided it is carried out by a qualified practitioner using sterile needles.

Treatment Prices

A treatment can last up to one and a half hours or more for a first time appointment including the diagnosis and initial case history. Follow up appointments can last anything from thirty five minutes to one hour.

Prices can vary greatly, ranging from twenty five pounds right up to seventy pounds or more, although around thirty five to forty pounds is about the average cost of acupuncture treatment in the UK.

Acupuncture has been known to help the symptomatic & causative relief of many common conditions, many of which are listed below.

  • Addictions
  • Asthma
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Back Pain (lower – lumbago)
  • Bronchial Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Cramp
  • Chronic Cough
  • Common Colds
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • General Aches and Pains
  • Gynaecological Disorders
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Tension
  • Palpitations
  • Rheumatism
  • Sciatica
  • Sports & Traumatic Injuries
  • Tendinitis
  • Tennis Elbow
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