Acupuncture is a method of Chinese origin, practiced for thousands of years. It is traditionally used to support the body on an energetic level by stimulating specific points of the body through the use of needles planted on the surface of the patient’s skin. Here is an overview of this ancestral therapeutic practice, which is nevertheless in vogue today.

1- What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an energetic practice originating from traditional Chinese medicine. This discipline is based on the principle that an action carried out on energy has repercussions on matter and therefore on the body.

It consists of the stimulation of energy points (acupuncture points), located on the meridians, of which there are 12 and considered as channels for the circulation of vital energy (Qi) throughout the human body. Acupuncture thus makes it possible to regulate an imbalance in the circulation of this energy (in excess, in stagnation or in insufficiency), which would be at the origin of various evils.

2- What is acupuncture used for?

This practice aims to rebalance the vital energy, the Qi (pronounced “tchi”) that runs through our entire body, by following the meridians, energy flows that overlap with other systems. These are connected to the different internal organs. Thus, the various discomforts and manifestations would be the sign of a blockage, a lack, a surplus or a misdirection of this energy. Acupuncture acts by stimulating the meridians at specific points, restoring the energy flow, which allows it to act in a subtle way.

3- What does an acupuncturist do?

In France, an acupuncturist is most often a doctor who has completed a one-year university course in acupuncture, but acupuncture is also practiced by some practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who have completed training in a private institute, usually lasting five years.

After a detailed medical history, he analyzes specific points: the tongue, mouth, eyes, ears and nose, and analyzes the pulse. He then determines what energy imbalances are involved and where they are located in the body. Using fine, disposable needles placed on the appropriate acupuncture points, he works on the flow of vital energy, unblocking it or changing its path to harmonize its circulation in the body. The placement of the needles is virtually painless.

4- History of acupuncture

The practice of acupuncture dates back about five thousand years. It is one of the major disciplines of Chinese energetics, along with Chinese dietetics, Qi Gong, massages, and the use of medicinal plants from the Chinese pharmacopoeia.

Acupuncture was introduced in Europe in the 17th century by Willem Ten Rhyne, a Dutch physician, but it really took off in the mid-20th century.

Its conception was above all empirical: this means that it is based on experience and observation of the results generated. However, many studies have demonstrated its therapeutic effectiveness, without explaining the mechanisms. One possible explanation lies in the proximity of acupuncture points to the nervous, muscular, blood or lymphatic networks of the human body. Acupuncture is even used by some veterinarians for dogs, cats and horses!

5- An internal rebalancing

As we have seen, the Qi, which is the energy that circulates through the meridians, is in perpetual movement. It circulates in our body constantly, in cycles of about two hours (the energy tides, which preferentially concentrate the energy on a particular meridian). According to the theory of duality, Qi contains Yin and Yang, which are the two opposites of the same thing, the same object. An imbalance between Yin and Yang can disrupt the flow of Qi energy.

6- What are the 12 meridians in traditional Chinese medicine?

The meridians are the channels through which the Qi energy flows. They cross the whole body forming an energy network.

Some meridians are more specific to Yin energy, and others to Yang energy. These two energies are attached to specific organs which give them their name. The Yin organs are the Liver, the Kidney, the Spleen, the Lung, the Heart and the Heart Master (the envelope of the heart).

The Yang organs are the Stomach, the Small Intestine, the Large Intestine, the Gallbladder, the Bladder and the Triple Warmer, which represents a particular energy system and is composed of three parts: the upper, middle and lower warmer.

The meridians work in pairs, associating a Yin organ and a Yang organ:

Spleen / Stomach

Kidney / Bladder

Heart / Small Intestine

Heart Master / Triple Warmer

Liver / Gallbladder

Lung / Large Intestine

7- What are the acupuncture points?

In current practice, practitioners use 361 acupuncture points, but at certain times, there were more than 2,000, some of which were placed outside the meridians. Each area of the body (head, foot, hand, abdomen…) is crossed by certain meridians. The place of the points and their stimulation must therefore be handled with great precision.

Here are some examples of acupuncture points according to the meridian they touch:

Feet: we find the meridians of the Spleen, Liver, Stomach, Gallbladder, Kidney and Bladder. Foot reflexology is limited to the soles of the feet, whereas in acupuncture all the areas of the foot are crossed by the meridians.

Ears: acupuncture points are particularly numerous in the ear.

Auriculotherapy is a good indication for many ailments.

Hands: the meridians passing through the hands are those of the Small Intestine, Heart, Large Intestine and Lung, as well as Master of the Heart and Triple Warmer.

Back: the meridians of the Gallbladder, Large Intestine and Bladder.

Face: the meridians of the Stomach, Heart, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Liver, Gallbladder, Bladder, and Triple Warmer.

Belly: abdominal acupuncture is a recent therapeutic practice developed by Dr. Zhiyun BO. It finds its interest in the proximity of the vital organs and with the close passage of the energy meridians.

8- How long and how much does an acupuncture session cost?

The average acupuncture session lasts one hour. During this time, the acupuncture practitioner places the needles on the patient’s body and leaves them in place for up to 30 minutes. The rest of the session is dedicated to the interview with the practitioner and the set-up time.

In terms of rates, it will depend on the practitioner and the region in which you are located. There is therefore a great variability, on average from 35 to 75 euros. You can be reimbursed by your health insurance if several conditions are met: you must have followed the conventional care pathway, i.e. the sessions must be prescribed by your general practitioner, and you must then consult an acupuncturist who is covered by a convention. You will then be reimbursed for 70% of the session’s conventional rate. Depending on your mutual insurance contract, the remaining cost may or may not be reimbursed.

9- Does acupuncture really work?

The World Health Organization has recognized acupuncture as a medical science and has indicated its value in a variety of conditions.

There are numerous studies that have looked at the therapeutic effectiveness of acupuncture. Many of these studies are controversial because they are methodologically questionable or possibly biased. Conclusions may be invalidated for these reasons.

Many testimonials report a real feeling of well-being following an acupuncture session.

Even if science has not yet been able to formally prove the physiological effects of acupuncture, this does not mean that it is ineffective! It only means that the levels of evidence are currently more empirical than statistical.

10- How does an acupuncture session work?

An acupuncture session generally begins with a contact assessment, which evaluates the vitality of the person by asking about his or her lifestyle, eating habits and sleep, followed by an analysis of the tongue and a pulse test. The session then takes place mostly lying down (on the back, but also on the stomach or on the side depending on the areas to be treated).

The acupuncturist will indicate to the patient the number and frequency of sessions required, which can of course be adapted according to various parameters.

11- How to choose your acupuncturist?

The experience of the practitioner is the most important factor in choosing your acupuncturist. It can be interesting to choose an acupuncturist who also has a medical degree: he or she will have a global vision of the patient, will be able to push the clinical examination a little further if necessary, and even prescribe complementary exams or refer you to another specialty if he or she deems it necessary.

However, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who have not followed a medical curriculum are no less competent, but unlike doctors, they cannot prescribe additional medical examinations.

The reputation of a practitioner develops as he or she practices and continues to train: an acupuncturist who keeps up to date on developments in his or her profession and who practices regularly seems to be an objective criterion for making the right choice.

You can also ask your doctor to give you the name of a colleague trained in acupuncture or a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, or search on the websites of acupuncture associations.

12- Acupuncture needles

Needles are the basic tool in acupuncture, most of them are made of stainless steel and are for single use. Needles vary in size and diameter depending on their use. The insertion of the needle is generally painless, however some practitioners use a small tube through which they pass the needle, which reduces the pain in a patient who is too sensitive.

The acupuncturist must be very dexterous: the depth, angle and rotation of the needle under the skin will not have the same effect on the same specific acupuncture point.

However, the acupuncturist can use other materials such as suction cups or mugwort, which is a plant that is heated near the acupuncture point to be worked on.

13- I am afraid of needles: are there alternative solutions?

Absolutely! It is acupressure. This traditional massage technique stimulates the same energy points as acupuncture, but without needles. Acupressure can be performed at home, by applying pressure to the same points as an acupuncturist would have done with needles. This is particularly interesting as a complement to acupuncture sessions, as the practitioner can teach you to master a few points to help you become independent.

14- Can acupuncture replace conventional medicine?

Acupuncture is a so-called “gentle”, traditional practice. It can be of great help but can in no way replace a treatment (medication) when it is necessary. It is useful in certain cases, but should not claim to cure a disease.

The information provided on our website does not constitute medical advice or a diagnosis. Many factors unknown to us about your particular situation may affect the applicability of any statement or comment made on this site. In the event of illness or disease, you should consult the health care professional(s) who will be able to properly assess your condition.

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