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What is Acupuncture?


Acupuncture is believed to have originated around 100 BC in China, around the time that the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing) was published. However, some experts suggest that it may have originated even earlier. It is a treatment derived from classical Chinese medicine. In this context, acupuncture is rooted in a complete medical doctrine based on two thousand years of clinical experience.

Classical and traditional acupuncture work on the premise that an energy – or life force – flows through the body in channels, often called meridians. This energy is known as Qi. Traditional practitioners believe that when Qi does not flow freely through the body, illness can ensue. We also believe that acupuncture can remove obstructions and re-establish the flow of Qi. In doing so, it can restore the balance of health.

An acupuncturist inserts very fine needles at specific sites on the body in the treatment or prevention of disease. Within the United Kingdom, the NHS uses acupuncture in many general practices and the majority of pain clinics and hospices.

Classical Chinese acupuncture always works to treat the root cause of imbalances within the body, not only the presenting symptoms. In this context, it is used to treat a wide range of health conditions.

As a holistic therapy, acupuncture is all about creating and maintaining balance within the body. Acupuncture works to restore the body’s ability to heal and regenerate itself. It does this by stimulating the movement of qi and blood within the body, thereby removing blockages that can lead to illness.


TONG ZE BU TONG; BU TONG ZE TONG – If there is free flow, there is no pain; if there is pain, there is no free flow.

Chinese Proverb

In other words, it is the movement and free flow of qi and blood within the body that is necessary for the maintenance of health.

It is within this context that acupuncture serves as preventative medicine as well as a curative one. Furthermore, classical Chinese acupuncture is rooted in the theory that an individual is a microcosm of their environment. To be in perfect health, therefore, one must live in harmony with the four seasons (climates) and the five elements. With this in mind, regular treatments are recommended to maintain this sense of balance as we transition through the seasons.

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Ben is a practitioner of the following styles of acupuncture:

Five Element Acupuncture

Five-element acupuncture is rooted in the concepts of Chinese philosophy and concerns the movement of energy, as observed in nature. Corresponding to the view that humankind is a microcosm of his environment, five-element theory serves as the following:

  • a valuable insight into the natural transformations within nature, and
  • a tool for balancing these energies within the human body.

Classical Chinese Acupuncture (Stems & Branches)

Everyone has an energetic astrological footprint created at the moment of their birth. This footprint can provide deep insights into an individual’s constitutional strengths and weaknesses, as well as their emotional and mental tendencies. Within Chinese philosophy and astrology, the four pillars or BaZi provide insight into this informationi.e. the ‘stem and branch’ of the hour, day, month and year of one’s birth.

According to the principles of Wū Yùn Lìu Qì (stems and branches theory), humankind, as with nature, is affected by the movements and cycles of life. Through the practice of Wū Yùn Lìu Qì, the practitioner works to utilise the power of these energies to improve and maintain good health. The systems that govern this practice provide deep insights into the constitutional strengths and weaknesses of an individual and may serve as a guide to identifying the root of their illness(es). This knowledge can be used by the practitioner to formulate an effective treatment plan and to resolve their health problems in line with these constitutional strengths and weaknesses.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The term ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’ or TCM can be misleading. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is primarily a modern invention. In 1950s communist China, Chairman Mao and his medical authorities proposed a reductionist form of Chinese medicine and acupuncture with the following objectives:

  • to get people back to work quickly following illness,
  • to align Chinese medicine with Western medicine, and
  • to gain credibility in the West through the removal of much of its philosophical content.

The most fundamental difference between classical Chinese medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is that the former draws more deeply from the classical literature of Chinese medicine in practice.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), while paying homage to the classic texts, does not rely primarily on these sources in practice. TCM’s approach to treatment relies on pattern diagnosis, which can be applied more generally in a clinical setting. It is important to note that TCM is not necessarily less effective than classical Chinese medicine. However, it arguably focusses less on a patient’s underlying constitution and more on treating symptomatically.

Contemporary Acupuncture

Contemporary acupuncture refers to any form of acupuncture that is not rooted in the classical literature. Examples may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Acupuncture for Fertility (eg. Paulus Protocol)
  • Acupuncture for Addiction (eg. NADA Protocol)
  • Medical Acupuncture
  • Other protocols based within the western research model

While there are many approaches to acupuncture, treatment at Acupuncture West London is always tailored specifically to your requirements. We will always be happy to discuss the various approaches to treatment and to answer any questions that you may have before commencing treatment.

For the most up-to-date research and evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture, please visit the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) or Evidence Based Acupuncture websites.

Tai Chong