At Barefoot Medicine you will receive a diagnosis and treatment based upon the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and 5-Element Theory. However, there are various other types of acupuncture that you may have come across, so I will explain each one in a little more detail.


What is ‘acupuncture’ and can I get it from my doctor?

 There are many styles of acupuncture, but at Barefoot Medicine I practice Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCM) and 5-Element Acupuncture.  Both styles come from the classical texts from China and are equally valid systems of treating a person’s mind, body and spirit to overcome illness.  This can be contrasted with Medical Acupuncture as practiced by doctors, physiotherapists and osteopaths, who insert needles into trigger points to alleviate pain.  This is often successful, but requires training of only a matter of days or weeks.  It is ‘acupuncture’ in the technical sense, but does not offer the full body system of diagnosis, prevention and holistic approach that was originally practiced in the Far East.
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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM is a system of medicine dating back to 1,000 BC that includes acupuncture (the insertion of needles into acupoints), herbal medicine, Tui Na (Chinese Massage), moxibustion (a herb known as ‘moxa’ that is lit and used to warm body areas or acupoints), Gua Sha (scraping an area with bone or jade to ease pain and stimulate circulation) and cupping therapy (the use of suction cups to stimulate circulation).

The underlying theories of a TCM diagnosis have been developed over the last 2,500 years and centre around the principle of ‘Qi’ flow in the body. The Chinese would not dissect a corpse at the time as it was deemed disrespectful, yet through observation they identified all the body systems that we recognise in the West in modern times (digestive system, endocrine, reproductive, respiratory etc) but in addition to those, they identified energy flow and observed that if the flow of energy (Qi in China Ki in Japan, Prana in India etc) is disrupted, then illness will follow.

On this basis, organ SYSTEMS were identified and although the names of the organs broadly correspond to what we know of the body in modern terms, the actual functions of the organs is far greater than that which is recognised in the West. Furthermore, the Qi was categorised into various forms, the most commonly known being Yin Qi and Yang Qi. Traditional acupuncture is a healthcare system based on ancient principles which go back nearly 2,000 years. It has a very positive model of good health and function, and looks at pain and illness as signs that the body is out of balance. The overall aim of acupuncture treatment is to restore the body’s own balance.

What makes this system so uniquely suited to modern life is that physical, emotional and mental needs are seen as interdependent, and reflect what many people perceive as the connection between the different aspects their lives.

According to traditional belief, acupuncturists are trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for hundreds of years.  These techniques focus on the individual and all the symptoms as they are seen in relation to each other and not just on any illness the patient could be suffering from. Each patient is therefore treated uniquely and two people with the same western diagnosis, could well well receive different acupuncture treatments.

Underlying Principles of Acupuncture

Traditional acupuncturists believe that the underlying principle of treatment is that illness and pain occur when the body’s vital energy, or Qi, cannot flow freely.  There can be many reasons for this; emotional and physical stress including poor nutrition, infection or injury. By inserting ultra-fine sterile needles into specific acupuncture points, a traditional acupuncturist seeks to re-establish the free flow of Qi to restore balance and trigger the body’s natural healing response.

Up until the 1940s, when the Chinese government commissioned the development of a uniform system of diagnosis & treatment referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

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5-Element Acupuncture

Whilst this not as old as TCM, it is nonetheless very much a part of Chinese Medical Theory and dates to the Warring States period 476 BC, meaning it is still over 2,500 years old! In this theory, humans are considered to be an extension of the landscape and hence prone to similar imbalances in Qi, Yin and Yang as the environment. For this reason, a diagnosis can sound a bit like a weather forecast, referring to too much heat, cold or damp in the system!

The five elements are Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood and a patients energetic balance will be assessed during the consultations to establish which element most closely resonates with their demeanour. This is a broad, complex and fascinating subject that will be covered in some detail in the blogs on this website.

Western Medical Acupuncture

This tends to be Trigger Point Acupuncture that is practiced by GPs, osteopaths, physiotherapists etc who had undertaken a short-course in ‘acupuncture’ I.e. using a needle to pierce the skin. It is used for frozen shoulder and back pain typically and involves inserting a needle into a tight muscle to encourage it to relax out of the spasm.

Many people gain temporary relief from this treatment, but it is limited to acute muscle pain relief only and practitioners would not have any knowledge of how to use TCM acupuncture for healthcare, prevention of illness or its extensive use in chronic conditions.
A growing body of evidence-based clinical research shows that traditional acupuncture safely treats a wide range of common health problems.


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