What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical technique for unblocking qi (the energy that allegedly permeates all things) by inserting disposable needles at particular points on the body to balance the opposing forces of yin and yang.
When yin and yang are in harmony, qi flows freely within the body and a person is healthy. When a person is sick, diseased, or injured, there is an obstruction of qi along one of the meridians. Traditional Chinese Medicine has identified some 2,000 specific points where needles are to be inserted for specific effects.
What does acupuncture feel like? Do the needles hurt?
People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel minimal or no pain as the needles are inserted. Some people are energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed.
What is moxibustion?
Moxibustion, or moxa for short, is an ancient form of heat therapy. Moxa uses the ground up leaves of the plant mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris or ai ye in Chinese). The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, which leads to a smoother flow of blood and qi.
How does moxibustion work? Does it hurt?
There are two types of moxibustion -- direct and indirect.
In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of herb is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain, blistering or scarring unless the moxa is left in place for too long.
Indirect moxibustion is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red.
Who is moxibustion good for?
It is used specifically for patients suffering from cold or stagnant constitutions. It should not be used on anyone diagnosed with too much heat.
"It is especially good for women who have joint pains, menstrual cramps, irregular periods, and infertility."
How is acupuncture paired with moxibustion?
When the needles are in the body, the smoldering moxa stick is held a couple inches away from the skin, usually around the inserted needles. The practitioner will monitor the heat level, and work with the patient to provide a therapeutic level of heat while maintaining comfort and safety.
This simultaneous use of moxibustion with the acupuncture needle intensifies the therapeutic benefit of the given acupuncture point.
Can anybody practise moxibustion?
Moxibustion is usually taught as part of a qualified acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine degree programme. It takes skill and caution. "It is equivalent to holding a red-hot coal an inch above someone's skin."