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The pointed alternative.

Byline: By Hilarie Stelfox

Acupuncture has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years and is now becoming more widely used within the framework of modern Western medicine. Hilarie Stelfox reports

When I told my family that I'd had acupuncture their first question was "did it hurt?"

That's understandable really, given that I'd had eight needles inserted into my skin at various points on my arms, legs and feet.

And, to be perfectly honest, the answer would have to be "not when the needles went in, but a bit afterwards".

Suffice to say that the pain was more of a dull ache than the sharp "scratch" that I'd been expecting.

Mitchell Brooks, who got his licence to practise acupuncture two years ago after more than three years of study, was the man inserting the needles.

From the South of England originally, he now lives in Sheffield and practises at a number of centres in the region, including Huddersfield's Healing Hands in Moldgreen.

Mitchell studied both Five Elements and Traditional Chinese Medicine at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, a private institution in Reading he attended while living in Watford. To fund his studies, which cost around pounds 12,000, he worked in data network sales.

"It was a means to an end, I have always been interested in oriental medicine. When I was younger I became involved with the martial art Ving Tsun, which has the same root as Chinese medicine. I wanted to become much more involved with that way of thinking," he said.

However, it wasn't until he dropped out of a chemistry degree at university that he decided to forge a career in alternative medicine.

It's impossible in a short article like this to explain fully the underlying beliefs and systems of Chinese medicine. It is entirely alien in its diagnostic methods and ways of looking at disease compared to Western medicine.

Five Elements medicine assesses the patient in terms of sound, colour, emotion and odour. TCM studies the way energy to internal organs is affected by the flow of Chi (Qi) along the body's meridians (channels that cannot be seen). Practitioners take a pulse reading and examine a patient's tongue.

"We are not just looking for how many beats per minute, we feel for the depth, width, rhythm, strength and shape of the pulse.

"When we affect a change in an organ through acupuncture then we take the pulse again to see if there is an improvement. It's used as a diagnostic method.

"We treat according to a pattern of symptoms and disharmony. It is a completely different approach. The body and mind are interconnected and therefore just treating a problem in isolation won't fix the underlying cause" explained Mitchell.

A lot of the language used in Chinese medicine is both archaic and unscientific - or seems that way to the ears of someone raised with conventional Western medicine. However TCM has been refined and developed over 2,000 years of trials and observations. In China it is widely used for all complaints, sometimes alongside Western treatments.

"It is a complete system of medicine but there are certain things we are not allowed to say we can treat by law," said Mitchell.

He personally has had success treating women with fertility and gynaecological problems, including period pains and pregnancy difficulties. "I have also seen quite a few people recently with ME who have been helped," he added.

A consultation with Mitchell takes a great deal longer than the average appointment with a GP. He takes a full history, including details of diet, bowel habits, menstrual patterns in women and emotional state.

A course of treatment is usually needed and Mitchell will also give dietary advice based on TCM beliefs. For example, oranges, sugar and coffee are all heat-forming foods and therefore accentuate pain in the body. They are also bad for eczema sufferers.

He uses both acupuncture and Chinese massage, which also works on the acupuncture points, to treat patients. In the future he hopes to also study Chinese herbs.

For more information about acupuncture check out the British Acupuncture Council website on www.acupuncture.org.uk or contact Mitchell at mitchell.brooks@btopenworld.com or call Healing Hands on 01484 425 236.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 28, 2004
Words:710
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