Acupuncture: more than just treating symptoms

Acupuncture, even with its 2,500 year history, still remains a mystery to many people and yet its effects are wide-ranging and broad - it treats people in body, mind and spirit, and deals with a whole range of acute and chronic problems.

While this description could cover many forms of healthcare, Chinese medical treatment differs from Western medicine in one particularly significant area - the techniques of diagnosis.

An acupuncturist, like any good healthcare practitioner, looks at a person's complete and unique state of well-being. During an acupuncture session, however, a number of diagnostic tools are used to assess a patient's physiological and psychological make-up, the backdrop against which the symptoms are viewed. As well as conducting an in-depth conversation, a practitioner will use two distinctively Chinese techniques - feeling the pulse and looking at the tongue

Lisa Sherman from the British Acupuncture Council explains: "The tongue provides a detailed picture of your body's state of health as the body's different organs are represented by specific areas of the tongue. In an acupuncture session, the colour, shape, moisture, movement and coating will be assessed. It may seem strange at first but a practitioner can actually tell a lot from this evaluation.

"The tongue diagnosis is individual to each person and together with the other diagnostic assessments can tell the acupuncturist if, for example, a person has blood deficiency or lack of body fluids, a tendency to become emotionally upset or the beginnings of a viral infection."

An acupuncturist's diagnosis is based on the principals of asking and hearing (the consultation), seeing (tongue diagnosis and observation), and feeling (pulse diagnosis). The pulses reflect the internal functioning of the body, mind and spirit. A practitioner will assess through the strength, depth, rhythm and rate of the pulse the condition of the different parts of the system, the disharmonies and imbalances which an acupuncturists skills can help to correct.

The combination of these diagnostic methods determines the overall diagnosis and only then will an acupuncturist apply treatment. This treatment, tailored to the unique needs of each individual patient, takes the form of inserting fine needles into specific points on the body which stimulates the body's energy channels.

Acupuncture can be used to treat most diseases and conditions from respiratory problems to neurological and musculoskeletal disorders through to gynaecological issues and mental conditions.

The British Acupuncture Council has 2,900 accredited members who are able to adapt traditional acupuncture theory to the needs of modern healthcare while still retaining its essence.

To find a practitioner in your area call the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit


Notes to Editor:

To find out more about tongue diagnosis or to have a diagnostic session with an acupuncturist, contact Mandate Communications on 020 3128 8100 or email

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the BAcC:

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of over 2,900 professionally qualified acupuncturists.  It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture.

BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years.  To achieve BAcC membership, practitioners must first undertake extensive training in traditional acupuncture (minimum three years full-time or part-time equivalent), which includes physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences appropriate to the practice of acupuncture.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health. Its benefits are now widely acknowledged all over the world and in the past decade traditional acupuncture has begun to feature more prominently in mainstream healthcare in the UK.

Traditional acupuncture takes a holistic approach to health and regards illness as a sign that the body is out of balance. The exact pattern and degree of imbalance is unique to each individual. The traditional acupuncturist's skill lies in identifying the precise nature of the underlying disharmony and selecting the most effective treatment

Post a question

If you have any questions about acupuncture, browse our archive or ask an expert.

Ask an expert

BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

Browse the facts