Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world, dating back at least 3,000 years as one of the central modalities of traditional Chinese medicine. In comparison, modern or Western medicine has been practiced for only about 200 years.
Acupuncture was first recorded in the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), considered to be the oldest Chinese medical textbook, which most scholars believe was compiled between the third and first centuries BCE. Traditional Chinese medicine, which encompasses many different practices, is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism whose origins may be traced more than 5,000 years in the past. As part of traditional Chinese medicine, the main goal of acupuncture is to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body. Simply put, acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles on the body’s surface in order to influence physiological functioning of the body. The most common practice of acupuncture is for the relief or treatment of moderate to severe pain, which can originate from various points in the body.
What makes traditional Chinese medicine different from Western medicine is its unique view of the world and the human body. This view is based on the ancient Chinese perception of humans as a small part of the larger surrounding universe, thus we are interconnected with nature and subject to its forces. The human body is regarded as an organic entity in which the various organs, tissues, and other parts have distinct functions but are interdependent as well. In this view, health and disease relate to balance or imbalance of the functions. In comparison, Western medicine tends to regard the body as composed of individual, independently functioning components. Its method of treatment focuses on disease symptoms rather than on the state of the body as a whole. Instead of one practitioner who is capable of treating the entire person, Western medicine is splintered into many separate disciplines in which practitioners specialize only in their distinct aspects of illness.
The theoretical framework of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a number of key components:
Yin-yang theory is the central concept of two opposing, yet complementary, forces that shape the world and all life.
Qi (pronounced chee) is considered a vital energy or life force that circulates in the body through a system of pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of qi.
Eight principles to analyze symptoms and categorize conditions: cold/heat, interior/exterior, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang (the chief principles). TCM also uses the theory of five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood to explain how the body works; these elements correspond to particular organs and tissues in the body.
The acupuncture points are specific locations where the meridians come to the surface of the skin, and are easily accessible by needles, moxibustion (traditional Chinese medicine therapy that employs the burning of moxa, or mugwort herb), and acupressure. The connections between them ensure that there is an even circulation of qi, and a balance between yin and yang. Energy constantly flows up and down these pathways. When pathways become obstructed, deficient, excessive, or unbalanced, yin and yang are said to be out of balance, which is the cause of illness. Acupuncture is said to restore this balance.
There are as many as nine types of acupuncture needles but, only six are commonly used by acupuncturists today. These needles can vary in length, width, and the shape of head. Most needles are disposable, and are discarded in accordance with medical biohazard regulations and guidelines. Acupuncturists insert needles from15 degrees to 90 degrees relative to the skin surface, depending on the treatment called for. The sensation felt by the patient, is called deqi (pronounced dah-chee), and is not considered painful. Immediately following insertion the acupuncturist will use some of the following techniques as needed to obtain the desired result: raising and thrusting, twirling or rotation, combination of raising/thrusting and rotation, plucking, scraping (vibrations sent through the needle), and trembling (another vibration technique). Another technique is Electro-Acupuncture, which directs very small electrical impulses through the acupuncture needles. This technique is similar to application of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine that uses electrical impulses via pads administered to various areas of your skin to stimulate certain muscle regions widely used by physical therapists.
Some of the common illnesses/conditions acupuncture is used for are: treatment of cancer, infertility, menstrual pain, low back pain, sciatica, general muscle pain, rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain, sinusitis, asthma, coronary heart disease, hypertension, gastritis, irritable bowel disease, depression, exhaustion, addiction, sleep disorders, headaches/migraines, allergies, and tinnitus.
Michael Stubblefield, L.Ac., HHP, owner of Saran Jai Thai Wellness (http://SaranJaiWellness.com), indicates some of the benefits he has found over his decade plus administering acupuncture:
“Though acupuncture has been used classically throughout the centuries for a wide range of diseases, I find the most prevalent use for a wide assortment of pain. This could be anything from premenstrual pain and cramping to pain from a traumatic injury.”
I have personally used acupuncture for several years for various ailments, especially for my chronic back pain prior to and during the recovery of my back surgery. In addition, I have several friends and associates who have experienced similar results and benefits of acupuncture. If you are in chronic pain I highly recommend you give acupuncture try. It usually takes 3 to 4 acupuncture sessions to see results. It is also common to experience soreness the next day after having acupuncture. This being said it does not work for everyone so if you are not getting any results I would discontinue treatment. The research when it comes to acupuncture is all over the board on whether it is effective or not and that is why I recommend you try it for yourself. Just because I experienced positive results does not necessarily mean you will. I would also recommend finding an individual who has had Eastern medicine training, as I have experienced better results with this type of trained practitioner. Today acupuncture is covered by most insurance plans. Even if your insurance does not cover acupuncture it is very affordable, with sessions ranging from $55 to $85.
About the author
Mr. Collins (MS) worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for nearly a decade. In addition, he is a specialist in fitness and nutrition, a certified fitness trainer, member of the International Sports Science Association, member of the American Society for Nutrition, member of the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and member of the Price-Pottinger Nutrition Foundation. Collins completed 13 years of service in the United States Military and is a proud veteran. For full bio click here.
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