A billion people can’t be wrong
When you think of the word “acupuncture” you may see images of a man covered with pins and needles pierced into his skin. He looks like a mannequin just waiting for a tailor to finish sewing a new set of skin. Or maybe you think the tailor has come and gone, and you want to yell, “Hey, you forgot to take the pins out!” You might even sound panicked because you think the pins are causing lots of pain. But for thousands of years, Chinese people have turned to this skin-piercing method of healing which, by the way, hurts less than being bitten by a mosquito.
Did you know we are made up of electrical currents? If you have any doubts, slide your foot across the carpet. What happens? Now, don’t be shocked. They are just electrical sparks flying from the outside world into your body. Your body’s own energetic systems attract them like two opposite poles of a magnet. When your body is in perfect health your body’s electric currents are in perfect harmony and even throughout your body.
The Chinese are intuitively aware of the body’s electrical currents and utilize it in their practice. Chinese acupuncture is a natural form of therapy in which special needles are used to pierce the skin on specific points of the body. The basic principal behind acupuncture is that there is a continuous generation and flow of LIFE FORCE, or energy, throughout the body. The Chinese call this force ch’i. As long as the LIFE FORCE maintains a proper balance in the body, there is health. If this balance is disturbed at all, illness results. It is our job to catch any abnormal electrical disturbance before it is able to worsen, turning an acute problem into a chronic one.
Do you suppose energy flows through your body all the time? Does it flow continuously and evenly? How about when you’re cutting onions and you slice your thumb with a knife? Ouch! What happens? Blood rushes to the area, and so does a lot of energy to kick-start the healing process. But what happens next? Does that emergency flush of energy go right back to a balanced state throughout your body? Probably not. Maybe it needs a nudge – not a major shock but a minor electrical charge that helps your system start to “hum” again.
That’s the goal of acupuncture – to restore that “hum” and balance the body’s energy network. Acupuncture points are just below the skin surface and are approximately one- tenth of an inch in diameter. There are about 365 major acupuncture points located on the body. These points are located on twelve bilateral meridians and two unilateral meridians. Meridians are imaginary lines which run longitudinally, and channel the LIFE FORCE throughout the body. A fixed number of acupuncture points make up each meridian, which when working in synch with each other, help balance the body’s energy.
Taking care of our bodies by exercising, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, taking nutritional supplementation, having spinal check-ups, and having our body’s electrical system checked regularly helps keep the body’s electrical charges even throughout. Much like your circulatory system continuously pumps blood throughout your body, your electrical system has a distinct pattern and flow. There are many external factors that can disturb this continuous flow. Taking drugs, eating fatty foods, living a sedetary lifestyle, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol all contribute to the alteration of your body’s electrical current.
When diseases and injuries occur, the body’s electrical charges (LIFE FORCES) are altered. Whenever needles are inserted at strategic points in the body, the balance and rhythm of the LIFE FORCE is influenced and can be controlled to a certain degree. Due to this reason, numerous diseases or injuries can be helped by acupuncture. For instance, a duodenal ulcer could be helped by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. In the treatment of acne, acupuncture increases the functions of the lungs and regulates hormones. Migraines can be treated by increasing liver function with acupuncture.
Headaches are a distress signal, your body telling you something’s out of balance. Pain relievers may temporarily turn off the alarm switch, but usually doesn’t put out the fire. Headaches are more than just an ache in your head. It involves other parts of your body too. According to traditional criteria chronic headache and migraine are attributed to a blockage of energy. The blockages and therefore the pain are mostly caused by an internal disturbance of organs and channels and rarely by internal influences. Acupuncture aimed at treating the headaches underlying physical cause(s) shows a remarkable effect.
The duration of a disease or injury, amount of damage already done, and the overall well- being of each individual patient must all be taken into account before any predictions can be made regarding a patient’s return to health. Some conditions may have progressed too far to be helped with acupuncture treatments. In other words, if you’re going to die tomorrow there’s not much you can do today. However, it is possible to cease the progression of the condition or provide relief so the patient can live a better life.
Since I planted a picture in your mind about pins and needles that a tailor would use, let me tell you that’s only one way to accomplish stimulating acupuncture points. Many people who practice acupuncture not only use needles but also use a variety of other methods.to energize acupuncture points. The most common method in the West today is the use of disposable needles, which are produced and sealed under sterile conditions. After the needles have been used, they are removed and thrown away in a “sharps” container until they are removed by a company who incinerates them. Laser is becoming very popular method today to stimulate acupuncture points in the West as well as in the East. Ultrasound, when used at a low frequency, is another viable method to energize acupoints. Electrical devices that emit small amounts of energy can also be used on acupuncture points. Qi-gong machines which emit a peaceful vibration of infrasonic waves is another great way to stimulate cellular damaged tissues to heal and become full of vibrancy via the acupuncture points. And of course we’ve all heard of acupressure as a viable way of stimulating acupuncture points. Even though these are different techniques of applying acupuncture – the principle of acupuncture remains the same. Creating that “hum” and sense of balance by stimulating your network of acupuncture points – that’s the principle of acupuncture.
Acupuncture along with spinal adjustments, increases the body’s ability to heal itself and to prevent diseases naturally. It helps relax and tone muscles, making the adjustment easier to perform and allows the adjustment to last or hold longer. It is a safe, non-toxic therapy and the procedure is often scarcely felt by the patient.
When utilizing acupuncture principles to an injured area there is a chemical release. It releases a natural form of morphine and cortisone. Morphine is the most powerful pain relieving drug known to man followed by cortisone. When given in a manufactured synthetic form morphine only works on 50% of people and cortisone 40%. Because of the extreme side-effects however, it must be limited in its use. Acupuncture’s natural release of the body’s own morphine and cortisone, on the other hand, works on approximately 80-85% of people with no side effects. Much like a whirlpool draws everything down into the heart of the river, acupuncture points are considered as “energy vortices” that draw energy into or out of the body’s energy flow and they provide access points whereby the energy flow of the body can be influenced. If your body’s acupuncture points malfunction they cannot keep this proper continuous healthy flow of energy, thus causing problems to certain parts of the body that will now not receive this energy. The needle ends up becoming an extension of this energy system much like a lightening rod. Remember, there is no magic pill, drug, concoction, spell, or dance that will cure the body of disease, illness, or injury. We can only help our body to heal, we can’t do the healing for it. We must heal ourselves from the inside out – not from the outside in.
A correct diagnosis is the first step in health care problem solving. The task is to effectively organize a complex set of variables and interpret the relationship among them. Traditional Chinese diagnosis differs from what we are used to in the West. Like the police detective, the doctor unravels mysteries and solves problems by gathering evidence and information, following leads and using his or her intuition. The evidence is categorized into different sections. With each new piece of information, the doctor can better determine the true problem or problems. A traditional Chinese diagnosis truly gets to the deep root of the problem. It explains what, how, and why events occurred so the proper therapy can be used.
Both Chinese medicine and Western medicine searches for causes to patient’s ailments. The difference being – Chinese medicine looks to the various underlying relationships and subjective states while Western medicine looks to material agents or pathogens. When people are exposed to unhealthy factors they will, at some point, exhibit changes in their body. Noticing these changes, even subtle ones, and treating them early on can help prevent further problems from arising. This is why it is important for patients to be in tune with their bodies so disease does not spread and migrate. Chinese medicine tries to find the abnormality even before it shows up in the breast. Now that’s the shear beauty of it – if we are able to live a balanced life and take care of our bodies – we will never have to contend with disease or illness. Because after all a healthy body can never become sick. Too few of us actually take care of our health today. We must have regular natural check-ups that are able to pick up even the slightest of problems, and correct them before they have a chance of becoming worse. Unfortunately tests like the physical exam and the blood test may not be sensitive enough. Now I’m not saying not to receive regular physicals and blood work-ups – all I’m saying is that they are performed on people to determine pathologies – they do not show slight abnormalities – the problem is either there or its not – most physicals and blood tests come back normal anyway – but how many of these people are actually the epitome of health? Not many. So what we need to do is get back to basics, live a healthy lifestyle, and find a doctor that relies on good diagnostic principles and procedures.
The general understanding in the United States is that orthodox Western medicine is good at treating acute illness, while Chinese medicine is good at treating chronic illness. As Chinese medicine continues to be used, researched and explored in the West, it is beginning to be understood that Chinese medicine often works to treat acute illness as well.
Some patients are anxious about what an acupuncture treatment entails. They want to know what the procedure will be. They want to know if the procedure will hurt, cause any side effects, and what they will feel after the needles are taken out. Well the first step is the Diagnostic Interview, where the practitioner starts by recording basic information and asking the patient to describe in their own words what problems they are experiencing. The practitioner examines the patient by looking, hearing and smelling, questioning, and touching. The auricular therapy unit is machine that can also chart out pathological changes in the internal organs as well as determine physical, metal and physiological changes that have occurred.
Acupuncture has been very successful in helping withdrawal from addictions, such as alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, sugar, and coffee. It also works very well for stress reduction, decreased immunity, signs of aging, and post-surgical recovery. The World Health Organization of the United Nations has listed ailments for which it considers acupuncture suitable: They are Infections (colds and flu, bronchitis, hepatitis), Musculoskeletal and Neurological problems (arthritis, neuralgia, sciatica, back pain, bursitis, tendonitis, stiff neck, Bell’s palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, headache, stroke, cerebral palsy, polio, sprains and strains), Internal problems such as (asthma, high blood pressure, ulcers, colitis, indigestion, hemorrhoids diarrhea, constipation, diabetes, hypoglycemia), Mental-Emotional problems as seen in (anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia), Dermatologic problems like (eczema, acne, and herpes), Ears, Eyes, Nose, and Throat problems such as (deafness, ringing in the ears, earaches, poor eyesight, dizziness, sinus infection, sore throat, and hay fever), Genitourinary and Reproductive problems seen in conditions like (impotence, infertility, premenstrual syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginitis, irregular period or cramps, and morning sickness)
Acupuncture is not like a drug which is presumed to deliver a limited, desired effect. In Western medicine a given drug or procedure may result in short limited results, plus all the adverse reactions and side effects that go along with it, which adversely changes the organism as a whole. This logic is reversed in Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine affects global changes in the whole organism, which can result in the disappearance of specific symptoms. Health by Chinese standards is the ability of an organism to suitably adapt to a vast array of challenges in such a way that preserves the equilibrium and integrity of the body. Disease, on the other hand, signifies a failure of the organ to adapt causing a disruption of the overall equilibrium. Any challenge to the body with which it is unable to endure, whether it is a harmful substance or a bad feeling, is the seed of disease. Disease manifests or grows from this unstable process. A series of patterns with incompatible relationships are next to arise. When the body’s defenses are weakened and its resources exhausted, numerous factors end up scheming up a way to create illness. The old adage which states “The man is not sick because he has an illness, but has an illness because he is sick” signifies this view.
The principle of modern medicine was not organized so it could teach people on how to stay or become well. After all the doctor could only fix what had broken down. Every drug of proven merit can itself give rise to disease. But many times these effects go unnoticed since many of the toxic effects are remarkably indirect and delayed. This grossly effects the equilibrium and balance of the organism. Focusing more attention on the disease rather than the patient often presents problems – the doctor can destroy the tumor but has no means of supporting and nourishing the health of the patient. This allows one to say, “The procedure was a success, but the patient died.”
When speaking of the uniformity of the human body, early philosophers believed that although all organs are concealed in the body, their condition can be examined externally. They believed this due to countless observations of interactions between the internal and external body. No organ is an island. Each organ continually changes, and is being modified by, the internal body as well as its external environment. Within the body these interactions are mainly effected through energy channels. The Chinese call these channels meridians which are the basic foundation of acupuncture treatment. These meridians connect exterior to interior and upper to lower. If disorders disturb the meridian energy flow then their symptoms manifest themselves at the acupuncture points. If one were to correctly treat this disturbance they would insert a needle at a specific point to balance the energy flow.
According to Chinese acupuncture, the diagnosis does not necessarily mean giving the disease a name. Rather it means that after a profound study of the patient, a disturbance in the energy is discovered. During this examination of the patient, the weak point or the true condition of the organs of the patient is disclosed, and the manner in which the treatment will be applied is determined. It also serves to indicate the definitive plan for the treatment to follow.
The choices we make in our lives, how we think, use our bodies, eat, sleep, exercise, and set our priorities, affect our health and wellness. The more conscious we are of giving our bodies what they require,the more we take responsibility for our well-being. Preventing illness is just as important as healing illness, and yet many people don’t become concerned with their health until they are sick.
There is no doubt that Chinese ideas and practices are here to stay and will continue to thrive and advance in the future. It is important that we advance past the assumption that acupuncture is simply for pain control, that herbal remedies are nothing more but mild tonics. So the next time you feel like the flow of energy has been cut off and you can’t quite get your body in balance just visualize a lot of pins and needles piercing your skin, just as if you’re tailoring new clothes for a special occasion. And once the pins and needles are pulled, you’re ready to go. You’re feeling in balance. You’re “humming” and you’re happy.