Acupuncture is part of a system of medicine which originated in China thousands years ago.>The principal method of treatment with acupuncture is by insertion of very fine needles into points which lie beneath the skin.
These points may also be treated by warming with a burning herb (moxibustion)on acupuncture points along meridians, by gentle electrical pulse (electro-acupuncture), or by laser.
Acupuncture is world wide: it is used in almost every country in the world.
It is estimated that there are presently 3 millions practicing acupuncturists, including barefoot doctors.
Acupuncture takes years to learn: a qualified practitioner needs many years of study and clinical practice in order to refine his diagnostic and therapeutic skills, acupuncture is a complex system which requires extensive study of the classical theory, profound knowledge of both theory and practice, and the necessary background in western medicine as well.
The classical theory
This is based on the dual interaction of yin and yang, and the uninterrupted flow of energy along the 14 meridians of acupuncture. Disease is caused, according to the classics, by either an imbalance between yin and yang, or a blockage or interruption of the flow of energy, along the acupuncture meridians.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?> The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, or acupuncture meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues.
An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.
The acupuncture meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians.
Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians,thus re-establishing balance between YIN and YANG, finely tuning the flow of life energy, removing blockages along "meridian" pathways.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain.
These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture treatment results in stimulating the body's
natural healing abilities, promoting physical and emotional well-being.
What is the scope of acupuncture?Acupuncture can influence three major areas of health care: . promotion of health and well-being, . prevention of illness, . treatment of a variety of pathologies.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:
asthma, chest infections, bronchitis.
palpitations, angina, chest pain, poor circulation, hypertension.
stomach ulcer, gastritis, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, colitis, constipation or diarrhoea.
cystitis, prostatitis, bed wetting.
premenstrual syndrome, menstrual pain, irregular period, lack of, or excessive menstruation, infertility, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms.
effect of strokes, trigeminal neuralgia, shingles, Bell's palsy.
sport injuries, pain, stiffness, fibrositis, lumbago, sciatica, rheumatism, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, tendinitis
anxiety, depression, phobias, agitation, insomnia, stress.
malaise, low energy, poor vitality, recurrent illness, fatigue.
Ear, Nose, Throat:
sinusitis, hay fever, tinnitus, recurrent sore throat, mouth ulcers, etc.
migraine, tension, hormonal imbalance, pains of all kind.
eczema, psoriasis, etc. Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.
How many treatments are needed?
The number of acupuncture treatments varies according to the condition treated.
The statistics carried out in my practice show an average of 8 treatments per person. Usually, 4 to 6 treatments are needed initially at weekly intervals; then a few more acupuncture treatments are required on longer periods of time to make sure that the condition does not reoccur.
Does it hurt?
The needles are thin like a hair and certainly have nothing in common with a syringe needle. A slight prickling sensation is felt as the needle pierces the skin and sometimes a tingling sensation is experienced while the needles are in place.
How many needles are used in one treatment ?
Two to eight points needled bilaterally in one acupuncture treatment is about the average.
What should you expect?
Everyone's response to acupuncture treatment is different, so I don't have preconceived ideas or rigid expectations.
Some people quickly feel much better, while some don't notice any immediate changes. Often the first changes to occur improve the overall state of health, and one will experience better sleeping, feeling more relaxed or "even". A feeling of lightness and well-being are also common. As the whole person is treated, emotional, mental and physical changes happen together. The symptoms might still be present, but they will lessen with time. Since it took time to get the disease, it will take time to cure it.
Are there any side effects to the treatment?Usually not. Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a day; it should not cause concern, as this is simply an indication that the acupuncture is starting to work. It is quite common with the first one or two acupuncture treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment..
Do i have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A constructive attitude toward a better health may reinforce the effects of the treatment received.
Are there any "DO'S and DON'TS" on the day of a treatment?
Yes, the following guidelines are important: Do not eat a very large meal immediately before or after an acupuncture treatment. Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after acupuncture. Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can get some rest.This is especially important for the first few visits. Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your doctor.Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatment, will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of acupuncture. Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your practitioner to know so that the follow-up acupuncture treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem.
Acupuncture points and channels or meridians
Most of the main acupuncture points are found on the "twelve main meridians" and two of the "eight extra meridians" (Du Mai and Ren Mai) a total of "fourteen channels", which are described in classical and traditional Chinese medical texts, as pathways through which Qi and "Blood" flow. There also exist "extra points" not belonging to any channel. Other tender points (known as "ashi points") may also be needled as they are believed to be where stagnation has gathered.
Treatment of acupuncture points may be performed along several layers of pathways, most commonly the twelve primary channels, or mai, located throughout the body. The first twelve channels correspond to systems of function: Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestine, Bladder, Kidney, Pericardium, San Jiao (an intangible, also known as Triple Burner), Gall Bladder, and Liver. Other pathways include the Eight Extraordinary Pathways (Qi Jing Ba Mai), the Luo Vessels, the Divergents and the Sinew Channels. Ashi (tender) points are generally used for treatment of local pain.
Of the eight extraordinary pathways, only two have acupuncture points of their own: the Ren Mai and Du Mai, which are situated on the midline of the anterior and posterior aspects of the trunk and head respectively. The other six meridians are "activated" by using a master and couple point technique which involves needling the acupuncture points located on the twelve main meridians that correspond to the particular extraordinary pathway.
The twelve primary pathways run vertically, bilaterally, and symmetrically and every channel corresponds to and connects internally with one of the twelve Zang Fu ("organs"). This means that there are six yin and six yang channels. There are three yin and three yang channels on each arm, and three yin and three yang on each leg.
The three yin channels of the hand (Lung, Pericardium, and Heart) begin on the chest and travel along the inner surface (mostly the anterior portion) of the arm to the hand.
The three yang channels of the hand (Large intestine, San Jiao, and Small intestine) begin on the hand and travel along the outer surface (mostly the posterior portion) of the arm to the head.
The three yin channels of the foot (Spleen, Liver, and Kidney) begin on the foot and travel along the inner surface (mostly posterior and medial portion) of the leg to the chest or flank.
The three yang channels of the foot (Stomach, Gallbladder, and Urinary Bladder) begin on the face, in the region of the eye, and travel down the body and along the outer surface (mostly the anterior and lateral portion) of the leg to the foot.
The movement of Qi through each of the twelve channels comprises an internal and an external pathway. The external pathway is what is normally shown on an acupuncture chart and is relatively superficial. All of the acupuncture points of a channel lie on its external pathway. The internal pathways are the deep course of the channel where it enters the body cavities and related Zang Fu organs. The superficial pathways of the twelve channels describe three complete circuits of the body, chest to hands, hands to head, head to feet, feet to chest, etc.
The distribution of Qi through the pathways is said to be as follows (the based on the demarcations in TCM's Chinese Clock): Lung channel of hand taiyin to Large Intestine channel of hand yangming to Stomach channel of foot yangming to Spleen channel of foot taiyin to Heart channel of hand shaoyin to Small Intestine channel of hand taiyang to Bladder channel of foot taiyang to Kidney channel of foot shaoyin to Pericardium channel of hand jueyin to San Jiao channel of hand shaoyang to Gallbladder channel of foot shaoyang to Liver channel of foot jueyin then back to the Lung channel of hand taiyin. According to the "Chinese clock", each channel occupies two hours, beginning with the Lung, 3AM-5AM, and coming full circle with the Liver 1AM-3AM.
A modern view of acupuncture and TCM
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on a paradigm of the body different to that of modern biomedicine. Inherent characteristics of TCM necessitate an active and central role of acupuncturists in acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture as a complex non-pharmacological therapy depends solely on the acupuncturists' skills, competence and understanding of TCM theory to work.
Acupuncture, as one of treatment modalities of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that develops a different conceptual and theoretical basis to modern biomedicine.
Acupuncture treatment extends far beyond needling with acupuncturists being a component in or contributor to the treatment. Increased attention given to the role of acupuncturists in acupuncture treatment may help better understand TCM theory and improve the validity of clinical trials of acupuncture.
Chinese medicine relies on the veracity of the senses, the person-centered experience either as reported by the patient or perceived by an observant practitioner’ . TCM and biomedicine focus on different ends of the spectrum—objectivity and subjectivity—of any medical entity respectively; that is why TCM may complement biomedicine well in its distinct approaches to some medical conditions without clear biomedical pathogenesis, such as the functional somatic syndromes . TCM develops a set of well-established theories whereby to categorize symptoms to elicit TCM diagnosis, and at the same time classify available treatment options (usually, Chinese herbs, acupuncture or a combination of both) to form a corresponding treatment plan. To ensure efficacy, TCM diagnosis and the subsequent treatment should be one-to-one corresponding to each other strictly. However, a particular TCM diagnosis—a kind of pattern diagnosis—is at most probable, but never definitive.
Unlike modern biomedicine emphasising identification of specific diseases over analysis of general symptom patterns to explain symptoms, TCM develops a ‘holistic’ method to identify and analyze symptoms. According to TCM, different coexisting symptoms are interdisciplinary and interactive, so any individual symptom is rarely studied in isolation. Instead, it is investigated in context of its relationships with other concurrent symptoms, as well as with symptom modifiers and other clinical observations such as the tongue coat and pulse diagnosis, to identify the most probable pattern of disorders . This pattern diagnosis is then used to determine a subsequent treatment plan. Since TCM relies solely upon those subjective entities either reported by patients or perceived by practitioners, obtaining adequate information with defining meanings is therefore a prerequisite for an effective TCM treatment. This determines the key role of acupuncturists in acupuncture treatment.
Communication Plays a Key Role in the Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncturists play an active and central role in acupuncture treatment. All the information used to make a diagnosis can only be obtained from acupuncturists' ‘looking’, ‘listening’, ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking’. These subjective processes are inextricably linked and embedded in the comprehensive communication between the acupuncturist and the patient. This characteristic of TCM underpins the predominant role of acupuncturists in the treatment. A particular acupuncture treatment session is characterized, except for needle insertion itself, by the elaborate and comprehensive communication between the acupuncturist and the patient. In contrast to biomedicine usually relying on biological diagnostic markers beyond symptoms when making diagnosis, TCM depends solely upon subjective medical entities—patients' reported symptoms, information obtained form pulse taking and sometimes other relevant aspects including mind, spirit and lifestyle factors. A good relationship and successful valid communication with a patient are therefore essential to ensuring the quality and quantity of information correctly depicting patient's health status, hence an accurate diagnosis. To obtain significant and relevant information, communication with a patient can be prolonged and enhanced and is focused on details of some particular aspects that are important and not yet explicit for a diagnosis to be made, when, for example, the patient presents complex symptoms; what the patient wants to say is not what the acupuncturist wants to know; and the acupuncturist gets information conflicting in quality and needs to confirm and support his or her judgment until it is meaningful and explicit enough to draw a conclusion.
Interactions between patients and therapists will invariably cause non-specific effects—placebo effects—that will affect treatment outcomes to various extents.
Acupuncture treatment involves a broad amalgam of non-specific factors resulted from intimate patient–acupuncturist relationship presented in the treatment ‘including attention, communication of concern, intense monitoring, diagnostic procedures, labeling of complaint and alterations produced in a patient's expectancy, anxiety and relationship to the illness’ . They may result in more belief and higher expectation of the treatment, and more importantly, make patients feel they have more control over their illness .
Acupuncturists focus on communication with patients not to exert influence on them to reap placebo effects, but to obtain as much information as possible whereby to construct a correct diagnosis. TCM does not intentionally create placebo effects, though it actually causes enhanced placebo effects.
For Any Individual Complaint, No Standard Acupuncture Treatment Exists Independent of Therapist Factors
Acupuncturists are absolutely a component of and contributor to the treatment. The diagnosis and delivery of acupuncture treatment depends solely on the acupuncturists' skills, competence and understanding of TCM theory. Acupuncturists initiate and dominate communication with patients, and focus on questions thought to have defining meanings for making a correct diagnosis; acupuncturists create a collaborative atmosphere working with patients as a partner and take on various styles approaching diverse patients emphasizing on their minds, spirits and lifestyle factors; the same patient can be diagnosed and treated differently by acupuncturists with varied clinical experience and understanding of TCM theory. For any individual complaint, no standard acupuncture treatment exists independent of therapist factors.
Any patient seeking acupuncture treatment should be advised not to quit treatment within the initial several sessions due to the reasons that it will take some time to show treatment effects, and the acupuncturist may need some time as well to optimize treatment protocols.
TCM practitioners tend to rely on personal experience
TCM is virtually experience-based medicine; TCM theory and practical experience combined makes a TCM practitioner. Though experience is important for both TCM and biomedicine, biomedicine tends to rely more on objective evidence than personal experience, while experience is much more valued in TCM. Compared with acupuncturists with little experience, more experience means better communicating skills essential to keeping good relationships with patients to ensure a correct diagnosis, more in-depth understanding of TCM theory after a long time verifying it through practicing, more safety and less adverse effects of treatment. All in all, experience guarantees an acupuncturist's competence to offer optimal acupuncture treatment. An acupuncturist's competence and skillfulness are more achieved from long time practicing than a certain period of training; that is to say, a period of training does not guarantee the professional and technical competence to offer an optimal acupuncture treatment, though training is important and necessary.