Acupuncture

acupunctureWith the growing interest in natural therapies, acupuncture and acupressure stand out as leaders in bringing awareness of balance back to our bodies. Acupuncture is part of a complex, integrated healing system that goes for beyond pain relief but is used to treat many health disorders. Acupuncture in the western world has been gaining acceptance since the mid 70’s. There are numerous practitioners, colleges, and hospitals currently using this form of therapy. It was originally brought to America by the Chinese immigration in the 1880’s. It originated over 5000 years ago and is part of the healing system called TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) which incorporates numerous natural therapies including, massage, herbal preparations, moxibustion.

Let’s get into some details about how acupuncture works. This will apply equally to acupressure. The practice of acupuncture is based on the belief that health is determined by the vital energy called chi. Chi moves through every living thing. It is thought that chi moves through channels called meridians. There are 12 major energy meridian pathways each linked to specific organs or organ systems. There are literally over 1000 points along these meridians. Most practitioners utilize between 150 and 200 of these points. Acupuncture utilizes thin needles to stimulate these points. Acupressure uses finger pressure to stimulate these same points.

As Herbert Benson relates “We in the west are now looking more carefully, and less condescendingly, at alternative practices of medicine and the mind-body interactions. We are using scientific technologies to investigate nonspecific therapies and placebo effects.” In the 1960’s professor Kim Bong Han and a team of researchers attempted to document the existence of meridians in the human body. They found evidence that there exists an independent series of fine duct like tubes corresponding to the paths of traditional acupuncture meridians. Fluids in this system sometimes travel in the same direction as the blood and lymph but can flow in the opposite direction. These ducts are different that the blood and lymph vessels.

The existence of meridians was further established by French researcher Pierre de Vernejoul, who injected radioactive isotopes into acupoints of humans and tracked their movement with a special camera. The isotopes did indeed travel along the meridians further indicating that meridians do comprise a system of separate pathways within the body.

In the mid seventies the NIH (National Institute of Health) issued a grant to Robert Becker Md. and Maria Reichmanis, a biophysicist, were able to prove that electrical currents did flow along meridians and that 25 percent of the acupoints did exist with measurable lines. They reasoned the points acted as amplifiers to boost the electrical signals as they travel along the meridians. Insertion of the needles could interfere with the flow and thus restrict pain.

The World Health Organization has cited 104 different conditions that acupuncture can treat. These range from migraines, sinusitis, asthma, cold and flu, addictions, ulcers, trigeminal neuralgia, tennis elbow, paralysis from stroke, arthritis and environmental induced illnesses.

In relation to pain control it appears that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural pain killing chemicals. According to David Eisenberg, MD of Harvard Medical School “There is evidence that acupuncture influences the production and distribution of a great many neurotransmitters and neuromodulators and that this in turn alters perception of pain.”

Another interesting aspect of acupuncture is in the substitution for anesthesia. More than 90 percent of all head and neck surgeries performed at the Beijing Neuro-Surgical Institute are performed with needles. It has also been successful with thyroid operations, open heart surgery, abdominal and lung surgery.

A typical treatment consists of an assessment of medical history, the use of facial and tongue diagnosis, radial pulse diagnosis and a detailed assessment of voice, urine, digestive habits, sleep patterns and stress. After this has been done needles are placed in specific locations relating to your condition. Essentially this is painless process with an occasional prickling sensation when the needle is first inserted.

The needles are made in different lengths and gauges but are basically hair-thin solid and made of stainless steel. The treatment can last as short as a few seconds to forty five minutes. The use of ear needles can last for days or even weeks. In regards to the use of the ear and acupuncture, this is called Auriculotherapy. This therapy was developed in France after world war 11 by Paul Nogier MD. Dr. Nogier had worked out thirty basic points on the ear that could neurologically affect different layers of tissue. He presented this information at the Munich Acupuncture Convention. This led to further research on the subject in China and Japan which further substantiated Dr. Nogier’s work. Today’s ear acupuncture charts have been adopted by the Chinese and acupuncturist worldwide. Dr. Nogier is considered the father of modern ear acupuncture.

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