Acupuncture – Gateway to a Healthy Existence
Over the years there has been much hype concerning the practice of acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention and alternative medicine. Based on ancient traditional Chinese medicines, acupuncture system of treatment has been offering services for the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and towards maintenance of mental and physical well-being. People across the globe have been raving and ranting about the effectiveness of this treatment that provide complete freedom from pain and various other illness…Now what is this acupuncture all about? In this article, let us peek at one of the most ancient forms of medical treatment accepted in almost all countries across the globe.
What is acupuncture?
The word “Acupuncture” derived from two Latin words “acus” which means ‘needle’ and “punctura” which means ‘to penetrate’ therefore means, “to penetrate with a needle”. Acupuncture denotes a group of procedures using a variety of techniques, alleviating pain and restoring good health. This is achieved through stimulation of particular body points by insertion of thin metallic needles either manually or through electric stimulation.
What is the Origin of Acupuncture?
According to ancient myths, a Chinese soldier who developed frozen shoulders despite all efforts, found no relief from pain. In the battlefield being attacked by an arrow in the leg, led to the miraculous healing of the frozen shoulder. When the village doctor heard of this inconceivable information, he tried this procedure on other patients suffering from similar ailments. Soon the Doctor discovered that injuries in particular parts of the body could help treat ailments in other parts. This experimentation was responsible for the birth of the system of acupuncture, which though initially carried out with arrows, later evolved to needles and various other advanced methods.
What is the History behind acupuncture?
The first mention of acupuncture was made more than 2000 years ago in the oldest ancient book of Chinese medicine “The Yellow Emperor’s classic of internal medicine” also known as “”Neiching.” According to the book, acupuncture was practiced throughout China long before the book was written. Proof of its existence was made during the excavations by archaeologists, who discovered acupuncture needles in gold and silver in Prince Liu Shengs tomb, who lived in 200 B.C.
What is the Ancient system of acupuncture?
According to the ancient theory of Huangdi Neijing, Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine , the sole intent of acupuncture was to stabilize the flow of blood and vital energy called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) throughout the body. According to Chinese medicine, everything existing in nature contains yin and yang. Qi maintains the dynamic balance of yin and yang, which are complementary opposites. An imbalance of qi (too much, too little, or blocked flow) causes diseases to enter the body through the skin, and then penetrate inward .through muscle, internal organs. If these diseases are not cured in timely fashion, they tend to make their way into the bone marrow. Achieving the proper flow of qi is thought to create health and wellness. This method was therefore used by making holes along certain pathways, called jingluo or meridians that relate to one or group of organs performing particular functions of the body. However, some of these meridians were advised to acupuncture in such a way to let out the blood but not the qi for others, to let out the qi, but not the blood. If the qi circulation was corrected, the body can eliminate most symptoms and eventually with proper diet, exercise, and other habits virtually overcome all diseases.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The results of acupuncture are complicated, which in several parts of the globe is described the theory of neuroscience. According to researchers, the various techniques employed in acupuncture, produce a variety of effects on the body and the brain.
The procedure activates the nervous system stimulating the nerve ends, transmitting signals to the brain and spinal cord that release certain hormones, which help assuage pain, providing a feeling of complete wellness. According to Acupuncture practitioners, the stimulation increases blood flow, which acts as body’s natural painkillers.
What are the Different Acupuncture Styles?
Over the century’s different styles of acupuncture evolved across the globe based on a wide variety of techniques and theory. With its origin in China, this system of medicine later moved to other places such as Japan, Korea, Europe, Vietnam, India and America. However, the following are some of the methods most commonly practiced in modern times.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
The TCM or the Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the most common practices of acupuncture, in modern times. Based on the eight principles of opposites- yin, yang, internal, external, excess, deficiency, hot, cold -complementing each other, this views the body, mind, and spirit as one system. The core foundation of TCM is the coexistence of yin and yang, the two opposite principles in regular action, creating an erratic balance in the healthy body. When either yin or yang is in excess or in a state of deficiency it results in diseases.
Although acupuncture is the practice most often associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is not limited to the Chinese culture. The Japanese and Koreans developed their own form of acupuncture making subtle changes using needle free and trigger-point methods of acupuncture.
Classical five-element acupuncture
Classical five-element acupuncture, or classical acupuncture, a part of traditional Chinese medicine, derived its name, because this style corresponds to the Chinese seasons namely Summer, Harvest, Fall, Winter and Spring. According to this theory, the forces of nature, including the human body is a combination of five elements namely wood, fire, earth, metal and water, with specific diagnostic characteristics. Therefore, to enjoy good health, these elements have to remain in balance. Any deficiency in either or of the five elements may lead to associated medical symptoms and health conditions. Nevertheless, an acupuncturist with the usage of points related to the lack of five elements in the body, may use needle insertion, dietary changes and other complementary therapies to boost the presence of the lacking element.
Japanese Style Acupuncture
Japanese Style Acupuncture, based on the Chinese style for the most part, with slightly different theories and techniques use a minimum amount of stimulus on the body to get effective results. The Five Phase Treatment Protocol employed by the Japanese style at the initial stages of treatment, besides enhancing the flow of Qi also provides a complete balance to health restoring the vital energies.
Electro acupuncture an extremely popular style of acupuncture, used primarily as a form of pain relief, became prevalent since the 1970s. This form is a combination of the traditional acupuncture in conjunction with a low electric current running through needles using the same meridians as the classical acupuncture. However, the needles attached to a small device secured by small clips are inserted at specific points on the body generating continuous electric pulses that the acupuncturist can adjust depending on the required intensity. Electro acupuncture does not need to be as accurate as the Japanese style of Acupuncture. It is much easier to treat the symptoms as the electric pulses stimulate a broader area. However, those particular about needles may opt for electro acupuncture involving electrodes instead of needles for producing similar results
The Korean acupuncture primary focus lays on hand therapy, where the hand with 14 meridians and over 300 different points relate to internal organs representing the entire body and by stimulation of specific points on the hands can treat the whole body. In addition to traditional needle therapy, Korean acupuncturists also use alternative techniques like warming acupuncture points with herbs called moxibustion, trapping warmed air against the skin with the aid of cups known as cupping and acupressure placing pressure on the sensitive points rather than inserting needles.
French Energetic Acupuncture
French energetic acupuncture,” also referred to as based on traditional Chinese medicine is a combination of both Eastern and Western medicine. Widely used by medical acupuncturists by means of insertion of tiny needles in different spots and patterns along the energy channels called meridians, a unique method of acupuncture this particular type of acupuncture is primarily facilitated as a complimentary treatment for chronic illness and injury by restoring balance between the yin and the yang ,the two principle forces of nature.
The auricular acupuncture based on the concept that ear is the manifestation of the whole body with several points in the ear connecting to each major organ. The ear resembles an upside down foetus position; therefore, the tip of the ear indicates the lower half of the body with the lower end signalling the upper region of the body. The tip of the ear is the “allergy point which indicates any toxicity or allergic inflammations in the body. The centre ear lobe is the “Master Sensorial Point” stimulating eye and ear function. The inside of the ear is the “Master Cerebral Point,” and stimulating this point helps brain functions and mood disorders like anxiety, fear and nervousness. These are the three vital points in the ears that relate with the body. The process involves inserting needles on particular points, which is said to affect the related organs.
Trigger point therapy
Trigger point therapy practiced by acupuncturists, physiotherapists and massage therapists to treat musculo-skeletal pain is also called myofascial therapy. Myofascial indicates the surface of the muscle. According to the Myofascially based style of acupuncture, it was believed that the tender points in the body denote abnormal flow of energy which when identified by the practitioner helps determine the areas affecting the body. Trigger point therapy is an effective form of acupuncture as it causes direct stimulation on the affected muscle surface. It creates immediate relaxation and helps loosen taut nerves that are the main cause of pain.
What conditions may be treated with acupuncture?
According to the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture can be used for treatment of various health conditions some of which are listed below.
- Addiction (such as alcoholism)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Low Back Pain
- Spastic Colon
- Stroke Rehabilitation
- Urinary Incontinence
- Kidney Infections
- Sports Injuries
- High Blood Pressure
- Gastroesophageal Reflux
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- Menopausal Symptoms,
- Menstrual Cramps
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Memory Problems
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Sensory Disturbances
- Drug Detoxification
Is the process painful?
The major question in every person’s mind before commencing the procedure will be if the treatment would hurt as it involves insertion of needles. However, there would be no pain with just a feeling of a slight prick during insertion of needles, as the needles used are very thin. Following the insertion of needles there may be a feeling of numbness known as Deqi pronounced as “duhchee” interpreted as the treatment working. Overall most people feel that the entire treatment is relaxing, less painful and an excellent method for a pain free existence.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is absolutely safe when a professionally qualified licensed Acupuncturist performs the procedure under sterile conditions, using disposable needles.
What are the benefits of Acupuncture?
- Acupuncture has very few side effects
- The procedure is effective for relief from pain
- Ideal for patients who do not respond to pain relievers
- Acupuncture is an excellent option for patients who prefer to avoid painkillers.
- Effective when treatment is done in conjunction with prescription drugs, as in instances like cancer.
What are the risks involved?
- Acupuncture could be life threatening if the patient has a bleeding disorder or is on blood thinners.
- There may be possibilities of soreness bleeding and bruising at needle insertion points.
- In very rare cases, the needle may break with possibilities of damage to the organ.
- When the needles are deeply inserted into the chest or lungs, in very few exceptional cases, there may be a risk of collapsed lung.
- When needles are not properly sterilized, there may be chances of an infection.
The procedure may be avoided during pregnancy which might induce labour resulting in premature delivery.
What are the limitations of this procedure?
Before deciding on a treatment it would be wise to get an advice from qualified professionals with expertise, regarding the pros and cons of this kind of treatment and that if they should be done in conjunction with prescription drugs.