Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the major treatment methods used in Oriental medicine. Like all healing techniques used in this ancient medical system, Acupuncture works with the body’s inherent vital energy, or “Qi” (pronounced “chee”). Early practitioners of Oriental medicine discovered that this vital energy flows along specific pathways called “meridians” or “channels”. Acupuncture points are specific locations on the meridians which, when stimulated with either finger pressure or acupuncture needles, are able to affect the flow of energy through the meridians. Though no one knows precisely how this happens, modern research has been able to demonstrate that the acupuncture points are indeed physiologically different from non-acupuncture points in that they are areas on the body which have increased electrical conductivity. Researchers have also found that the slender needles induce the release of endorphins and cortisone which are the body’s natural pain killers.
When performed by a trained professional, acupuncture is a very safe procedure. Acupuncture needles are sterile and are very fine – only about the diameter of a human hair. The acupuncturist first inserts these fine, flexible needles to their proper depth, which depends on the area of the body being treated and the thickness of the patient’s body tissue. The practitioner then stimulates the needles either by manipulating them manually or by attaching them to a small electro-acupuncture device which uses a 9-volt battery to produce a small electrical pulse.
Stimulation of the acupuncture points acts to clear blockages of energy, balance any excesses or deficiencies of energy, and promote the normal flow of Qi through the meridians. Restoring the proper flow of Qi through the meridians helps the body mobilize and enhance its own natural self-healing mechanisms, thus treating or preventing illness. After the initial stimulation of the acupuncture needles, the patient then typically rests with the needles in place. During the treatment, heat may be applied to certain areas of the body or specific needles through the use of far-infrared (or “TDP”) lamps or the use of moxibustion. While the patient rests, the acupuncturist may also check the patient’s pulses to determine if the desired therapeutic effect has been achieved.
A typical acupuncture treatment lasts anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the condition being treated. Most people don’t find the insertion of the needles or their stimulation painful, though they may experience sensations of heaviness, achiness, fullness or tingling in the area where the needle is inserted. They may also experience a sensation of Qi flowing along the meridians. Most people find acupuncture to be quite relaxing and some even fall asleep during treatment. At the conclusion of the treatment, the needles are removed and discarded. The practitioner will then review any home care, herbal formulas, exercises or therapeutic diet recommendations with the patient.