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What is ACUPUNCTURE?
The intent of acupuncture therapy is to promote health and vitality and also to alleviate pain and suffering. The method by which this is accomplished, though it may seem strange and mysterious to many, has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be validated today. The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of “vital energy,” “energetic balance” and “energetic imbalance.” Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages travelling via the nervous system, the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this “vital energy” within its pathways, known as “meridians and channels”. The acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these “meridians”. Traditionally these areas or “acupoints” were stimulated by fine, slender needles. Today, many additional forms of stimulation are incorporated, including herbs, electricity, magnets and lasers. Still, the aim remains the same – adjust the “vital energy” so the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time. This helps your body heal itself. Acupuncture is just one form of therapy used within the coherent system of healing known as Oriental Medicine. Oriental Medicine includes herbology, physical therapy, dietetics and special exercises (such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong), and is a complete medical system unto itself and is not another branch of modern Western medicine. Acupuncture evolved from principles and philosophies unique to Oriental thinking and Oriental Medicine, and is most effectively applied when done in accordance with those principles.
What is the history?
Most experts would say that acupuncture is at least 2000 years old. The exact age is less important than the fact that Oriental Medicine is the most widely utilized healing system on this planet. Its roots are in China, but the fruits of its potential to help the sick and injured are apparent in many places, including all of Asia, Europe and America. Today, the art and science of Acupuncture/ Oriental Medicine is still not understood by many, yet it continues to gain popularity and acceptance because of one fact – (for many cases) IT WORKS!!
How does acupuncture work?
For millennia, the acupuncturist has been engaging subtle human energies, otherwise known as “Qi”. According to time-tested principles unique to Oriental Medicine, the acupuncturist would assess and adjust the flow and distribution of “Qi” in order to promote health and healing. So far, modern research has described various physiological shifts following acupuncture, such as beneficial changes in the body’s own natural painkillers, anti-inflammatory agents, immune system functions and hormonal activity. Despite the powerful technology available today, even the modern physicists cannot explain exactly how this ancient healing therapy works. Perhaps in the near future, the actual chemical and electromagnetic events that occur during acupuncture will be described.
Why use Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
In addition to being effective for many acute and chronic common illnesses, Oriental Medicine has much to offer those who wish to raise the quality of health and vitality. Practitioners of Oriental Medicine operate with prevention in mind, attempting to correct small energetic imbalances before they become big health problems. Current health trends emphasizing exercise, proper nutrition, stress reduction and immune system strengthening all validate the life-styles and methods that have always been promoted by practitioners and advocates of Acupuncture/ Oriental Medicine.
Are there side effects?
When performed by a properly trained and licensed practitioner, acupuncture is safe and effective, free from adverse or addictive side effects. Quite often, a sense of relaxation and well-being occurs during and after treatments. While undergoing therapy for one ailment, other problems may resolve concurrently. This is a common side benefit that again demonstrates the value of balancing the quality and quantity of “vital energy” within the entire person.
What are the limits of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture?
Oriental Medicine and acupuncture are powerful healing tools, but they are not panaceas nor the solution to every health care problem. Both Western and Oriental Medicine have their respective strengths and weaknesses, which is why in modern China, the two systems are used together. When appropriately combined, the patient is well served. Generally speaking, acute, life threatening conditions are best handled by Western medical doctors. Routine health problems and chronic conditions, for which drug therapy and surgery have not been effective enough, often benefit from Acupuncture/ Oriental Medicine.
What should I ask the practitioner I’m considering?
Always ask any practitioner about the extent of his or her training. Have them explain the differences between Oriental Medicine and Western Medicine in language that you can understand. Oriental Medicine has its limitations just as Western Medicine does. Look for practitioners who know their limitations and have referral networks to take care of your health in ways they (the Western doctors) cannot. Ask them about previous experience with conditions similar to your own. Although it is difficult to forecast response to treatments, ask about the signs and changes that the practitioner looks for to confirm that treatments are progressing well. Inquire about what therapies will be used and why. Practitioners should be able to explain any procedure they perform.
What does the examination/ consultation involve?
An examination/consultation includes what you tell the practitioner about your medical history and what your body says: The appearance of the face and body build, the shape and color of the tongue, the quality of the pulses, the feel of diagnostic areas such as the abdomen and back. An acupuncturist may test for weaknesses along the “meridians” and weaknesses in the muscles. Sometimes devices that measure electrical activity of acupoints may be used.
How long is the visit?
Usually the first visit is the longest in order to allow for a complete history taking and exam – typically about an hour. Follow-up visits are shorter, usually 30 to 60 minutes, depending on practitioner and patient needs. Sometimes other therapies, such as moxibustion, acupressure/ massage and exercises are incorporated within an acupuncture treatment.
Don’t the needles hurt?
Most people who have had acupuncture would describe it as virtually painless or far less painful than plucking out a hair. The sensations that follow range from nothing at all, to mild tingling, to slight numbness/achiness, to electrical pulsations in areas distant from the site of insertion. All these sensations usually subside once the needles are removed. The needles used for acupuncture are much smaller that the standard hypodermic needle, do not draw blood and are solid, not hollow.
What is treatment like?
Most patients would say, “relaxing”. Usually patients leave in less discomfort and are more functional than when they walked in. Sometimes the effects are too subtle to perceive, especially in the beginning of treatment. Yet after 5 to 10 treatments the improvements become more and more apparent.
Is it safe?
If performed by a qualified, conscientious practitioner, yes. Licensed Acupuncturists know the human anatomy well, and insert needles in a safe fashion. The instruments used to penetrate the skin are pre-sterilized and disposable after a single use. The practitioner is well aware of the concern over infectious diseases, and takes every measure to insure cleanliness as all health care professional do. Bleeding rarely occurs, unless done so on purpose in specific situations. Even then the amount is minimal and in no way dangerous.
What other services can we as practitioners of Oriental Medicine (TCM) provide?