How was acupuncture created?
Acupuncture comes from the Daoist tradition in ancient China. Daoism is a philosophy that promotes living a simple life in communion with nature. Daoists live a lifestyle of self-cultivation through meditation, reflection and Qi Gong. Though the exact date that acupuncture started is unknown, the first written records of acupuncture date back to around 1,000 BC. Some people believe that the individual acupuncture points were discovered first while others believe that the pathways were discovered first and the points later. The acupuncture pathways connect the organs to the limbs and to the head, connecting the entire body to make one whole. These bands of influence keep the body strong and healthy and are a way that we can stimulate its natural healing abilities. When the concepts of acupuncture pathways and the needle were combined, acupuncture was born. Along with these pathways, acupuncture theory is based on the Daoist concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements, or Five Phases. The most important acupuncture text, called Nei Jing, or Inner Classic, is believed to have been written sometime between 500 BC and 200 BC. These dates are conservatively based on surviving materials and this text is most likely quite a bit older.
Acupuncture developed along with a cultural renaissance in ancient China. The concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements dominated this time period. Yin and Yang theory presents the idea that all things in nature have an aspect of polarity. Some examples are day and night, left and right, hot and cold, up and down etc. All of these can be classified as either yin or yang. For example, day, left, hot, and up would be yang and their opposites would be yin. However, yin and yang are not opposing forces. Like the two ends of a magnet, yin and yang are two parts of a whole and can not exist without each other, represented by the Tai Ji or yin yang symbol. Also, yin and yang are not binary but a spectrum. Nothing in the natural world can be 100% yin or 100% yang. The fundamental goal of acupuncture, according to the ancient books, is to balance the yin and yang energies within the patient’s bodies. This can be thought of, in conventional medicine terms, as the goal of optimizing homeostasis.
Five Elements theory presents an idea that everything in nature changes and interacts following set rules. In Mandarin, Wu Xia actually means five phases or transformations. Five Elements is an incorrect translation. The Five Phases are: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. Five Phases Theory should not be thought of like the concept of the Four Elements in Western thought. The Five Phases are not meant to designate the building blocks of the material world. Instead, they represent unique attributes that any object in the natural world can be imbued with. The theory also describes how objects with different attributes interact with each other and how these attributes can change over time. People also have personalities and body types that correspond to a specific phase. For example, a person who has an excess of the wood phase would be long and slender. Their limbs would be especially long compared to their body. They would have trouble being in confined spaces for long periods of time. They would be very creative but prone to frustration and irritability. Different organs in the body display attributes of the different phases as well, based on their function, shape and appearance. These two concepts, (Yin/Yang and Five Phases), heavily shaped the theories behind acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
In Western terms, how does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture can help regulate blood flow, blood pressure and blood sugar. It can influence the endocrine system, which is responsible for the hormones of the reproductive, digestive, cognitive and cardiovascular system. These are some of the ways that acupuncture can treat internal issues like insomnia, digestive disorders, infertility, blood pressure issues, fatigue, and urinary issues to name a few.
Acupuncture can treat pain in two different ways. First, acupuncture works on the bands of fascia that run all over the body. Fascia bands are made out of connective tissue. This tissue makes up 70% of the human body and works like a net or web to hold everything together. They are like rubber bands stretched all over the body. There are fascia bands that run from the sides of the head to the shoulders. That is why a temporal headache often accompanies tight trap muscles on the sides of the neck. By relieving the tension on these bands of fascia, acupuncture can treat pain very effectively.
The second way acupuncture can treat pain is through increasing serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine levels in the brain. These often become depleted in patients with chronic pain. Often times, it is no longer an injury that is at the root of the pain, instead it’s caused by a dysfunction in the nervous system and a the lack of these hormones in the brain chemistry. Acupuncture can increase both the level of these hormones and the number of receptors for them in the brain. Acupuncture also helps stimulate nerve impulse to regulate their function.
What are acupuncture needles and how do they work?
Acupuncture needles are sterile, single use needles. They don’t put anything into the body or take anything out. They are not soaked in anything either. It is the needle itself that does the work by stimulating key pressure points on the body. Acupuncture is similar to acupressure. To understand acupressure, next time you get a headache, try squeezing on the fleshy part of your hand, between the index finger and thumb. You will notice a decrease in your headache after a few minutes. With acupuncture, the point can be stimulated indefinitely by the needle. Using needles allows for multiple points to be stimulated at once and for longer periods of time, creating a much more powerful effect.
What are acupuncture points?
Acupuncture points are very small areas of the body that have a very large amount of energetic resonance and lie at key points along fascia bands. They are connected to each other by the acupuncture pathways and can be thought of as similar to pressure points. Acupuncture points have the ability to heal diseases when they are combined together in optimal ways. They were discovered thousands of years ago in ancient China.
What are the side effects of acupuncture?
The most common side effect of acupuncture is a state of tranquility after the treatment. Therefore, if driving after acupuncture, it’s important to stay focused on what you are doing. Sometimes, the area where a needle was placed can have a dull ache for an hour or so afterwards. This is uncommon and goes away quickly.
How should I prepare for my first acupuncture treatment?
It’s best to wear loose fitting clothing so that points at the knees and elbows can be reached easily. Make sure you have something to eat at least 2-3 hours before. It’s important to take it easy after the treatment; try not to schedule anything overly strenuous after the appointment time. Because I do use certain facial diagnosis methods when making a treatment plan, less make-up is always best if it’s possible.
What can acupuncture treat?
I have provided on another page the World Health Organization’s list of conditions that acupuncture can treat:
There is still a lot of research that needs to be done in the West about what acupuncture can do. However, this is a good list to get an idea.
What are acupuncture’s benefits?
Acupuncture stimulates circulation and regulates the nerves. From a traditional perspective, acupuncture also regulates the movement of qi, or energy, in the body. Acupuncture is very calming and relaxing. Paradoxically, it also promotes a sense of vitality. Acupuncture can support the immune system and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation is a hot button issue in modern health sciences, believed to be at the root of many conditions. In Chinese Medicine, there are three aspects of health: physical, mental and spiritual. Acupuncture is one of the few medicines that can treat all three.
What to expect after the treatment?
In order to maximize the benefit of acupuncture, it’s best to try and take it easy afterwards. I recommend not exercising too much or doing anything very strenuous. Also, get a good night’s sleep the night after the treatment. For many, acupuncture can provide immediate improvement. For others, they feel the changes a day or two later. Acupuncture is a cumulative medicine, which means that its benefits add up over time. For issues that have been around for over a few months or even for years, it may take some time before you see results. However, even though it may not be visible at first, you are making significant progress each time.
What is cupping and moxibustion?
Cupping is an ancient technique where glass cups are applied to areas of pain using suction. Mainly they are applied to the back and shoulders. I like to do “moving cupping;” the cups are moved up and down the back with the use of medicated oil to reduce friction. It feels like a massage but goes very deep into the muscles. Most people really enjoy cupping. Cupping will leave marks on your back for 2-3 days. This is normal and means that the procedure was done well.
Moxibustion is the use of a heated incense stick with the herb Artemisia vulgaris as the main ingredient. It is held a couple inches from the skin, just enough to give a sensation of warmth. It can promote blood flow in order to treat pain and stiffness. I also will sometimes use moxa on the bottoms of the feet and at the navel to help my patients relax.
Are the Chinese herbs safe?
I only use two herbal companies: KPC and TCM Zone. Both of these companies go out of there way to comply with and actually exceed the international laws and regulations. These are truly top quality products and I wouldn’t feel comfortable using them unless I knew they were safe and effective. However, it is true that there are questionable products out there. Often these companies sell directly to consumers. Also, herbal supplements, just like pharmaceuticals, are meant to treat specific issues and there is no herb that’s meant for everyone. Therefore, they need to be prescribed by licensed practitioners. Here is a link to KPC and TCM Zone’s websites, where you can read more:
What is Qi Gong?
Qi Gong translates to Qi, or energy, cultivation. It is a form of exercise that promotes physical and mental health. Simple movements are performed with focused attention in order to put the mind into a state of peaceful relaxation. These movements are also specifically designed to energize and activate the different acupuncture pathways. Qi Gong promotes circulation and calms the mind and spirit. It is a very helpful daily practice. I recommend specific Qi Gong movements for my patients to do corresponding to their constitution. It can help with digestive issues, fatigue, stress and pain. Come into my office for a free consultation and I will show you a Qi Gong movement that would be a good match for you.
What is your acupuncture clinic near?