The Effectiveness of Acupuncture

Information for the Public & Patrons

by Linda D. McMillan

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Many Western physicians have refused to acknowledge acupuncture or Chinese medicine as a healing art. Many in the Western world viewed Chinese medicine with skepticism as a mystic art because they lacked the understanding of the energy flow within the electro-magnetic body. Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medical treatment. It consists of regulating or balancing the energy flow or life-force along invisible pathways or channels called meridians. The energy flow known in Chinese medicine is completely different from that of the blood or lymph circulation, or even that of the nervous system. Unlike Western medicine which uses surgery, drug therapy, and the general treatment of symptoms, Chinese medical techniques prevent pain during surgery, remove symptoms by correcting the disorder, as well as treating and curing disease and aiding in drug detoxification.

Thirty-four books on acupuncture known as the Nei Ching, date back 4,600 years (and took over 1,500 years to complete the entire collection). Traditional Chinese medicine still adheres to the wisdom of the Nei Ching which includes acupuncture, diet, manipulation and massage, hydrotherapy, herbalism, sun and air therapy, as well as exercise. The root concept of Chinese medicine is in the two component forces of YIN and YANG which constantly struggle for balance with each other. Yin represents that which is feminine, passive, dark, and receptive, and Yang represents that which is masculine, active, light, and assertive. Health is dependent on the balancing of yin and yang, first within the body and, second, within the universe. The acupuncturist not only balances the yin-yang factor, but also adjusts the lifeforce termed chi which is known to circulate according to the circadian or daily rhythm, through the meridians, their acupuncture points, and their organs. The idea of treating acupuncture points evolved thousands of years ago after it was noted that Chinese soldiers who were wounded by arrows, sometimes recovered from illness which had afflicted them for many years. Diseases were apparently cured by the penetration of the skin at certain points, so the Chinese began to copy the effects by using needles to puncture the skin. First stones, then bones, and later metal needles were used to treat the skin points. Two of the many types of needles used are the slim needles called hao chen and the trocar-tipped needles called san-lin chen. The hao chen needle is more widely used for treating ailments. The san-lin chen is usually shorter, sharp-tipped with a thicker caliber, and often is used to facilitate breathing a vein or bloodletting and for other incisions, which is rarely used in this country. The theory and practice of acupuncture have evolved to treat the entire person. The mind and the body are not seperate entities but should be treated together as one unit. Acupuncturists rarely distinguish between physical and psychological diseases when treating the patient. Before the acupuncturist treats a patient, a history will be taken and a diagnosis will be given. There are four main methods of diagnosis: examination by sight, by ausculation, by palpation, and by interrogation of the patient. For example, the examination by sight is done by observing the colors in the face which, depending on the color, reflect a disorder in the corresponding organ. Another example, the five vocal expressions--shouting, speaking, singing, crying and groaning--must be monitored carefully in order to diagnose correctly from which body organ the sound is originating. Shouting might indicate liver and gallbladder disorders, speaking with a stutter might indicate cardiac dysfunction, groans are emitted from the kidneys, and yawning and snoring are related to the kidneys. In addition, there are five emotions worth listening for as the patient speaks. These emotions are anger, joy, worry, grief, and fear. The most prominent emotion corresponds with an organ disorder. Diagnosis by palpating specific points on the feet, the meridians, the abdomen, the thorax, and the pulses will confirm other findings. The Chinese pulse reading can be taken by feeling the twelve different pulses located on the radial artery of each wrist. These distinguish the quality of energy flowing through each of the meridians and their organs. This technique is a good indication of where to begin treatment. Treatments usually will resolve any ill symptoms by correcting blockages, excesses, or imbalances in the flow of the vital chi. Any abnormal disturbance in the body's wellness is usually corrected with an acupuncture needle. At times, herbs and foods are used first for treatment, then pressure massage, or occasionally the use of heat or cold, needling, cupping, and bleeding or the use of mild electric current is used to accompany the needling technique. In China acupuncture anesthesia has replaced anesthetic drugs in many surgical procedures, such as thyroidectomy, tonsillectomy, herniotomy and of course, tooth extractions. Patients have reported feeling no pain during operations and none of the undesirable after effects connected with drug anesthesia. With the patients fully conscious throughout the operations, they can co-operate and respond to the surgeons questions and directions Acupuncture has been used successfully in various diseases of the classic categories of internal medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, obstetrics, and gynocology, and in leiu of surgery. There are many diseases unsuccessfully treated by Western medicine which Chinese medicine has cured. These include peptic ulcers, spastic colitis, deafness, bronchial asthma, hyperthyroidism, facial spasms, and glaucoma. Acupunctue also is given when a person complains of certain symptoms, yet there are no visible outward signs. some patients are more sensitive to their internal balance, and therefore they can determine when their own inner harmony is disturbed. Most people greatly benefit from check-ups and tune-ups, especially when they have experienced pain from an accident, shock from an upset, illness from a poor diet, stress from their lifestyles, or a change in the seasons. To prevent seasonal colds and the flu, Chinese doctors recommend quarterly tune-ups to balance the energy flow within the meridians. Depending on the findings of the acupuncturist, treatments may be required twice a day, every other day, once a week, or until signs of improvement are noted. The treatment will vary from case to case since no two cases are ever the same.

Besides the treatment of diseases and illness including drug addiction, as well as balancing of energy and disorder, prevention is of the greatest importance and is a vital part of acupuncture.
In China today, over a million doctors practice acupuncture. In Japan there are over 60,000 practitioners and throughout the East the total approachs three million. There are now over 10,000 practitioners in Europe alone, and it's use is spreading to the West rapidly. Over half of the states in America are now licensing, certifying, or registering acupuncture practitioners. As practitioners combine traditional Chinese methods with Western techniques, many more advances will be made in medicine. There is little doubt that within a decade, acupuncture, the most ancient healing art, will mature and blossom to be one of the more important diagnostic and therapeutic methods in healing for the future.


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