Acupuncture is the action of inserting incredibly fine, surgical steel needles below the skin to elicit the movement of Qi. This induces pain relief, stimulates the immune system, helps to restore healthy flow and function of the body processes as well as settle the nervous system and calm the mind.
Qi refers to the vital energy within the body, the spark that animates us. The Chinese character for Qi developed from images of the breath seen issuing from the mouth on a cold day and from the steam above a bowl of rice. So Qi is the life giving air we breathe, the Oxygen moving in our blood.
While there is not a definitive physical structure wherein Qi circulates, we refer to the pathways of it’s flow as Meridians or Channels. Via Acupuncture we can influence the interaction of Qi with our nervous and vascular systems as well as our organs, muscles and fascia (the connective tissue that wraps muscles, blood vessels, organs etc). Acupuncture points are found to be areas particularly rich in sensory fibers and blood vessels. Stimulation of these points results in increased blood flow and activation of our innate healing responses. It releases natural pain killers within our body and reduces stress by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) to counter the overstimulated sympathetic (fight or flight) response.
We can understand our discomforts as blockages in the flow of Qi and blood, like a traffic jam. There is a saying in Chinese: “Bu Tong Ze Tong, Tong Ze Bu Tong”. It states that where there is pain there is no free flow (of qi), and when there IS free flow, there is NO pain! So, the primary function of Acupuncture is to break up stasis, to encourage flow of fresh qi and blood into stagnant areas. This revitalizes the area with nourishment and allows the body to heal.
For an acupuncture treatment it is best to wear loose and comfortable clothing. In Private sessions, depending on what we’re addressing with your treatment, we may want to use points on your back, chest and abdomen. This is facilitated by draping or simply rearranging clothing a bit. In community style, points are used from your elbow to fingertip, knee to foot and on your head so wearing pants and sleeves you can easily roll up gives me access to the areas i need.
“Will it hurt??”
That’s probably the most common concern when someone first approaches me about acupuncture. To be honest, I can’t simply say “no”. There are lots of different sensations experienced with acupuncture and some may be unpleasant to you. It is different for everyone. Usually, if there is pain, it’s very brief – a quick sting, like a bug bite or a dull throbbing are common. The sharpness usually goes away and you’re left to experience the other sensations of tingling, distension, heaviness and sometimes muscle twitches as things unwind. I hear people describe, and experience myself, a sensation of movement…I say it feels like my needles are talking to each other, sending messages from one part of my body to another…it’s almost electric, but in a soft fuzzy kind of way.
“Can it help me?”
The World Health Organization offers this list:
Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment:
Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever), *runny and congested nose
Biliary colic * usually pain from gallstone
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary * intestinal infection -severe diarrhea/fever/abdominal pain
Dysmenorrhoea, primary *painful periods
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm) * stomach pain/cramps, heartburn, pain below your ribcage and above your bellybutton…can be due to many disease processes.
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Induction of labour
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Nausea and vomiting
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction) *TMJ
Periarthritis of shoulder
Renal colic *pain from blocker ureter, usually due to kidney stones
This and lists of other conditions that are being researched for acupuncture efficacy can be found at http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/5.html
Insomnia, detox, digestive disorders (diarrhea/constipation/IBS etc), anxiety, menopausal symptoms, PMS, general malaise, PTSD, chronic pains and fatigue are others issues that I’ve seen helped, if not resolved, with acupuncture.
Many times people don’t have a diagnosis or a diagnosable condition in western terms. They just know that they remember feeling differently, feeling better. They wish they didn’t fly off the handle so easy or feel like they’re choking but nothing is there. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) describes many patterns of imbalance that can help us understand how to keep ourselves feeling healthy. We can conclude that too much heat in the liver could lead to that inappropriate rage, or that ‘plum pit qi’ or qi stagnation is the diagnosis for that choking feeling. From there comes the acupuncture point prescription to cool the liver and transform and move that stuck qi.
Chinese Medicine is an amazing 5000 year old system for balancing the body and spirit. Observed through trial and error for centuries…technology is just a little behind in trying to figure out how to map and measure what can’t be seen. They are getting there and the proof is exciting to read about but the real proof is in the experience. I think I can honestly say, no one has not felt at least a little better after an ‘acu-nap’!