Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points. The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others. The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can, therefore, help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including: Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea
Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections. Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis.
Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems. Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions. The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, one or two even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment.
These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome. People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle, and because your doctor carefully sterilizes the needles using the same techniques as for surgical instruments, or uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
Cupping is one of the important methods of Chinese medicine. Originally, practitioners would use hollowed-out animal horns for cups and place them over particular points or meridians. Today, most acupuncturists use cups made of thick glass or plastic, although bamboo, iron, and pottery cups are still used in other countries. Glass or plastic cups are the preferred methods of delivery, because they do not break as easily as pottery or deteriorate like bamboo, and they allow the acupuncturist to see the skin and evaluate the effects of treatment. In a typical cupping session, glass cups are warmed using a cotton ball or other flammable substance, which is soaked in alcohol, or just a simple candle, then placed inside the cup. Burning a substance inside the cup removes all the oxygen, which creates a vacuum. Drawing up the skin is open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body. Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will be left in place from 5 to 10 minutes. Several cups may be placed on a patient’s body at the same time. Applying small amounts of medicated oils or herbal oils to the skin just before the cupping procedure, lets the cups move smoothly up and down on particular acupoints or meridians. Cupping is used primarily to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and congestion, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and certain types of pain, depression and reduce swelling. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless, however, and disappear within a few days of treatment.
Cupping is contraindicated in patients with inflamed skin, cases of high fever or convulsions, and patients who bleed easily, and pregnant women should not have cupping on their stomach or lower back.
Gua Sha is an ancient healing technique used throughout Asia for ages. Gua means to rub or friction. Sha is the term used to describe congestion of blood at the surface of the body. When friction is applied, in repeated even strokes, the “Sha” surfaces as small red petechiae on the skin surface. In minutes the petechiae fade into ecchymotic patches. The Sha disappears totally in two to four days. The color and rate of fading are both diagnostic and prognostic indicators as with Graston. The benefits of Gua Sha are numerous. Gua Sha moves stuck blood, promoting normal circulation to the muscles, tissues, and organs directly beneath the surface treated. Research has proven that the technique increases fibroblast activity to the area worked on. The patients experience immediate changes in stiffness, pain, and mobility. As the body is scraped, it pushes a build-up of fluid ahead of it, and after it passes, it leaves an indention or vacuum behind which draws toxic fluid out to the surface of the skin from deep within the tissue. Bruising is a common side of effect of Qua Sha.
Gua Sha is a completely safe technique, but it is serious medicine. Knowing when to use it and what to expect from treatment is as important as good technique. People who live with chronic pain often create emotional defenses to cope with it or can feel completely hopeless. Having that pain ‘touched’ and relieved can be unsettling, even shocking. It is good to be moderate in activity after treatment, even rest. After Gua Sha, the patient is instructed to avoid wind and exposure to the sun or sudden change in temperature. Stretching is recommended but not a heavy workout on the day of treatment.
Moxibustion is a method of heating specific acupuncture points on the body by burning a herb material close to the skin. This technique can be used alone or in combination with acupuncture – the Chinese character for acupuncture literally means “acupuncture-moxibustion.”Moxibustion can be used to prevent diseases and maintain health as part of detoxification treatments to help strengthen the organs and immune system.It warms the meridians and expels cold. It can be used to promote circulation over areas of chronic pain or muscle tension. It is especially used for pain that is worse with exposure to cold or damp weather, as with some types of arthritis pain. When applied to acupuncture points that strengthen and lift the qi, moxibustion can boost the immune system and help with fatigue, digestive issues, and much more.