Acupuncture is a comprehensive healthcare system that originated in China over 3,000 years ago. It can be used to treat both acute and chronic ailments, anything from the common cold to rheumatoid arthritis. One of the core elements of Chinese medicine is the concept of Qi. Qi flows through meridians in the body. Each meridian corresponds to one organ or group of organs that governs particular bodily functions. Qi also maintains the dynamic balance of yin and yang. According to Chinese medicine everything in existence has both yin and yang. It is when there is an imbalance of Qi in the body that individuals experience dis-ease. To restore this balance, an acupuncturist inserts needles at points along the meridians, at other points that are known to be effective for a certain condition, or at points that are tender or otherwise reactive.
What you can expect
Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to the medicine. There are a variety of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, European, and other styles, with some practitioners sticking closely to one style and others being more eclectic. To determine the treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner will probably ask you many questions about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle.
He or she may also closely examine:
The shape, color and coating of your tongue
The color of your face
The strength, rhythm and other qualities of the pulse in your wrist
The sound of your voice and your emotional tone
This initial evaluation may take up to 90 minutes, sometimes more. Subsequent appointments usually take 30-60 minutes. A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve six to 12 treatments.
Acupuncture points are located in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your practitioner will tell you the general location of the planned treatment points and whether articles of clothing need to be removed. If appropriate, a gown, towel or sheet will be provided to preserve your modesty. After you lie down on a comfortably padded table, the same kind used for a massage, the treatment begins.
Needle insertion: Acupuncture needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes no discomfort. They are sterile and packaged for a single use; no one has touched them before they are used for you. Between 5 and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. People commonly feel warmth, tingling, or a sensation of movement in response to needling. You may also feel a deep, aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
Needle manipulation: Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after they’ve been placed. Another option is to apply mild electrical pulses to the needles. Moxa, an herb used to provide heat, may be burned on the ends of the needles or used in other ways to stimulate points or soothe painful areas.
Needle removal: In most cases, the needles will remain in place for 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed. Your acupuncturist will safely discard the needles after removal.
Most people feel relaxed but some feel energized after an acupuncture treatment. Ideally, you should feel a calm energy, without feeling “wired.” Often there is considerable relief of symptoms after the first treatment, but it may take a few weeks to get a substantial change. If you don’t get improvement in a reasonable amount of time, your acupuncturist should try a different strategy. Be sure to communicate with your practitioner about what changes you are experiencing.
Asian Medicine or Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) (simplified Chinese: 中医; traditional Chinese: 中醫; pinyin: zhōng yī; literally “Chinese medicine”) is a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage (Tui na), exercise (qigong), and dietary therapy.
The doctrines of Chinese medicine are rooted in books such as the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon and the Treatise on Cold Damage, as well as in cosmological notions like yin-yang and the five phases. Starting in the 1950s, these precepts were modernized in the People’s Republic of China so as to integrate many anatomical and pathological notions with scientific medicine. Nonetheless, many of its assumptions, including the model of the body, or concept of disease, are not supported by modern evidence-based medicine.
TCM’s view of the body places little emphasis on anatomical structures, but is mainly concerned with the identification of functional entities (which regulate digestion, breathing, aging etc.). While health is perceived as harmonious interaction of these entities and the outside world, disease is interpreted as a disharmony in interaction. TCM diagnosis consists in tracing symptoms to patterns of an underlying disharmony, mainly by palpating the pulse and inspecting the tongue.