The earliest books on Acupuncture dated from 2500 BC, and since there was already a complex knowledge of physiology and pathology in those works, acupuncture is estimated to be over 5000 years old. Acupuncture is therefore the oldest system of medicine still in use today. Acupuncture is practised almost all over the world today, and is studied at Universities in countries like the Peoples Republic of China, Korea, Japan. the UK, USA and Australia.
Fundamental to Chinese philosophy and acupuncture is the concept of energy. You will often hear practitioners of acupuncture talk about “energy”. The Chinese saw every phenomenon in the Universe (and Man) as a manifestation and particular mutation of energy. Everything is energy in movement and matter itself is a concentration of energy. (This has been confirmed by modern nuclear physic).
Also in the body there is an energy that was called by the Chinese “chi” (energy), this is our vital energy. This “Chi” energy flows through the body in channels called “meridians” which have their root in the internal organs. This energy can be compared to, (but is not the same) as an electric current. There are twelve meridians, 6 “positive” or Yang, 6 “negative” or ‘Yin. On the surface of the meridian are the acupuncture points where the needles are inserted.
In a healthy body the energy flows harmoniously through the meridians with a correct balance of Yin and Yang (negative-positive) thus irrigating/nourishing all parts of the body. If for any reason the flow is blocked, the balance is upset and illness results. By inserting needles in the acupuncture points the practitioner restores the balance of Yin and Yang and the harmonious flow of energy. The meridian system is not the same as the nervous system or blood system, although it is related to both of them. The acupuncture points are not on nerve centres, but close to them.
The main form of diagnosis in acupuncture is by the pulses. On the radial artery the acupuncture practitioner can feel the pulse in at least 12 different positions, just as one violin string can give many different tones. The 12 pulses are related to the 12 main organs, and thus by feeling the pulse, the practitioner is able to judge the level of energy in each organ, the Yin-Yang balance, and choose the points to be used according to the pulses. Thus when a practitioner say’s “the liver is low” he means that the energy of the liver is low (according to the pulses), and not that there is something pathologically wrong with the liver.
Other ways of diagnosis include careful observation of the patient’s colour, face and body features, nails, tongue, and temperature distribution on different areas of the body.
It is very important to understand that acupuncture treats the patient as a whole entity, not just individual parts of the body. Body and mind are considered as an integrated unity where any imbalance of energy affects the whole. Since the meridians have their roots in the internal organs and flow over all the body, the patient should not be surprised if the practitioner relates a “tennis elbow” to deficiency of energy in the large intestine.
Also, every person is considered as a unique individual different from anyone else and therefore, although two persons might have the same symptoms or disease eg Asthma, the cause of the illness (and therefore the treatment) may well be different. Thus, acupuncture treatment is always aimed at removing the cause of the illness and not only the symptoms. Since the patient is treated as a whole it is essential that the patient has patience, and in time most symptoms will clear up.
The acupuncture needles are made of solid stainless steel and nothing is injected through them.
Another method can be used in conjunction with acupuncture. This is “moxibustion”. It consists of rolling a ball of dried herb (“Artemesia Verlotorum” or mugwort) around the shaft of the needle and lighting it so that it smoulders. This has the effect of heating the needle thus reinforcing its action, permeating the properties of the herb into the acupuncture point.
Acupuncture has received much coverage in recent years on TV and in the Press, mostly for its use as analgesia in operations. Although this is a very spectacular aspect of acupuncture, and is necessary in many cases, it is only a recent development and does not conform to acupuncture’s real nature, which is that of prevention rather than cure. If Acupuncture is properly applied it should prevent illnesses and thus avoid operations altogether. In ancient China it was mainly used as a preventive medicine, because, thanks to the diagnosis by the pulses, an illness can be detected and cured long before it gives rise to a clinical symptom. For this reason it is always preferable to have a regular check-up with an acupuncturist four times a year whether symptoms have yet been felt or not, as prevention is better than cure.
WHAT KIND OF ILLNESS CAN ACUPUNCTURE CURE?
Acupuncture aims at treating the patient, rather than the disease. This means that the acupuncture practitioner looks at the patient as a whole, finds the cause of the illness and the imbalance of energy causing it, the imbalance is corrected, thus restoring health to the entire body rather than removing the symptoms. Thus the acupuncture practitioner cannot answer questions like “can you cure migraine?” The question should rather be, “can this particular patient be cured of migraine?” Such questions can only be answered after examining the patient.
Since every illness is the result of an imbalance of energy, acupuncture can cure almost any illness, as long as the degenerative process in the tissues of the body is not too far advanced.
Refer to questions and answer section below for a list of diseases the World Health Organisation has announced acupuncture has been effective in the treatment of.
WHO CAN RECEIVE ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
There is practically no age limit for patients. Babies can be treated (needles are not used, painless electronic stimulation is) and there is no upper age limit!
Pregnant women can also be treated using special precautions in the choice of points. Therefore it is essential to inform the acupuncture practitioner in cases of pregnancy.
Women can also be treated during menstrual periods, but it would be useful to inform the practitioner as this may account for observed changes in the pulses.
WHAT SHOULD ONE DO OR NOT DO AFTER TREATMENT?.
Since the treatment changes the state of the energy of the body and affects nerve, blood vessels, lymph vessels and muscles, it is best to avoid heavy physical work or excessive excitement, stress, sexual activity, alcohol or drugs, within 24 hours before or after a treatment. Apart from that no other special precaution is necessary.
WHY IS ONE ILL.?
Usually an illness does not arise from a singular cause; rather often it is the result of a combination of factors, ie.
(1) Hereditary factors.
(2) External influences like cold, dampness, Wind, heat, dryness.
(3) Internal emotional disturbances like stress, anxiety, fear, resentment, anger, grief (or even excessive joy), etc.
(4) Food; the poor quality and low nutritive value of today’s food is a very important cause of disease. In fact most commercial food available is highly refined (therefore devoid of nutritional value) and contains all sorts of poisons like artificial flavourings, colouring, preservatives, etc.
(5) Trauma. Physical (injury) or psychological trauma can both be a cause of disease.
(6) Drugs, medicines and surgical procedures can cause iatrogenic diseases.
(7) Bones, joints and vertebrae out of position.
(8) Toxic chemicals from the environment (Diagnosable and treatable with the Electro Acupuncture Diagnosis provided at the Optimal Health Clinic).
IS THERE ANYTHING ONE CAN DO TO HELP ONESELF?
This follows from the previous points about the causes of disease:
(1) External causes: avoid excess cold, dampness, etc.
(2) Psychological factors: acquire a positive way of thinking, discarding resentment, fears, anxiety, etc.
(3) Try to eat natural foods as much as possible and replace refined foods with whole foods.
(4) Exercise: Light or heavy exercise (depending on the age and body conditions) is very beneficial and important for the oxygenation or the tissues.
(5) Stimulants: all artificial stimulants should be avoided like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, drugs (marijuana, hashish, LSD, etc).
MEDICINAL DRUGS AND ACUPUNCTURE
Every patient should inform the practitioner of all medications being taken, if any. As the treatment progresses, medications can often be reduced or discontinued.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points that have been empirically proven effective in the treatment of specific disorders. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of 2000 years. Recently their location has been confirmed by scientists using radioactive isotopes to trace the meridian system.
WHAT PROBLEMS CAN BE TREATED BY ACUPUNCTURE?
The World Health Organisation has publicly announced that acupuncture is suitable for treating the following:
1. Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders
Toothaches, pain after tooth extraction, gingivitis, acute or chronic otitis, acute sinusitis, acute rhinitis, nasal catarrh, and acute tonsillitis.
2. Respiratory Disorders
Bronchial asthma (in children or adults when uncomplicated).
3. Gastrointestinal Disorders
Oesophageal and cardio spasm, hiccup, gastroptosis, acute or chronic gastritis, sour stomach, chronic duodenal ulcers, acute or chronic colonitis, acute bacillary dysentery, constipation, diarrhoea, and paralytic ileus.
4. Eye Disorders
Acute conjunctivitis, central retinitis, nearsightedness (in children), and cataracts without complications.
5. Neurological and Muscular Disorders
Headaches, migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, facial paralysis, post-stroke paresis, peripheral neuritis, neurological bladder dysfunction, bed wetting, intercostal neuralgia, cervical syndrome, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, sciatica, low back pain, and osteoarthritis.
In addition, acupuncture has been used for centuries in China to treat a host of other problems, such as knee pain, sprains and strains, and most gynaecological complaints.
HOW DEEP DO THE NEEDLES GO?
That depends on the nature of the problem, the underlying anatomy of the points selected, the patient’s size, age and constitution, and upon the acupuncturist’s style or school. In general, needles are inserted from 1/8” to 1” in depth.
DOES IT HURT?
In Chinese, acupuncture is beau tong, painless. However, if the needles are stimulated of the patient will feel some cramping, heaviness, distension, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or travelling up or down the affected energy pathway or meridian. In English, these sensations may be categorised by some people as types of pain, which they are not in Chinese. In any case, if there is any discomfort, it is usually mild.
WHAT CRITERIA SHOULD ONE USE IN CHOOSING AN ACUPUNCTURIST?
Acupuncture is at present an unlicensed or regulated healthcare profession in New Zealand.
Established in 1977 the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists (NZRA) serves as a regulatory body for acupuncturists trained according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The role of the NZRA is to ensure high standards of ethics and professionalism amongst its members, who are subject to professional scrutiny and are required to complete regular continuing education programmes.
NZRA members are covered by statutory regulations under the Accident Compensation Act, 1989, for acupuncture treatment on referral from a general practitioner or medical specialist. This means, if you have a ACC referral a portion of the fee is paid by the Accident Rehabilitation & Compensation Insurance Corporation.
Some Health Insurance companies such as Southern Cross provide policies which cover acupuncture provided by a registered practitioner
Patients should ensure that their practitioner is registered with the NZRA.
ARE THE NEEDLES CLEAN?
All acupuncture needles used in at the Optimal Health Clinic are pre-sterilised and disposable.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
That’s a big question. Traditionally, acupuncture is based on the ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) and Xue (Blood) through discrete channels or meridians which traverse the body similar but not identical to the nervous and blood circulatory systems. According to this theory, acupuncture regulates this flow of Qi shunting it to those areas where it is deficient and draining it from where it is in excess. Thus acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body. In Chinese there is a famous dictum “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow.” Essentially acupuncture promotes the free and balanced flow of Qi and Blood.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT STYLES OF ACUPUNCTURE?
Yes, there are. Acupuncture originated in China but has spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, the British Isles, and America. In different countries, different styles have developed based on differing opinions as to theory and technique.
Darryl is trained in French Vietnamese and Chinese Acupuncture.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
That depends on the duration, severity and nature of each individual’s complaint. Generally from 3 to 12 treatments are adequate for the majority of chronic ailments. Acute conditions may only require two to three treatments and some degenerative conditions may require scores of treatments. However, the patient has the right to expect that their major complaint will be addressed and treated in a direct and timely manner.
IS THERE ANYTHING I NEED TO DO BEFORE RECEIVING ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
Yes, the following suggestions will help you get the maximum benefits from your treatment.
1. Maintain good personal hygiene to reduce the possibility of bacterial infection.
2. Remove jewellery.
3. Wear loose clothing. Women should not wear one-piece dresses. Avoid wearing tight stockings.
4. Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, hungry, full, emotionally upset, or shortly after sexual activity, or alcohol or drug use.
IS THERE ANYTHING I NEED TO DO WHILE RECEIVING ACUPUNCTURE?
1. There’s no need to be frightened. RELAX. Relaxation is something that cannot be overemphasised.
2. If you experience dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, shortness of breath, or faintness during the treatment this is known as needle shock. Immediately inform your practitioner and they will withdraw the needles. Needle shock is primarily due to anxiety in first-time patients. It rarely happens if the patient is treated lying down.
3. Feel free to let your practitioner know of any pain or burning sensation experienced during acupuncture or moxibustion. If you find anything unbearable at any point during treatment, be sure to speak up and tell Darryl so that the proper adjustments can be made.
4. Do not change your position or move suddenly.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER TREATMENT?
One may experience an immediate total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms. This relief may last or some of the pain may return. In a few cases, the pain may seem even worse. This is called the rebound effect. Within a day or two the pain can be expected to gradually improve. Often the most dramatic results are experienced in the first treatment. However, one should see further incremental improvement after each subsequent treatment. In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief only to experience the pain diminish over the next few days.
Most patients will have more questions than these, such as: Should I continue taking my present medication? What should I eat? Is there anything I can do for myself at home? What signs of success should I look for first and after how long? All these are valid and valuable questions and can be answered in person by your practitioner.