Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture

Acupuncture is based on the flow of qi, or vital energy, through pathways in the body known as channels, or meridians. Twelve regular meridians correspond to each of the six yin and six yang organs -- the spleen meridian to the spleen organ, the large intestine meridian to the large intestine organ, and so on. Eight extra meridians are also used in acupuncture therapy.

Disharmony in an organ often shows up in its corresponding meridian: A person experiencing a heart attack may also have a sensation of pain and numbness that travels down the arm into the little finger, closely following the path of the heart meridian. Practitioners palpate a diagnostic point on the corresponding meridian to assess the health of its related organ. In other cases, the meridians themselves are treated.

A practitioner might treat a sore shoulder by increasing the flow of qi and blood through the large intestine, lung, and triple burner meridians. The organs related to these meridians may be completely healthy; these meridians are selected because they pass through the injured shoulder area.

Although they flow deep within the body, each meridian has specific points that can be accessed from the surface of the body. There are 361 such acupuncture points on the meridians, as well as numerous "extraordinary" points that may or may not be located on a regular channel. In addition, a full set of points on the ears represent all the organs in the body and can be used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. Use of these points is known as auriculotherapy.

acupuncture
Acupuncture needles made of stainless steel may be
coated in copper to add other benefits to treatment. See more
pictures of acupuncture.

Acupuncture points can be stimulated by means of pressure, heat, or needling. Each point has a specific set of functions. Some of these functions have local effects, while some are systemic (affecting the body's systems as a whole). For example, the stomach meridian consists of 45 points, stretching from the head to the toes. A point just below the knee known as Dubi, or Stomach 35, is used almost exclusively for knee pain (a local effect), while the point just three inches below it, known as Zusanli (Stomach 36), has a systemic function.

One of the most important points in acupuncture, Zusanli is used to treat stomach pain, vomiting, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, fatigue, and low immunity. Needling it often relieves stomach pain immediately. Modern research has confirmed that applying moxa or needles to this point actually raises the white blood cell count (white blood cells fight disease-causing organisms that invade the body).

Acupuncture has been practiced since ancient times with needles made from stone, wood, ivory, or bone. Modern practitioners use surgical-quality stainless steel needles with a handle wound with wire for a better grip. Some needles are plated with silver, gold, or copper to achieve special effects from the treatment, such as tonification or sedation, but the majority of needles are pure steel.

In the past, needles were placed in an autoclave, a device used to sterilize dental and surgical tools, after each use. However, with the increase in prevalence of hepatitis and AIDS/HIV, most practitioners in the West now use presterilized disposable needles to ensure absolute safety. The needles are used only once and then discarded as medical waste, which gives peace of mind to the patients, practitioners, and insurance companies.

Research in China and Japan with electrical conductivity has confirmed the tangible existence of the acupuncture points (in fact, some practitioners use "point locators" to find the exact location of an acupuncture point based on the change in electrical conductivity at the site of the point), and double-blind studies have shown acupuncture is safe and effective in treating a wide range of diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled a list of ailments for which acupuncture treatment is effective. Of course, acupuncture is especially well known for its treatment of pain; it is so effective for pain relief, it is even used as a substitute for anesthesia in some surgical procedures in Chinese hospitals!

In this article, you will learn about how acupuncture works and the techniques practitioners use to make acupuncture virtually painless. You can also check out the list of illnesses that acupuncture effectively treats.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

List of Diseases Treatable with Acupuncture

A list of diseases treatable with acupuncture was developed in June 1979 by representatives of 12 countries who met in Beijing at the World Health Organization (WHO) International Seminar on Acupuncture, Moxibustion, and Acupuncture Anesthesia. This list is based on clinical experience:

Upper Respiratory Tract

Acute sinusitisAcute rhinitis
Acute tonsillitis Common cold

Respiratory System

Acute bronchitisBronchial asthma (without complications)

Disorders of the Eye

Acute conjunctivitisCentral retinitis
Cataracts without complications Myopia in children

Disorders of the Mouth

Toothache and postextraction painGingivitisAcute and chronic pharyngitis

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Spasms of esophagus and cardiaHiccupsGastroptosis
Acute and chronic gastritisGastric hyperacidity
Chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief)
Acute duodenal ulcer (without complications)Acute and chronic colitisAcute bacillary dysentery
ConstipationDiarrheaParalytic ileus

Neurologic and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Headache and migraine
Trigeminal neuralgia
Facial palsy (early stage)
Pareses following a stroke
Peripheral neuropathies
Sequelae of early-stage poliomyelitis
Meniere diseaseNeurogenic bladder dysfunctionNocturnal enuresis
Intercostal neuralgiaCervicobrachial syndromeFrozen shoulder or tennis elbow
SciaticaLow back painOsteoarthritis

On the next page, find out how these illnesses are treated with acupuncture using techniques developed in the distant past.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Principle and Technique of Acupuncture

The principle and technique of acupuncture involve a knowledge of how qi and blood flow through the meridians and organs and how to improve flow using the insertion of needles at certain points. When qi and blood become stagnant, pain occurs. If too much qi and blood are in a certain area, a syndrome of heat and excess can occur; too little qi and blood in an area results in a deficiency syndrome.

During an acupuncture treatment, the body undergoes a normalizing process. Areas with too much qi and blood transfer these vital substances to areas that are deficient, and vice versa. The end result is a kind of homeostasis in which the body's innate wisdom brings about a self-regulatory effect.

For example, the same acupuncture point can be used to treat either high or low blood pressure; similarly, another point is needled to treat both a rapid or slow heartbeat. This is one of the reasons acupuncture rarely causes side effects. It doesn't force the body to do anything; it only assists the body in performing its normal functions.

Many people are surprised to learn that acupuncture is relatively painless. Unlike hypodermic needles, which are hollow and much larger, acupuncture needles can be as fine as a human hair. Many times, a patient is not even aware a needle has been inserted, especially when it is placed in areas with relatively few sensory nerves, such as the back.

In a typical acupuncture treatment, the patient lies down, and the practitioner inserts needles in points that have the desired effect on the body. The patient senses heaviness, movement, or an "electrical" impulse that signals the "arrival of qi." After a few minutes, the patient typically feels a sense of calmness and well-being; many people fall asleep. After a period of 20 minutes to an hour, the practitioner removes the needles and advises the patient to avoid strenuous activity for a few hours to let the treatment settle in.

Depending on the individual and the condition, one treatment might be sufficient, or the patient may need to return a number of times. Results can range from mild improvement to seemingly miraculous recovery. In almost all cases, however, the patient feels calmer and more peaceful after receiving acupuncture.

Those who think acupuncture's success is merely a placebo effect or the patient's imagination should consider that acupuncture is exceptionally effective in animals. An increasing number of veterinarians specialize in acupuncture, and their results are quite dramatic. In certain situations, acupuncture is inappropriate. It should not be performed if the patient is extremely hungry or full, intoxicated, or extremely fatigued. In these cases, the treatment may not be as effective or the person might experience dizziness or exhaustion.

People with bleeding disorders such as hemophilia should also avoid acupuncture therapy, although careful application of acupressure or moxibustion is safe. A number of points should not be used during pregnancy due to their tendency to induce labor. Acupuncture is generally not used in children younger than 6 years of age. Although acupuncture originated in China, a number of different branches of the field have evolved in other countries. Sophisticated systems have evolved in Japan and Korea, and development of new techniques has also occurred in Western countries such as France and England.

Although extensive research has been conducted all over the world, two conclusions are commonly reached: First, acupuncture definitely works. Second, nobody is exactly sure how and why it works. This is certainly a testimonial to the brilliant clinicians who developed this miraculous healing practice over the past 2,000 years!

How to Locate the Pressure Point
"Great Pouring" (Taichong, Liver 3)
The point known as "Great Pouring" is one of the most important in acupuncture and acupressure. It is a soothing point, calming the mind and relieving spasms. It subdues excess yang or stimulates stagnant qi in the liver, which helps relieve migraines, frustration, anger, and the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

The point is located on top of each foot, between the big toe and the toe next to it. To find the point, press down on the web between the toes, slide the finger toward the ankle, following the depression between the two bones (metatarsals). The point is located at the junction where the two bones meet.

Often tender when pressed, it can provide immediate relief to the pain and irritability associated with liver imbalances.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Bill Schoenbart has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since 1991, when he earned a Masters degree in TCM. He teaches TCM medical theory and herbalism at an acupuncture school in California, and also maintains a clinical practice.

Ellen Shefi is a licensed massage technician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered dietician. She is a member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herb Association, and the Oregon Acupuncture Association.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.