An Ancient Method of Treatment
Acupuncture is an ancient method of treatment, originated from China. The first scriptures and texts are dated from approximately 2.500 BC. They already give deep insight in matters as life, sickness, health and prevention. According to estimations, based on books and archaeological excavations, acupuncture exists more than 5.000 years. Acupuncture, among a few other ancient systems, is one of the eldest systems of health care still used in modern times. Acupuncture treatments are applied all over the world and even recognised as an effective health care method by the WHO (World Health Organisation). In the Far East, as well as in the USA, the application of acupuncture treatments is a common fact. In the modern western world realisation grows slowly that acupuncture is based on a valuable vision on the functioning of the body and cure of sickness. Many universities in different countries, in the Far East and the western world, teach acupuncture.
It’s all about Energy
The foundation of Chinese philosophy, and therefore for acupuncture, is the concept of energy. Energy is translated in Chinese as qì, pronounced as tsji. The Chinese consider every aspect of cosmos, creation, and therefore human being as a manifestation of qì. Everything is energy in movement, even a solid object is energy in movement. Only in the last decades of modern times this is realised in the western world, especially through science of atoms and quantum physics, which confirms this concept of energy in movement.
Every human body is full of life energy or vital energy, the qì which flows throughout the whole body via meridians or channels. Recently there was the discovery of microscopic small channels, filled with photons (light particles), proteins, stem cells and DNA and transported through the body. These channels exist next to the already familiarly blood vessels, lymph vessels and nerves. The discovery of these small channels is seen as a breakthrough in the explanation of acupuncture.
There are twelve channels present on both sides of the body, connected through a channel in the middle of the body, located in the front and the back. Each of those twelve channels is in charge of nourishment of one of the internal organs and other tissues of the body. Located on these twelve channels are the 365 acupuncture points. This channel system must not be confused with the nerve system or blood vessels. Acupuncture points are therefore not located on so called nerve centres.
A Disturbance in the flow of Energy
Chinese philosophy, on which acupuncture is based, takes the total human being into account and not just a combination of disconnected particles. Even body and mind are seen as one. Normally the qì flows throughout the body in a harmonic way following the meridian channels. There is an equal division of energy throughout all parts of the body.
It can happen that the flow of energy gets blocked or gets out of balance, caused by a lack of energy. This lack of energy can be caused by many reasons: physical as well as non-physical reasons. Every disturbance of the equilibrium of the energy balance has an influence on the total human being: on the body as well as on the mind. One could say that a disease is always caused by a disturbance of the flow of qì.
Through the puncturing of very thin needles, applied by an acupuncturist, in acupuncture points, the body restores the disturbed equilibrium. Then the flow of energy can continue its harmonious pathway through the body. There were an insufficiency is noticed, it will be restored by transporting energy from the location where there is an excess of energy. Blockages will be solved by transporting energy to places where there is a shortage of energy.
Rebalancing the Imbalance
Acupuncture treatments are not focussed on the cure of a disease or symptom, but emphasise the rebalance of the equilibrium of energy flow. Not only the complaints of the patient will be cured, but a recovery of the complete body is the aim.
Within acupuncture the complaint of for instance migraine is seen as a symptom. Through different causes a disturbed flow of energy, based on a shortage of energy of the individual being, is the cause of the symptom migraine. The idea is not to cure the symptom migraine, but to restore the imbalanced flow of energy. Because every disease is based on a shortage of energy, as a principle all diseases can be cured, as long as the process of degeneration is not too far developed.
Generally people will visit an acupuncutrist when they have a specific complaint. However, since the person is seen and treated as a whole, it is essential for the acupuncturist to be informed about all the complaints, even those that seem to be trivial. Often there is a connection between complaints, even when they are seemingly not connected. Symptoms like a fungal infection, ingrowths of a toe nail, or an infection in the mouth, all these symptoms can help the practitioner to make a proper diagnosis.
The main tool of diagnosis of the acupuncturist is pulse diagnosis. On the radial artery of both wrists, the acupuncturist can diagnose the condition of the patient and make a diagnosis. Each radial artery reveals six different locations, so twelve positions in a total. Each of the twelve different locations on the radial artery reveals the condition of one of the twelve channels. The strength or weakness of the radial artery gives an indication about the quality and condition of the related energy. Each one of the twelve locations can be too weak, blocked, in excess, or normal in quantity. This will give the acupuncturist an indication of the quality and quantity of the belonging qì.
When the practitioner, after pulse diagnosis, speaks of a too full or too weak energy level, this indicates that the related energy does not function properly. One meridian is responsible for many different tissue and functions of the body. For instance the Chinese organ gan is, among others, responsible for eyesight, the muscles, sugar balance, blood pressure regulation and the organ liver. In the initial interview the acupuncturist is acquainted with the complaints of the patient, and therefore able to make a diagnosis. Based on this diagnosis, the acupuncturist estimates a treatment strategy, with its aim to restore imbalance.
Complementary diagnostic techniques are: observation of the colour of the patient, feature, and bodily condition of the nails, tongue and abdomen diagnostics, etcetera.
The purpose of the treatment is to restore the balance of the energy. This will happen through the application of one or more very thin needles on acupuncture points. These acupuncture points are located on the surface of the body, on the meridian system. Acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel, and nothing will be injected into the body.
Because the meridians are connected to internal organs and their qì, it is not unexpected that there could be a connection between for instance a tennis elbow and the function of the large intestine. The meridian of the large intestine follows the outer side of the elbows. This does not mean that there is a malfunction or disease of the large intestine, but it indicates the large intestine energy is out of order.
Each individual is seen as a unique person, different from anybody else. Therefore it happens that patients presenting the same complaint or given the same western diagnosis will be treated in a different way, as the cause of the disease could be different. This indicates a tailor made individual treatment. The practitioner focuses on the individual and not so much on the complaint.
Another tool of Chinese medicine is the application of moxa or artemisia vulgaris. A small ball of this dried herb, the moxa, will be connected to the shaft of the needle and set into fire, until the herb smoulders. The warmth will penetrate into the body via the needle. It is also possible to place the burning moxa directly on the skin. The moxa will be removed as soon as this causes an unpleasant sensation.
In general, the range of treatments will last longer if the disease exists for some time already. Since each individual is unique in its response it is hard to say how long the treatment has to last to be succesful.
Causes of Disease
Illnesses are not commonly caused by one factor, but there is usually a combination of circumstances causing imbalance. Examples of these causes are:
* hereditary factors
* external influences, such as coldness, humidity, wind, heat and dryness
* emotional circumstances causing stress, fear, fright, anger, sadness
* physical or emotional harm
Who can be Treated?
In principle everyone can be treated, there are no contra indications. There is no limitation of age of a patient, even babies and elderly people can be treated.
Also pregnant women can be treated with acupuncture. Of course precautions need to be taken in treatment and choice of points. Therefore it is very important to inform your practitioner about (possible) pregnancy. Women can be treated also during the phase of menstruation, but this has to be mentioned to the acupuncturist, to prevent wrong interpretation of the pulse and the choice of points.
What to Do to Prevent and to Cure?
There are many things people can do themselves to prevent or cure illnesses:
* prevent exposure towards coldness, humidity, and etcetera
* a positive attitude, thoughts and behaviour
* eat as much as possible organic food
* regular physical activity is beneficial for recovery
* prevent artificial and stimulating products
There are no specific precautions necessary for an acupuncture treatment. There could be a gradual improvement of the general condition. Initially there could be a short period of aggravation of the complaints, followed by a remarkable improvement. Both types of response towards the treatment are quite normal. If there is no noticeable response towards the treatment, there could be a consolidation of energy. Discuss this with your practitioner.
The general aim of acupuncture is to prevent diseases and operations. Through pulse diagnosis a preliminary imbalance can be diagnosed, even long before the disease will be exposed or causes symptoms. Therefore it is recommended to have a regular twice a year check-up with your practitioner. It is much simpler to prevent diseases, than to cure them.