ACUPUNCTURE - Basic understanding
Acupuncture in one form or another has been used as a tool to heal imbalances in the body for over 3000 years. The needles have evolved from slivers of bone to the modern sterilized stainless steel needles most commonly used today. Traditionally, in addition to the use of needles, glass cups, and the Chinese herb moxibustion were also used to stimulate one’s body’s health response.
Essentially, acupuncture, in its essence, is a practical medical application of such Chinese philosophical concepts such as Confucianism. This philosophy looks at an individual to be an integral part of nature. It compares the similarities of the working and healing aspects of people, as individuals, and nature. Eastern medicine appreciates the importance of harmonious balance in nature as reflected in the human body when one is in optimal health.
During the Han Dynasty (206-220 B.C.) the basics of Chinese medical theory were organized. This would include the concepts of Yin/Yang, Five elements, meridian channel theory, along with various needling techniques to either stimulate or sedate one’s body. By the 4th century A.D., the medical classics that laid the foundations of Chinese medicine had been written. The most important being The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic which was written as a dialog between the legendary ruler and his minister, Qi Bo.
Classical Chinese thought and language developed viewing life as a phenomena of intertwined patterns, where individual events or objects taken by themselves, without regard to the whole, have little meaning. Their thought is that meaning is derived from one’s participation in the patterns of the universe. In Traditional Chinese medicine, signs and symptoms are pieced together to give a clearer picture of the whole person. Whereas, in Western medicine, the approach is to analytically dissect a person’s symptoms to establish a label we call a disease. It is not then surprising that Eastern medicines focus is more on the person who has the disease whereas in Western medicine the focus is more on the disease symptoms.
In Chinese medicine, diagnosis is based not only on a particular person, but also on how he or she presents at a particular time. Therefore, treatment is patient focused versus in Western medicine disease is the focused approach. Consequentially, Chinese medicine focuses on how to strengthen the individual whereas Western medicine focuses on how to eliminate the disease. If one wishes to get further insight on this subject, I would recommend reading “The Web that has no Weaver” by Ted Kaptchuk. As a person of faith I look at that unknown “Weaver” to be God. The authors point is that the Chinese philosophy does not have a concept of a Creator and looks at nature and the universe, as reflected in one’s body, as an ever changing dynamic.
The goal, before one decides to place an Acupuncture needle is to have a good understanding of human nature along with how and to what extent an individual patient’s health is out of balance. To this end, I have found the philosophical and myofascial therapy skills invaluable in my Osteopathic medical training. Philosophically, Osteopathic medicine is based on concepts of the natural tendency of the body to heal, the relationship of imbalances in one’s body to its functioning, and the importance for optimal circulation for optimal health. Therapeutically, myofascial therapy is an effective tool to optimize enhanced energy flow or circulation through the bodies Acupuncture meridians.
Anatomically, Acupuncture has provided a detailed picture of the human body with twelve major meridians and three-hundred-sixty major points specifically available to re-establish balance whether with Osteopathic myofascial therapy or the use of Acupuncture needles. Medically, Acupuncture has also given me additional insight on why a rash or pain might appear at a particular location as well how these symptoms are inter-related to other health imbalances.
Thus with Osteopathic medicine, as with Acupuncture, the focus is on the individual and how to optimize one’s health.
Probably, the most basic application of Acupuncture is for treating pain. From a Chinese medicine perspective pain is the blockage of Chi, or energy. Typically, I will start out with Osteopathic myofascial therapy applied to a combination of restrictions that I perceive and painful points a patient will mention while observing which Acupuncture points and meridians that are involved. I have found that Osteopathic myofascial therapy most efficiently enhances circulation of blood, lymphatics, reduces pressure on nerves and frees-up blocked energy along the meridians.
When pain and symptoms are more persistent, I find the use of more invasive therapy through the use of Acupuncture needling helpful to unblock the circulation of any remaining restricted “Chi” or energy. For instance, when working with such metabolic problems like digestive disturbances or hormonal imbalances, I might select certain acupuncture points to facilitate movement along appropriate meridian pathways.
Part of Osteopathic training relates to evaluating whether a patient health concern is more metabolic, relating to imbalances of one’s body chemistry, or musculoskeletal, relating to an imbalance of body alignment. Diet, nutraceuticals, herbs, and medication are more helpful for metabolic imbalances while Osteopathic myofascial therapy is more helpful for imbalances of body alignment. Acupuncture is helpful for both metabolic imbalances as well as musculoskeletal imbalances.
Common indications for Acupuncture are back pain, digestive complaints, fatigue, headache, hormonal imbalances, joint pain, neuralgias, PMS, sinusitis, TMJ and any condition ending in “itis.” I advise a series of ten (10) acupuncture treatments done one to two times weekly for optimum effect and evaluation of benefit. Overall, one can estimate a month of therapy for every year one has had symptoms.
With the focus of Osteopathic myofascial therapy and acupuncture being on circulation, one also needs to consider providing essential nutrients for health and healing. This is why working with one’s diet and supportive nutraceuticals is so important. Essentially, diet and nutraceuticals are the “supply materials” while Osteopathic therapy and acupuncture is the “delivery system.” When working with your health always consider a total treatment perspective.
WHAT TO EXPECT
After an initial history evaluation I will typically evaluate and render treatment with Osteopathic myofascial therapy to increase circulation throughout the body and its meridian channels. After he perceives any blockages he will advise the additional use of acupuncture to further free up pain and energy blockages through blocked meridians. This could be at the end of a visit and typically involves from two to twelve points. When experiencing an Acupuncture treatment I advise the patient to rest, relax, and avoid being busy with one’s phone to receive the full endorphin relaxation and healing benefits.