About Accupuncture-Getting the Point about Acupuncture

A First Visit to an Acupuncture Clinic

You might be thinking about making an appointment at an acupuncture clinic. Many people consider this for various symptoms; some common ones being persistent pain, stress-related symptoms, or other problems such as weight loss. In China, many people use their acupuncture visits as a periodic tune up in order to stay healthy. Chinese acupuncturists sometimes get paid as long as their client is healthy, rather than when their clients have symptoms. So, let us take a tour of a modern American acupuncture clinic to see what it is like.

A typical clinic looks like any professional office, and you will be shown into a room where you are comfortably seated in a chair. The acupuncture practitioner comes in and begins the diagnosis. There are two major parts to the diagnosis, physical observation and a discussion of your symptoms and environment. A basic physical observation will include taking your pulse and observing your tongue. Unlike a traditional doctor's office, your pulse is taken on both wrists, and at several points on each wrist. Your pulse is taken both near the surface of your wrist and also more deeply below the surface. These observations will be written down and used together with the discussion with the practitioner.

You should think about a number of things to discuss at your first acupuncture visit. If you are coming in for a particular symptom or set of symptoms, this should be a major part of the discussion. Think about several different aspects of your symptoms. Let's say that you have persistent pain in your ankle, to use one example. The pain may not be constant during the entire day; it may ebb and wane depending on the hours of the day. The pain may increase or decrease due to certain activities, and you should observe these as much as possible. You might think that walking would certainly increase the pain, but sometimes walking is not as much of a problem as persistent standing, for example, as a cashier in a grocery store. Also, the pain might change depending on the times of the month, and that should also be mentioned to the acupuncture practitioner. Cause and effect, if any, is also important to report. Some things to consider if stress is a component, for possibly the pain started or increased when you got a new supervisor at work. Notice that a diagnosis for an acupuncture visit includes physical, emotional, social, and mental components to the diagnosis. So come to the acupuncture office armed with as much information as you can gather about the reason you are coming.

Once you and the acupuncture practitioner get through the initial diagnosis, some time is taken to construct a plan of treatments. Depending on the particular symptom that you have, and the other personal information that was taken in the initial diagnosis, your first treatment might be this same day, or you may be asked to return on a different day to start your treatments. The time of day and the particular days for acupuncture treatments are carefully selected in order to achieve the best result possible.

If you do have an initial treatment, it will be painless, and generally takes less than an hour, sometimes much less than that. The acupuncture practitioner will insert very slim needles at specific locations, which will remain for the number of minutes needed for your particular symptoms. When the needles are still you are not even aware of them. Inserting and removing needles is also pain free, rarely there may be a slight twinge, but not more than that. During your treatment you may feel more relaxed, a buzz of energy, slightly warmer at the needle insertion points, or exactly the same as when you came in. However, the needles are doing their work to regulate and rebalance the circulation in your body. So enjoy your first visit, and know that each visit brings you closer to your optimal health.

A Personal Experience with Acupuncture

Let's follow Susan as she goes to her first acupuncture treatment. Susan is a little hesitant, thinking of many needles sticking out of her in funny places so that she can't find a place to sit easily. Her friend Marie had recommended this acupuncture clinic as a possible help for Susan's recent problems of sleeplessness and depression. Susan was very surprised that Marie had ever visited an acupuncture clinic, as Marie didn't seem to be someone that would visit something this unusual. And anyway, Marie always seems so remarkably healthy, attending the gym on a regular basis and still having lots of energy to spare. Susan was surprised to find out that Marie had been going to this acupuncture clinic for more than three years. She was even more surprised to find out that the first visit was suggested by Marie's doctor - her family physician. Susan had no idea that a regular doctor would recommend a visit to an acupuncture clinic.

It turns out that a few years ago Marie had very intense cramps, and after a discussion with her doctor, they decided acupuncture might help to reduce or eliminate these. After having that treatment, Marie had discovered that some people visit the acupuncture clinic periodically just to keep in good health. Marie really enjoyed the way she felt, and so continued with the periodic visits as a kind of "tune up," as she called them.

Though this is Susan's first treatment at the acupuncture clinic, it is her second visit. Her first visit was to sit with the acupuncture practitioner to take several vital signs and to have a long discussion about her symptoms. Susan explained that she was hoping to get relief from the sleeplessness and depression through the treatments at the acupuncture clinic. She was surprised at the number of questions that she hadn't thought about. She hadn't noticed if the sleeplessness was the same on every night, or if she got to sleep more easily on some nights. She hadn't noticed if she easily returned to sleep if she was awakened once she was asleep. She hadn't thought about whether the sleeplessness started after they turned off the central heat in the house, now that spring had come. There were so many questions about that. There were questions she had expected, like that her depression could be related to the fact that her best friend at work had left for a new job. There were also surprising questions about patterns that she noticed about any previous depressions that she might have had. Once all the questions had been answered, Susan was asked to return another day for her first treatment in order to obtain the most beneficial results.

Susan pulled into the parking lot, still a little nervous. The acupuncture practitioner was a very nice and calm woman, but still... Twenty minutes later, Susan was sitting in a comfortable chair with about 18 needles at various points on her arms and ears. She was very comfortable, and inserting the needles did not hurt at all. After sitting there for 15 minutes, the acupuncture practitioner came in, removed the needles, and that was it. Susan was amazed! A sequence of 6 treatments had been prescribed initially, and they agreed to revisit Susan's symptoms when these were done. She was so happy it was so easy!

Acupuncture and Beauty

Most of us are familiar with the picture of someone getting an acupuncture treatment. We can also list a few things that acupuncture is used for, including reducing anxiety and reducing or eliminating pain. However, few people know that acupuncture is a wonderful thing to add to a beauty routine.

Let us look deeply into the mirror before any makeup is applied. What would we like to get rid of? There are too many fine lines, the dark circles under the eyes are not attractive, and the large pores really should be gone. There is a small hint of a double chin, and the complexion has a few age spots and can't be compared with that of a young woman. Sigh. Well, these things will take a lot of makeup, and maybe more drastic steps, like a little plastic surgery.

Thinking about plastic surgery suddenly makes the thought of a few needles and an acupuncture treatment much easier to tolerate. When an acupuncture practitioner inserts the tiny needles into areas of the face, this stimulates the production of collagen in the general area. The skin will be supported and nourished by the body rather than by some external application. This production of collagen will firm the skin and stretch out any fine lines.

Many women that undergo this procedure have noticed results within one or just a few treatments. Their complexion becomes more even and clear, wrinkles become less noticeable, and there is a general glow to the face. This treatment simply restores the energy of the face to the normal state, and so each woman looks naturally healthier and more beautiful.Now that our faces our beautiful, we can turn our attention to the rest of our bodies. Most of us have tried, with varying degrees of success, to trim off the extra pounds that we wish were not there. By the time many of us see the wrinkles and dark circles described above visits to the gym no longer produce any truly visible difference.

Successful long term weight loss is incredibly difficult for most of us to achieve. Many people have done all kinds of diets, which just turned into yo-yo dieting. It doesn't seem possible to achieve and keep our weight at a number that is healthy and attractive. This is a second area where acupuncture holds out some promise.

As you would expect, acupuncture weight loss treatment is also done with needles. This time they are not inserted into the face, but instead hair-thin needles are inserted into particular spots on the body that will redirect vital energy to help the body function properly. Sometimes the acupuncture practitioner may also suggest some herbs or an herbal tea. After each acupuncture session is over, most patients feel very good. Western scientists have found that one reason this treatment is successful is the release of endorphins, which is one body chemical that is beneficial in weight loss. The patient continues in a series of treatments, and afterwards maintenance treatments are scheduled periodically. Anyway, healthy people would benefit from a periodic trip to an acupuncture clinic to restore their energy to optimal levels. And these visits will not only keep us healthy, but beautiful as well!

Acupuncture and Biorhythm

We all know something about biorhythms. Basically, a biorhythm is an internal clock that regulates our bodies in relation to the daily positions of the sun, and the monthly positions of the moon. This can be seen in the time it takes our bodies to adjust to small changes, such as the changes of daylight savings time, or in large changes, such as jet lag. Our understanding of and interest in biorhythms has been recent, within the last thirty or forty years.

The ancient Chinese observed this connection between our bodies and the planets many centuries ago, and use it in

their practice of acupuncture. They list a number of different biorhythms, from the normal twenty four hour cycle up through longer several day periods. All of these are used to follow and influence fluctuations in body energy. In acupuncture, this energy circulates through each part of the body throughout the day, each organ having a two hour time for maximum energy and a time for minimum energy. For example, the major organs have their maximum energy in the following order: first the liver, then the lungs, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, etc., in sequence, for all of the twelve major organs. This order was discovered by years of observing the times of day that the disorders of the various organs displayed their worst symptoms. The acupuncture practitioner can use the times of a patient's symptoms to help determine which organs and energy channels are affected, and also help select the favorable times to treat the patient. For example, many of the worst asthma attacks take place during the wee hours, which is the maximum energy period of the lungs. The best time to treat these cases is at a time as close to this time as possible.

In the science behind acupuncture, a symptom may be caused by too much energy at an organ, and other symptoms by an insufficient amount of energy. (The determination of which symptoms fall into which category has been catalogued over many centuries, and there are many books on acupuncture detailing these for each of the major organs.) The best time to treat a symptom associated with too much energy is during its maximum energy output, and a symptom with a deficiency in energy is just after the maximum output is over. Of course, it may not be possible to get to your practitioner at those particular times, and there are also other good choices at other times of the day.

In addition to the daily biorhythm, there are also ten day intervals associated with the moon, and so the acupuncture practitioner might strongly suggest that a particular day would be better for treatment than another, based on the particular symptoms reported. Each day of the ten days is associated with one of two aspects of the Qi energy, and also associated with one of five elements. Particular organs are associated with particular elements, and so stimulation of these organs will be more successful on those days associated with the correct element.

It is important for us to take note of the times our symptoms occur as well as what our symptoms are, for that is important information in our acupuncture treatment plan. And know that the time and dates for our treatments are an important part of how well the treatment works.

Acupuncture and Children

As parents, we all want our children to be happy and healthy. Consider the idea that acupuncture might be a wonderful way to treat your child's health. Acupuncture can be good preventative treatment, as well as a technique to cure various symptoms. In China, some acupuncture professionals in China are paid only as long as their clients remain healthy!

Your first question might be if any children are actually acupuncture clients? Sure! Nearly all children find acupuncture treatments very easy, even enjoyable. Especially the younger ones, for acupuncture needles are not painful, and younger children don't have our "a needle is painful" association that adults do. Children also seem to be more aware of their bodies than adults, and can feel themselves feeling better quite quickly. Also, the improvement in energy and vitality is often so clear with children.

Are there differences for acupuncture treatment with children? The general treatment is similar, determining the locations and times to insert needles in order to effect the treatment. (Needles are inserted to different depths depending on the treatment, anything from just under the skin up to a maximum of a few inches. Even so, the needle insertion does not hurt. Sometimes an insertion can be described as a "slight pinch", but once the needle is in, it isn't felt at all unless it is moved.) The number of needles and the number of treatments for children is generally less, for their very active bodies respond quickly to less stimulation. Because of this, acupuncture treatments for children often bring noticeable results very quickly.

Another good reason to visit an acupuncture clinic with your child is that the diagnosis uses a number of different aspects: physical symptoms, observed physical signs such as the pulse and condition of the tongue, behavioral symptoms such as anger, aggression, depression, an even external physical conditions and the time of year. A goal of acupuncture is to bring the whole person into harmony: physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially. This attention to the child as a whole is of great benefit, both to the child and to your whole family.

You can bring your child in for an acupuncture visit to maintain their health, for a physical symptom, or for a behavioral problem. One common problem that frequently responds quite well to several acupuncture visits is the problem of bed-wetting. Some children have the problem disappear after one acupuncture visit; others may require a few more visits. Interestingly, most parents are aware that the child has negative emotions, and assume that of course it stems from having wet the bed. However, a number of parents report that, after thinking on it, that actually sadness or other emotion preceded the bedwetting by several weeks. This is not always true, but there is often a connection other than the assumed "wet the bed then feel bad" connection.

Something that you may want to discuss with your acupuncture practitioner is child vaccinations. As time goes on, more vaccines seem to become available for a wider range of diseases, as the recent popularity of the chicken pox vaccine. Most acupuncture practitioners have a list of vaccines they still strongly recommend, such as the vaccine against polio. It is worthwhile to discuss the various vaccines with your acupuncture practitioner. So, please consider an acupuncture practitioner as a wonderful health specialist for your child.

Acupuncture and Drug Abuse

Acupuncture is a bright light on the road to recovery for many drug addicts and alcoholics. As an addict is recovering, the physical and psychological urge to get another fix or get another drink can be overwhelming. If the addict can get past that feeling, there is more hope for another successful day on the road to recovery. Currently there are a number of chemicals to help reduce that feeling, such as the nicotine patches to help people stop smoking. However, a major advantage of using acupuncture is that it uses no chemicals in the treatment, can be used for a number of different addictions, and is quite inexpensive compared to a number of other treatments.

Let's take a look into a clinic that uses acupuncture to treat recovering addicts. Before the clinic used acupuncture, it was somewhat loud and not a pleasant place to be. The treatment room holds dozens of clients at the same time, each sitting in a chair. Each person sits with five long needles dangling from each ear. Depending on the person, a few also have some acupuncture needles in their hands, arms, or feet. When the time comes to remove the needles, some are removed by one of the acupuncture practitioners, or an assistant, or some clients remove their own needles at the appropriate time. Needles are left in the patient for an average of about forty-five minutes. The chairs are arranged so that the clients can see and talk to each other if they wish. This helps when they share experiences, and helps if some of the new clients are nervous about the use of acupuncture. The room, though it holds a number of often troubled patients, is generally quite calm and peaceful.

What advantage is there in using acupuncture for a recovering addict? Most of the addicts describe a release of that feeling that insists they must find a fix or must find a drink. The patient describes it as the feeling when you get home after a long day and take off your shoes. The effect of the treatment lasts for about a day, and so newly recovering addicts are scheduled for daily treatments. People such as dry alcoholics can come by on a periodic basis, or when they feel they need another acupuncture treatment. Many dry alcoholics are fine as long as their daily life is not stressful, but if a family problem arises at home or at work, the familiar feeling becomes strong once again. At those times an acupuncture clinic is a great help, for it affects an actual physical change in the person.

Many detox clinics that use acupuncture in its regimen incorporate it into an overall program, where the acupuncture treatments are the first steps that a patient takes. A typical clinic will schedule a new patient for daily acupuncture sessions, and at each session take a sample to ensure the patient has not used drugs during the past day. After 10 "clean" days, the patient is considered in sufficient shape to start additional therapy, such as a twelve step program. Acupuncture treatments continue during this time. If a patient has a relapse, the patient just starts all over again with the ten day acupuncture treatment.

Using acupuncture in recovery programs has definite advantages, both economically and in support of physical and mental health for the recovering addicts. It is just another example where the use of acupuncture incorporates healing in all areas: physical, mental, and emotional.

Acupuncture and Electricity

Acupuncture has been shown to have great success in treating pain, stress, and a number of diseases. Acupuncture has a number of different techniques, and one of them is to apply a very low-level electric charge to the needle. This particular technique is creating interest in a field that was started in America in the 1930s and 1940s, but lost support soon afterward. This field is how to use low levels of electricity as a tool for medical therapy.

The initial discovery of acupuncture points on the body was by centuries of observation of the tender spots on the skin when a patient had certain symptoms. These acupuncture points can now be discovered and duplicated by scientists. They can find these same acupuncture points (given in any standard diagram) by using electrical apparatus. Scientists can also use infrared photography to find the temperature differences between these acupuncture points and the surrounding skin. So the acupuncture points have a different electrical behavior than the surrounding cells when the patient suffers from the associated symptom.

Several claims for acupuncture seem to get some support from other research using electricity. One scientist, Becker, has had tissue regrown by animals when he applied a low-level electric current to the site of the tissue. Even heart tissue has been restored without any scarring. Low level electric pulses have also been used to make bone fractures heal significantly faster than fractures left to heal on their own.

How do these two previous experience relate to the fundamentals of acupuncture? The basis of acupuncture is the correct distribution and flow of energy throughout the body. When energy is depleted, regrowth and stimulation and vitality do not occur. An acupuncture treatment restores the energy needed to a specific area. This research (especially the bone research) supports the claim that acupuncture sessions are of significant benefit for those with broken arms or other broken bones in the feet, ankles, and wrists, or other locations. Acupuncture has been known as an effective treatment for patients with heart palpitations, and the EKG results scientifically support that claim. Patients that are attached to an EKG machine and undergo an acupuncture treatment show a difference in the structure of the heartbeat, which is controlled by electric impulses from the nerves.

When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin, there is an electrical activity at that point, since the cells at that point are disturbed, and cells by their structure have various electrical charges within them. This is also shown by such techniques as Kirlian photography, where the photograph after a needle is inserted has a very different energy shape than before the needle insertion.

This exploration of the interaction between electricity and acupuncture has come back to expand the techniques used in acupuncture. The most basic technique for an acupuncture treatment is to use needles inserted into the skin of the patient. The location of the insertion, its depth and technique, bring about the results from the treatment. An additional technique is the application of heat, or moxa, which we will not go into. A third addition may be the use of herbs, either at the point of insertion, or given to the patient separately. A technique directly related to the above research, and also harkening back to the experiments of the 1930s and 1940s, is to affect the acupuncture points by a low voltage electric current. This is used in place of the needle. All these results and new ideas make research in acupuncture an exciting field to be working in and reading about.

Acupuncture and Extreme Cases

What are some extreme cases where acupuncture is useful? Let us talk about a few particularly interesting ones. The first is using acupuncture on a person in a coma. Many times people in comas only receive minimal care. When my father was in a long term care hospital, I often walked by two rooms where the occupants were in comas, one I knew had been that way for at least several months. After treating any conditions that the doctors were aware of, there was little else to do for these patients. The one that was there for months never had any visitors as far as I could see, and the hospital was maintaining him until at some time he might come out of his coma. The practice of acupuncture can help a person in a coma in the following ways: clear the physical senses, calm the spirit, clear the brain, strengthen the heart, and eliminate phlegm. Without getting too specific, these areas are regulated by different organs of the body and the energy from those organs, and insertion of needles at correct points will redirect that energy.

Depending on the patient, sometimes the needles might be twirled gently. Western medicine distinguishes comatose patients based on their originating symptom (brain tumor, car accident, etc), but the practice of acupuncture groups the patients by their set of common symptoms. The use of acupuncture for these patients will improve their overall well being, and in some cases the patients revive after a time, though it is not possible medically to determine why they revive.

A second use of acupuncture is for someone that is prone to simple fainting. As a caution, a physician should determine if the cause is serious heart trouble. If not, there are standard acupuncture regimes which will regulate energy to allow the blood to freely recirculate through the entire body, including the head. It is also interesting to note that a number of times this physical symptom can be accompanied by a social problem such as overwork, or an emotional problem such as internally rebelling from a situation that the patient wanted to be released from. Acupuncture can restore harmony to both the physical and emotional components of the patient.

Another application of acupuncture is for patients in emergency situations. It would be best to have an actual acupuncture practitioner at the scene, but anyone can use these simple techniques. If someone has lost consciousness, apply a strong pressure with your fingernail in the groove between the nose and mouth, about one third of the way down from the nose. This is a simple acupuncture point that may well awaken the patient. Chest-related emergencies can be helped with the acupuncture point on the underside of the forearm, between the two tendons, and about two thumb widths back from the last wrist crease. This may help for people experiencing palpitations, hiccups, stomach pain, and lung problems. Press firmly.

These just list a few unusual applications where acupuncture would be useful. There are also acupuncture regimens for people that have gone into shock, a drowning victim that is now breathing but still unconscious, acupuncture support for patients with broken limbs, etc. I hope this has expanded your view on many additional uses for acupuncture.

Acupuncture and Pregnancy

New mothers want the very best for their babies, and this care starts long before the baby is born. Expectant mothers are very careful about nutrition and exercise, and a number of them have started taking regular acupuncture treatments. Treatments are normally scheduled once a month for about forty-five minutes. In the ninth month there is a good deal of preparation for the coming of the baby and preparing the mother for labor, and the treatments are scheduled weekly. The treatments during pregnancy keep the mother in the best health possible, and help quickly disperse any toxins the mother may develop during pregnancy. This keeps the environment in the womb balanced, so that the baby can grow and flourish without complications.

One of the advantages of having acupuncture treatments during pregnancy is the reduction in morning sickness. Studies have shown that women using acupuncture have shorter periods of morning sickness, and they occur less frequently. One of the more common troubles in the second trimester is heartburn, and acupuncture can minimize that symptom also. Even some of the more serious symptoms such as edema and high blood pressure can be treated with acupuncture, but it is important that a physician is also involved in these determinations, as these could be symptoms of major complications. The last trimester has the usual symptoms of backache and joint pain, as the joints loosen in preparation for labor. Acupuncture will address these, and also influence the energy in the mother's body to align the baby properly for delivery.

Acupuncture can also be used in labor, and can also be used to induce labor for women that are overdue. When a mother uses acupuncture to induce labor, frequently there is a distinct feeling of warmth and relaxation. One reason for this is that acupuncture techniques are also able to release stress and anxious feelings, which is a great benefit to the woman facing labor. Compare this feeling to the feeling when a woman is given an injection of oxytocin to start labor. Acupuncture can also be used to increase the energy of the mother during labor.

Once the labor has finished, an acupuncture practitioner's job is not done. Sometimes women bleed after delivery, and insertion of a needle into the proper acupuncture point can stop the blood flow. Several acupuncture treatments over the course of several weeks after delivery can minimize depression, anxiety, and help the body regain its balance more quickly.

More midwives are getting training in acupuncture techniques. Most states have a certification program for acupuncturists, and women considering using acupuncture during their pregnancy should look for this certificate. There is also a certification program nationally for the use of herbs, which is an optional method of treatment in addition to the acupuncture. Many times they go hand in hand, but neither one require the other in order to be effective. Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for the expectant mother, and a well-trained and certified acupuncturist and midwife is a wonderful start for both mother and baby.

Acupuncture and Western Medicine

Nearly all of us have grown up with the same kind of medical treatments, and go to the doctor when we have a sore throat or a sore foot. American doctors, and in general, western medicine, have always been interested in the structure of the body, and how each individual organ structure should look when it is healthy. The tools western medicine have developed have been to see these structures better: the microscope, MRIs, and the x-ray camera. In contrast, Chinese medicine, the basis for acupuncture, has been interested in how natural forces, functioning both externally and internally, have affected people. Chinese medicine developed an understanding about how the circulation of blood and energy (called Qi) affect the state of health, and how seasons, emotions, and weather may disturb these flows. The result of this is that western medicine has developed a remarkable array of solutions based on anatomy, whereas the science behind acupuncture has developed many applications of a few basic principles based on physiology.

This study of health also is reflected in the analysis of body chemistry. Western medicine is again interested in the structure of many different fluids, and can tell you what the normal range for sodium ions is, or what shape red blood cells should and should not be. Chinese medicine and acupuncture focuses on Qi energy, the circulation of Qi, polarities (such as Yin and Yang), climatic conditions, and the connection between physical substances and energy. Chinese medicine considers fluids and tissues important, but mainly for their reactions to the more fundamental processes.

Western medicine also differs in a view of acceptable treatment. This can be seen by looking at how a viral infection is treated, where the main problem is the virus. Once the virus is rendered harmless, the patient is viewed as cured. In some special cases, such as transplant patients or HIV positive patients, there is considerable effort taken to address the immune system as well. The philosophy behind acupuncture considers that the most likely reason that the virus was able to flourish in the patient is due to an imbalance in the patient's physical or emotional state, their personal habits, and possibly the climate. The virus is addressed, but the entire well being of the patient is much more important.

Another difference is in the way that Chinese medicine views emotional and mental problems. These have traditionally always been a part of any acupuncture diagnosis and treatment. An emotional imbalance may be a cause for a physical ailment, however, this is not looked upon as a "psychosomatic disorder" and dismissed. This emotional imbalance can also be treated with acupuncture, in order to restore the correct flow of energy, and hence the physical ailment and emotional ailment will both be addressed and treated. Western medicine has only started to treat mental illness as a component of physical health in the last thirty years, and again, by relying on such things as blood analysis.

Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and western medicine have all made great contributions to the healing arts. They come from two distinctly different viewpoints and methods of practice. Hopefully this discussion has given some insight into the differences between the two, and a starting point for thought the next time a health problem needs to be addressed.

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