In today’s blog, I will write about Acupuncture. One of my practices is in Miramar, Florida, so I will call this blog Acupuncture Miramar.
Let me begin with the fundamental question, what is Acupuncture, and where does Acupuncture come from?
Acupuncture started in China over 2500 years ago. It was first written in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine book as a system of energy lines. These lines are also known as meridians or channels. They are energetic pathways in the human body. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is said that the body will have illnesses and/or discomfort when the flow of energy is unbalanced.
Each meridian/channel has multiple Acupuncture points (acupoints) along its pathway. Those acupoints are points that once stimulated, assist the energy to flow correctly. Once the energy flow is balanced, you can restore health and promote healing for different medical conditions.
So, where is Acupuncture practiced, and how did it become more popular worldwide?
Traditional Acupuncture was initially practiced in China and then spread to different areas throughout Asia. As it became known through trade routes, it spread to regions in Europe. After World War II, many people exiled themselves to other countries and introduced the knowledge of Acupuncture to those areas.
Acupuncture was rarely known in the United States before 1970. The interest in Acupuncture in the U.S. began after President Nixon went to China to observe Chinese doctors perform surgery using Acupuncture for pain management.
Many of my patients also ask me: How does Acupuncture work? Where are the needles placed?
Acupuncture uses the placement of thin needles into acupoints which initiate a chemical response to help the body regain the proper flow of energy. As previously stated, the body’s energy lines (channels) have noted points along the path.
These points have a precise location in the body. In addition, the needles should be inserted to a particular depth and angle to effectively stimulate that specific acupoint. Once these points are stimulated, they produce specific actions in the body.
So, you may wonder, what type of needles are used in Acupuncture?
In the past, needles were hand-made of stone, bronze, gold, and silver. Those needles were re-used with that same patient. Today, we use sterile single-use stainless steel filiform needles for infection control purposes.
Another common question I encounter almost daily is: Is Acupuncture painful?
Acupuncture is not intended to be painful. The acupuncturist’s objective is to find the Qi (“chi”) sensation. This sensation is usually described as heavy pressure, tingling, warmth, or even a “moving” feeling in the skin.
If a patient feels pain, it should not last more than a minute. Pain may occur if the needle hits a tiny nerve, muscle, or small blood vessel. The practitioner can re-adjust the needle or just take it out to alleviate the discomfort if this happens. It is essential to understand that each patient has a different pain threshold. Often a person won’t feel the needles inserted over the areas of thicker tissue such as the abdomen and back. Areas over the feet and hands are more sensitive due to the increased vascularity and sensory nerves that supply them.
So, what can Acupuncture treat?
This list of conditions treated by Acupuncture can be extensive. Let me give you some examples of commonly treated conditions.
First, Acupuncture is best known to treat pain conditions, including headaches, back pain, knee pain, foot pain, etc. Secondly, it can help patients with stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Third, it can be a complementary treatment for gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, etc. Also, circulation issues, allergies, asthma, and many other ailments. And the list goes on.
I constantly meet people that are not too familiar with Acupuncture (and even the ones familiar with it), ask me: How does Acupuncture treat pain?
Acupuncture instigates the release of endorphins in the pain center of the brain. These endorphins are the body’s own opiates that block pain perception. Acupuncture calms down and balances the nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When a person is experiencing pain, the body goes into a “fight or flight” state. Meaning the sympathetic nervous system is more dominant. The sympathetic nervous system directs the body’s rapid involuntary response to stressful situations. When the sympathetic nervous system is more dominant, it leads to increased muscle tension, which will increase the pain.
After inserting the Acupuncture needle, a signal is sent to the body to stimulate the other component of the autonomic nervous system, which is the parasympathetic nervous system. So, you wonder, why do we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system?
The parasympathetic system controls the body’s ability to relax. When the parasympathetic system is activated, it slows our breathing rates and lowers blood pressure. Therefore, this action calms the body, decreases muscle tension, and decreases pain. The body enters a relaxation state, which helps with the recovery process. And that is how Acupuncture works on the nervous system.
Another interesting question I have been asked is: Why do we place needles in the ears during an Acupuncture treatment?
First of all, Acupuncture in the ear is called Auricular Acupuncture. Acupoints in the ears are believed to correspond with specific organs, emotions, or sensory feelings. All body parts are mapped out in the ear. In addition, the ear is innervated by cranial nerves, often sending their signals straight to the brain to affect other body parts.
Furthermore, have you heard of acupressure? And how does it differentiate from Acupuncture?
Acupressure and Acupuncture use the same energy lines and points concepts to promote overall well-being. Acupressure uses firm pressure to massage specific points in the body. Acupressure is often performed by massage therapists and/or possibly physical therapists, with little or no Oriental Medicine training. Acupuncture is performed using needles in specific points by a Licensed Acupuncture Physician (AP) who studied Oriental Medicine for many years. An acupuncturist knows how to diagnose using the rules of Oriental Medicine. Also, Acupuncturists may instruct their patients on utilizing some of those pressure points at home to prolong their beneficial effect until their next acupuncture appointment.
To summarize this Acupuncture Miramar blog post that discusses the basic concepts of this ancient treatment,
Acupuncture uses needles in specific locations to balance the body’s energy to promote well-being and health and treat multiple conditions, including pain. These methods are often used with other Oriental Medicine techniques available in my practice.
At HomeopathyX, we perform a complete assessment to understand the root cause of the patient’s complaint(s). We use a client-centered, individualized approach to ensure that the patient has positive outcomes.