Acudental Notes: Acupuncture Overview and History
Originated in China more than 2,500 years ago, acupuncture began to become better known in the west, especially in United States in the early 70's when Nixon opened communication with China. Doctors began sharing information and they brought back acupuncture as a way to treat health problems. Acupuncture has steadily grown to be largely accepted but still is considered an alternate form of health care. Main medicine relies on surgery and drugs while acupuncture does not use drugs or surgery. Acupuncture does not even require needles to penetrate the skin. Generally, Dr Gormley practices medical acupuncture without using penetrating needles. Ancient Chinese medicine holds that the vital energy within our bodies flows through meridians. These channels allow energy or Qi to pass through various body organs and functions. Each one of these pathways or channels through which Qi flows is linked to an internal organ system. When there is an imbalance or interruption of the Qi, it results in illness. There are over 1,000 acupoints within the meridian system that can be stimulated to enhance the flow of Qi.
An acupuncture exam aids in tracing blockages in the body's meridians. Acupuncture treatment corrects imbalances of this flow at identifiable points close to the skin. Traditionally, acupuncture involved use of pointed stones and in the 1600’s adopted the use of placing very fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific acupoints. The pressure is used to stimulate and balance movement of energy within the body. Today sterile disposable and one time use stainless steel needles are used and sometimes low-frequency current is also applied for greater stimulation. The acupuncture technique involves penetrating the skin with these thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electric stimulation. Pressing on the skin without using needles is also effective and Dr Gormley prefers this more ancient but very effective technique. He uses a teishein to press but not penetrate the skin. Dr Gormley believes in achieving the best results with the simplest and gentlest methods. He only uses the acupuncture needles on request.
Only trained health care providers can administer acupuncture. In the US there are two types of providers who can do this. Acupuncturists are trained specifically to do acupuncture and are licensed by the state. They are called Licensed Acupuncturists. Physicians can obtain training in acupuncture and use Medical Acupuncture. Dr Gormley is trained in Medical Acupuncture. These providers use acupuncture to measure the vital energy, energetic balance and imbalance of your body. They assess the flow and distribution of the 'vital energy' within its pathways, known as meridians and channels, and they should be able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these meridians. In Europe, an acupuncture specialist is required to be a medical doctor before getting a license to practice. In some other countries, non-physicians are allowed to practice based on the local laws.
Diseases treatable with Acupuncture
Acupuncture is known to relieve pain and is a popular therapy for pain relief. Listed below are the conditions for which the WHO (World Health Organization) has recommended acupuncture therapy:
Respiratory diseases: Acute sinusitis, acute tonsillitis, common cold and acute rhinitis
Eye Disorders: acute conjunctivitis, cataract, myopia and central retinitis
Mouth disorders: toothache, gingivitis, pharyngitis
Orthopedic conditions: tennis elbow, sciatica, lower back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, Periarthritis humeroscapularis
Gastrointestinal disorders: hiccups, acute gastritis, Chronic duodenal ulcer, Acute and chronic colitis, constipation, diarrhea
Neurological disorders: headache, migraine, facial paralysis, Intercostal neuralgia, nocturnal enuresis, Meniere's syndrome, Polio paralysis, Trigeminal neuralgia
Acupuncture for Weight Loss: The effect of acupuncture on weight loss is not yet proved but acupuncture is used as a weight loss strategy in combination with nutritional changes and lifestyle modifications. Acupuncture relieves stress and helps weight loss by curbing appetite and reducing hunger cravings. Auricular Acupuncture can target specific body parts and is also useful for weight control. The following are some of the points on the ear that can be stimulated to achieve weight control:
Mouth: for the impulsive eater who may also smoke a lot and talk a lot
Stomach: for the person who eats even after they're full or who's constantly nibbling
Hungry: for general appetite control
Lung: for food addicts, and people who love chocolate, sweets
Endocrine: for water retention that's responsible for some of the weight gain
Adrenal and Ovary: if weight gain is due to menopause or P.M.S.
Spleen: for sugar imbalances and hormonal disturbances
Kidney: for water retention, and nervous system and hormonal imbalances
Thyroid: for slow metabolism
Acupuncture and infertility
Acupuncture has been used to treat many medical problems, but is particularly useful for pain. It can help with joint pains, muscular pains, migraine and even period pains. It has also been used to treat problems such as sinusitis, hay fever, irritable bowel, and nausea. Acupuncture is even used to improve infertility in general; however there are no concrete studies to prove this.
Studies indicate that acupuncture may be helpful to couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF). However there is not enough proof whether it can improve fertility in general. A research conducted by Germans in 2002 indicates that acupuncture significantly increases the odds of pregnancy among group of women who were undergoing IVF treatment.
The researchers speculated that acupuncture helped increase blood flow to the uterus and relax the muscle tissue, giving the embryos a better chance of implanting. (Source: National Institute of Health). Yet another research suggests that reduction of stress as a result of acupuncture treatment improves the odds of conceiving.
Acupuncture needle and side effects
Acupuncture therapy seeks to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. Though the methodology appears rather strange and mysterious, it has stood the test of time. The acupuncture needles are placed on the identifiable points of the skin in order to correct the energy imbalance in the body. The modern technique of acupuncture involves sending minute amounts of pulsed current into the needle to stimulate the acupuncture point.
The current pulses are generated by a small battery-powered device. They can be adjusted for both frequency and intensity. There may be a pricking sensation after the needle passes through the skin. Gradually, the patient may feel numbness, heat, dull aching or a tingling sensation in the vicinity of the needle insertion. Generally the acupuncture needles are left in place for 15 to 30 minutes.
The needles may be rotated by the practitioner or stimulated by electricity or heat. The side effects of acupuncture treatment are minor and transient. They may include occasional dizziness, light-headedness and very slight bleeding after needles are withdrawn. Infection and other side effects such as lung puncture are very rare. However, always ensure that the acupuncturist use sterile and disposable needles to avoid the risk of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B and AIDS. Use of the teishein by Dr Gormley eliminates the risk of infection or bleeding.
Acupuncture points and meridians
Acupuncture points are points along the meridians that are manipulated to aid particular conditions and diseases by freeing the flow of the body's vital energy. Acupuncture points were mapped to 14 major meridian lines, one meridian for each of the 12 inner organs, one meridian along the spine (called the governing vessel) and another along the midline of the abdomen (called the conception vessel). Recently the acupuncture specialists have identified some extra meridians along with the ancient meridians.
The entire list of meridian (both modern and ancient) are complete mappings of body structures and functions by points along the outer ears, on the nose, in the scalp, on the hands, on the feet and at the wrists and ankles. Some of these points are mentioned below. Though there are list of disorders and diseases treated by each point, sometimes the point are selected entirely or primarily based on the Chinese theory of balancing the flow in the meridians. Some of the meridians are mentioned below; these meridians may also be used for the treatments other than mentioned here. Dr Gormley may use these or others during treatment.
Lung Meridian, point #7 of 11: LU7, Lieque - This acupuncture point is located above the wrist on the inside of the arm. It is used to treat several disorders of the upper body, including headache, neck stiffness, cough, asthma, sore throat, facial paralysis and wrist problems. (Source: Chinese acupuncture points)
Stomach Meridian, point #36 of 45: ST36, Zusanli - This acupuncture point is located on the front of the leg, just below the knee. It is helpful for digestive disorders, including nausea, vomiting, gastralgia, and abdominal distention, and also for general weakness. Recently, numerous clinical trials have been conducted with treatment of these points alone, demonstrating positive effects in treating anemia, immune deficiency, fatigue and numerous diseases. (Source: Chinese acupuncture points)
Heart Meridian, point #7 of 9: HT7, Shenmen - This acupuncture point is located on the outer side of the wrist. It is used in the treatment of a variety of mental disorders, such as absent mindedness, insomnia, disturbing dreams, hysteria, depression, agitation, and mental illness. It is also used in the treatment of heart disease and fatigue.
Large Intestine Meridian, point #4 of 20, Hegu- This is a favorite of Dr Gormley because it assists relaxation and helps to relieve dental pain. It is located at the top of the crease between the thumb and hand on the dorsal part of the hand. (Source Dr Gormley’s notes)
Acupuncture charts depict the primary acupuncture points on the body. A detailed acupuncture chart can help to quickly locate acupuncture points and learn their specific energies. Charts can show various meridians and points along the meridians. Charts of the ear, hand, scalp, and foot also show points that can be used for treatment of organs and parts of the body located distant to these micro acupuncture systems.
Today research focuses on how acupuncture works as well as what diseases can benefit from acupuncture. Western medicine has accepted acupuncture as an adjunct to modern medicine and will continue to define its place in overall health care.