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For Potential Acupuncture Patients

Kate Grimes 3/17/10

Audience Analysis

After a spine injury from a serious car accident I suffer from chronic back pain. When western medicine techniques from painkillers to epidurals and facet joint injections failed to relieve the pain, my physical therapist suggested acupuncture. Willing to try anything — even eastern medicine techniques that I was unfamiliar with and uncertain about — I agreed. From the perspective of a former skeptic turned advocate, I want to explain the process of acupuncture to potential acupuncture patients who are unfamiliar with eastern medicine. I think it is important that people understand the theory behind the process of acupuncture as well as what they will actually experience during their appointments.

Acupuncture Theory Traditional Acupuncture is a form of holistic medicine which originated in China thousands of years ago. It uses the insertion of needles along specific pathways of the body to manipulate the flow of qi and treat a wide variety of illnesses. Acupuncture theory is derived from the belief that illness symbolizes an improper flow of qi energy. Qi is the most basic component of existence. The body’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical state are all dependent on the flow of qi. It is responsible for the physiological functions of every organ and system. Acupuncture is both curative and preventative and can be personalized to benefit almost anyone, and specialized to treat a wide variety of conditions.

Conditions Commonly Treated by Acupuncture • • • • • • • Illnesses like ear and urinary tract infections Disease s like cancer, Crohn’s and Parkinson’s diseases Acute pain like menstrual cramps and headaches Chronic pain like arthritis, fibromyalgia and back pain Mood disorders like anxiety, addition, and depression Allergies Low libido and infertility

Meridians and the Flow of Qi The body consists of twelve main meridians and eight subsidiary meridians or vessels, which create a network connecting everything in the body. Each meridian is associated with an organ (hence their names) and each organ is responsible for specific symptoms. These meridians, which can be seen in Figure 1, are the paths that transport qi throughout the body. Qi enters the body through specific acupuncture points where the meridians are closer to the surface of the skin. These acupuncture points have unique electric characteristics. Meridians are classified as yin or yang based on the direction of their flow. Yin meridians flow from the feet to the torso and from the torso to the arms. Yang meridians, on the other hand, flow from the fingers to the face or the face to the feet. These opposing forces must Figure 1

work together in a balancing act. The flow of qi energy follows in a continuous cycle comparable to an electric circuit. If, somehow, this cycle becomes unbalanced, the mind, body, and/or spirit suffer. The needling techniques of acupuncture are carefully selected to disperse or attract energy and release blockage as appropriate. The ultimate goal of acupuncture is to restore qi energy balance within the body.

Preliminary Examination The first visit will likely take a bit more time because it includes a preliminary examination before any procedure is performed. Though some of the questioning and observations may seem irrelevant, holistic medicine treats the mind, body, and spirit as a whole and overall health as the interdependence of the three. Typical Parts of a Preliminary Evaluation • • • • Tongue and face color Questions about lifestyle and diet Questions about mood Measurement of pulse to determine state of qi

Often, for modesty reasons, needles are inserted along meridians of the arms and legs. Therefore, wearing loose clothing is suggested. However, sometimes changing into a gown or a towel is required before the commencement of the procedure.

Needling The process of needling may seem intimidating, but it is very safe, minimally intrusive, and scarcely painful. Needles are sterilized, stainless steel, singleuse and disposable. Often, treatments use between five and twenty needles, but because of their thinness, insertion is barely felt. Ranging in width from approximately .14 mm to .30 mm, they are more hair-like than needle-like in appearance. Length ranges from approximated 15 mm (.5 inch) to 75 mm (3 inches). Sites for insertion are precisely and strategically chosen depending on the desired effect. Each acupuncture point is only a few millimeters in diameter and derives its function based on its location along the qi channels

or meridians. Acupuncture points are sterilized with alcohol, and needles are inserted about 1-3 mm into the skin. Though usually needling is barely felt, sometimes patients experience a deep aching sensation when needles reach the correct depth, signifying the arrival of qi. After the needles are inserted, they may be gently moved or rotated, and then the patient is usually left to rest for a period of 10 to 45 minutes. During this time the patient should remain still and relax. Lighting and music often set a mood so calming that the patient falls asleep. Though often this time is uninterrupted, the practitioner may need to make some adjustments to the needles over the treatment period. Often, other traditional Chinese medicine techniques are utilized in conjunction with acupuncture. Some of the most common include: Common Acupuncture Adjunct Therapies • • • • Electro-acupuncture, where wires from a machine clip to the needles (often needles located on the hands and feet) and stimulate an electric charge, Moxibustion, which involves burning an herb on the needle or the skin, Cupping, which removes toxins and muscle tension with suction, and Tuina, essentially a massage along the meridians and acupuncture points.

Results of Acupuncture Patients feel relaxed or energized, and after several treatments, a relief of symptoms. After the first visit the acupuncturist should have a devised treatment plan that often requires one to two visits per week lasting for a couple of months. After this period and once the patient has reached maximum improvement, it is not uncommon to have periodic “maintenance” appointments.

Summary Though it remains somewhat of a mystery from under the lens of western medicine, Traditional Chinese Acupuncture has been monumental for

managing the health of easterners for thousands of years. By treating the body as a whole rather than treating the symptoms as western medicine does, acupuncture is able prevent and cure a plethora of health concerns. By painlessly inserting needles along specific channels, acupuncture redistributes and rebalances qi energy in the body relieving the mind, body, and spirit. Reference Websites