Acupuncture. Just Do It.

Acupuncture. Yeah, Just Do It. :)

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The Acupuncture Kit : Chinese Medicine LivingSilver Om Earrings : Chinese Medicine Livingblogmug


What is Traditional Chinese Medicine? An Introduction

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Traditional Chinese medicine to the uninitiated, may seem mysterious, magical and a bit odd. But the fact that TCM has been around for thousands of years and is still able to treat modern diseases is a testament to its ability to heal the mind, body and spirit.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest medical systems in existence. It predates the rise of the British empire, the invention of the printing press and the discovery of DNA. The Chinese have been using acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, cupping and massage to treat illnesses for thousands of years. That enormous body of knowledge is still relevant today, and is very much a part of the present system that is Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an umbrella term for the many modalities used by the Acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner. These include Acupuncture (electro, auricular, cosmetic), Herbal Medicine, Tui Na (Chinese medical massage), Gua Sha (scraping), Moxibustion (the burning of the herb mugwort), Cupping, Dietary Therapy and Energy Work (Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Meditation). Below is a brief description of each.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture Needles

Acupuncture is a technique utilizing fine sterile disposable stainless steel needles inserted at specific points in the body in order to correct various ailments and normalize the body’s physiological processes. Where the needles are applied and the depth of their insertion is determined by the nature of the problem. Traditional Chinese Medicine holds that there are as many as 2000 acupuncture points on the human body.

The ancient Chinese believed that there is a universal life energy called Qi present in every living creature. This energy is said to circulate throughout the body along specific pathways called meridians. As long as this energy flows freely throughout the meridians, health is maintained, but once the flow of energy is blocked, the system is disrupted and pain and illness occur.

Electro Acupuncture

Electro acupuncture involves sending a weak electrical current through inserted acupuncture needles to stimulate acupuncture points. A slight throbbing or tingling sensation may be felt during treatment. This modality is usually employed for severe pain and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Cosmetic Acupuncture

Cosmetic acupuncture is an effective, non-surgical treatment used to reduce the signs of aging. It has been used in China for more than two thousand years. Tiny sterile needles are inserted into the face along meridian lines and acupuncture points to increase blood circulation. The face receives an increase of blood to nourish, oxygenate and moisturize the skin from the inside out. Cosmetic acupuncture also stimulates the production of collagen, giving the skin a firm, tight look.

Auricular Acupuncture

Auricular acupuncture is acupuncture specifically of the ear. The ear is a microsystem of the entire body and is widely used for many conditions including addiction treatment, mood disorders, obesity and pain This medical system emphasizes a holistic approach to medicine, an approach that treats the whole person. The acupuncture points found on the ear help to regulate the body’s internal organs, structures, and functions. Auricular therapy has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s own feel-good chemicals.

Chinese Herbs

Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbalism is complex and can take a lifetime to master. Each herb has many different properties which interact with both the person taking them as well as the other herbs in the formula. Chinese herbs function much in the same way as acupuncture in that the goal is to rebalance the body using Qi (the body’s intrinsic energy), Yin and Yang. Each herb has a thermal nature, a flavour, specific organs it acts upon and a direction in which it moves, and all must be balanced with incredible precision to achieve their desired outcome in the body. Because herbs are taken internally, they have a strong and often immediate effect and are incredibly powerful. They can be used in conjunction with acupuncture or other modalities, or alone, and are often chosen for chronic problems, long standing deficiencies or degenerative diseases because of their powerful nature.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion

Moxibustion is the application of indirect heat by burning the herb Folium Artemisiae vulgaris, commonly known as Mugwort, over a single, or group of acupuncture points. It is either applied to the end of an inserted acupuncture needle, held above the skin, or stuck to an acupuncture point with a thick foam between the skin surface and the actual moxa. The purpose of moxibustion is to warm the meridians and dispel cold, strengthen the blood and immune system, stimulate the flow of qi, remove stagnation, prevent disease and maintain general health.

Tui Na

Tui na is a form of Oriental bodywork that has been used in China for centuries. A combination of massage, acupressure and other forms of body manipulation, tui na works by applying pressure to acupoints, meridians and groups of muscles or nerves to remove blockages that prevent the free flow of Qi. Removing these blockages restores the balance of Qi in the body, leading to improved health and vitality.

Cupping

cupping

Cupping utilizes round glass or plastic cups over a large muscular area such as the back to enhance blood circulation and draw toxins out of the body. Cupping therapy has the action of warming the meridians, invigorating Qi and blood circulation, relieving blood stagnation, alleviating pain and swelling and dispelling damp and cold. With this extensive range of indications, it’s commonly applied for wind cold-damp bi syndrome, lumbar pain, shoulder and back pain, aching lower extremities, soft tissue sprains and contusions, common colds, headaches, cough, asthma, stomach aches, abdominal pain and dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).

Gua Sha

“Gua” means to scrape or rub. “Sha” is the term for the reddish raised skin rash that occurs as a result of the scraping. Sha refers to the blood stagnation in the subcutaneous tissues before and after it is raised as the reddish skin rash (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis). Gua Sha involves lubricating the skin with oil (traditionally a thick oil such as peanut was used) and using a smooth edged instrument, the acupuncturist uses long or short strokes causing redness or bruising. Gua Sha is used to treat as well as prevent the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, and pain both acute and chronic. It is also used to detoxify the body and for fevers as the scraping brings the excess heat and toxins to the surface of the body to be released

Dietary Therapy

Chinese dietary therapy

Nutrition and dietary therapy is an essential aspect of Chinese medicine. The Chinese have known for thousands of years the direct correlation between what we eat and our health. Even before the development of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, foods were used by traditional peoples to heal diseases and build immunity.

The Philosophy of Chinese Medicine

The philosophy of TCM is based on the Taoist view that human beings should strive to live in harmony with nature and their natural environment. Eating foods that grow locally and in season, internal practices like Tai Chi and Qi Gong, freely expressing our emotions, being self aware by listening to our needs and desires are, in the TCM view, the way to a healthy and balanced life.

5 Elements in Chinese Medicine

The TCM philosophy offers us different approaches to viewing our nature, the workings of our bodies, the development of disease and the process of healing. The emotional self, for example, is just as important to the TCM practitioner as the physical body. When a patient arrives with a specific complaint, all physical as well as emotional and psychological aspects are evaluated, as it is the entire person who must be re-balanced, not just one aspect. This holistic approach is the strength of the TCM model. Treating the whole is in opposition to the reductionist model in the West which reduces the body into parts, not taking into consideration that they operate synergistically as a whole. This is one of the reasons why TCM is still able to treat a huge variety of ailments in the modern world. Treatments is designed specifically to each persons set of unique signs and symptoms which is part of the reason why Chinese medicine is so effective. The focus is not on treating disease, it is on treating the person and their unique needs.
Illness is described in the way it is seen to exist, in natural terms. Terms like water, fire, wind and earth are used to describe a person and aspects of their health, personality and disease. Illness develops when something is out of balance, is deficient, in excess or stagnant. The energy of the body, or Qi, must then be re-balanced, topped up, sedated, and moved depending on the presenting condition. Qi moves along specific rivers or pathways in the body called meridians. The acupuncture points are places where the Qi comes to the surface and is able to be manipulated by the acupuncture needles.

Herbs work internally to achieve the same goals. They are powerful tools and can be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture or any of the other modalities, like Tui Na, Cupping or Gua Sha. All are used to re-balance the body and return it to a state of equilibrium. It is up to the practitioner to decide which ones in isolation or combined are most effective for the patient and the imbalance that has led them to seek treatment.

In conclusion, Chinese medicine holds the body and its capacity for healing in great reverence. It does not see itself as an outside force that is able to heal the body, but as a way to help adjust the body and bring it back into balance so that health is restored. In essence, it is not the practitioner doing the healing, it is the body. Advice on nutrition, living with the seasons and moderation in life empowers the patient and enables him to participate in his own healing. The goal of the TCM practitioner is to use these concepts to guide the patient on how to live a healthy, happy and balanced life.


Ask An Acupuncturist. - Do You Do Acupuncture On Yourself?

Question

As an acupuncturist, do you do acupuncture on yourself?

Answer

This is a good question and I am a bit surprised that I don't get asked it more often. The answer is yes, I do do acupuncture on myself when I really need it. For me, it is always preferable to have an acupuncture treatment performed by another acupuncturist (this is a more relaxing experience), but I certainly do points on myself when I can't get to see an acupuncturist myself.

I used to always travel with needles, but after a few incidents at airports, I am a bit leary of carrying needles with me on airplanes (the TSA is so sassy!), but I usually have a little acupuncture medicine kit with me with needles, herbs and other things like herbal burn cream, ear seeds and moxa for anything that might come up.

I do acupuncture on myself mainly when I have a headache, cramps, digestive issues or a cold or flu. Sometimes it is a bit tricky to get needles in, and because you are doing the work, it isn't the most relaxing experience, but it gets the job done and for me, is always preferable to taking a pill.

There are also theories that propose that when you work on yourself that you are interrupting your own energy, so that any theraputic effects are diminished. I can understand this, as when I do points on myself I am concentrating, and never entirely relax, whereas when you are being treated by someone else, their energy is going to treating you in its entirety, and you are able to take in the treatment completely which is your focus, and you are able to relax.

There are certain things that I cannot easily treat myself like points on the back and neck, but anything else, at least that I can reach I can treat myself. I would always go and have a proper treatment from an acupuncturist if I had the choice, but it is really nice to have the option to treat myself if I need to. :)


Ask an Acupuncturist. - Why are you putting that point there?

Question

I have been going to an acupuncturist (who is Chinese and speaks very little English) for my terrible headaches, and I am just wondering, why he is putting needles in my legs, stomach and hands and not in my head?

Answer

Ha. Good question. This is particularly confusing to those of us who grew up in the West with the Cartesian model of medicine where we tend to treat the part that is giving us problems directly (if we are suffering with headaches, we look for problems in the head, etc..). The Chinese medical model however, has a different approach. Because it is based on a holistic system, it is the entire body that is assessed to discover where the imbalance is that is creating the headache, instead of treating the head directly. In TCM there are many, many reasons that one may suffer from a headache, and each person's headache must be flushed out and the root of the problem discovered so that it can be treated. Often, the cause of headaches can be an excess of yang or fire energy in the body which flares upwards causing things like headaches, red eyes, anger, and bitter taste in the mouth. To treat this, the yin, or water energy of the body must be supplemented which is often done with points in the lower legs, we would also often treat the lower part of the body in an attempt to draw the heat down and anchor it which would alleviate the symptoms.

So, although in Chinese medicine there are many causes for headaches, the acupuncturist is always looking for the root cause so that it can be corrected, so that often means treating points in other parts of the body and not the head directly.


7 Most Common Acupuncture Side Effects

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

For those unfamiliar with acupuncture, or with limited experience, there are some side effects that everyone should be aware of. This is why it is always good to do your research and make sure you have all the information before taking the plunge. Below is a list of the most common side effects of having acupuncture treatments, and some of them might surprise you.

wellbeing

1. An Overall Feeling of Wellbeing

By far one of the most common things heard by acupuncturists from their patients is that they feel an overwhelming sense of wellbeing. I believe the reason lies within the very foundation upon which Chinese medicine in built. Because Chinese medicine is a holistic system, when you come in for an acupuncture treatment, it is not just the ailment that is being treated, it is the entire person on every level. This is in contrast to the Western model which functions in more of a reductionistic way, honing in on the part of the body that is seen to be malfunctioning and treating it, often in isolation. In Chinese medicine, the entire body is seen to function as a whole and no one part can be separated from the others, it is one, everything acting synergistically. This is why people often feel a euphoric sense of calm, peace and wellbeing when receiving acupuncture treatment, as the entire being is being healed and rebalanced which is what the body really needs. The feeling of wellbeing is your body’s way of saying thank you.

2. Improved Sleep

Sleep is something that most of us don’t get nearly enough of. I have seen this over and over again in practice, we certainly seem to be a sleep deprived culture. Everyone is under pressure to get a lot done and there never seems to be enough time. Sleep, unfortunately, is the thing that often suffers. Thankfully, one of the wonderful things about acupuncture (and there are many) is that it is incredibly relaxing to the body and benefits the nervous system allowing us to have better quality sleep.

3. Feeling More Relaxed

Acupuncture is incredibly relaxing to the body. For anyone who has never had acupuncture before this may seem a strange statement. How, you may ask, could the body relax when it is full of needles? But, it is true. The tiny acupuncture needles release endorphins that cause a pleasant feeling of euphoria and are extremely beneficial to the nervous system causing the body to feel relaxed. Many people become so relaxed on the table, that they pass out cold. This is extra nice because it helps with number two - getting a bit of a nap is an added bonus.

acuface

4. Other Negative Symptoms Disappearing

The intake process is involved and great care is taken to collect both a medical history and other relevant information about the patient's health on every level. During this process there is usually a chief complaint which is the reason that the person has come to see you. After the information is collected, a diagnosis is formulated and a treatment plan put together. As treatment begins, something wonderful happens... the patient will say things like, “you know I was coming to you for my terrible migraines, but I had been having this awful constipation for years. I forgot to mention it to you, but it has completely cleared up.” It is very common for symptoms that are perhaps not the reason you sought treatment to resolve themselves, and the reason goes back to number one. Because Chinese medicine is based on a holistic system, it is not treating symptoms, it is treating the entire human being, therefore, the whole body is being balanced out meaning that symptoms that you may have been struggling with, will disappear.

5. Heightened Senses & Awareness

Acupuncture has the ability to heighten the senses and bring greater awareness to the patient. There are many people out there who are not entirely connected to their bodies and have a difficult time describing how they feel. Acupuncture helps them to reconnect with their bodies as they learn to feel the qi moving around inside them. There are many different sensations that can be felt while having acupuncture, and most are the movements of qi inside the body. For those who are more embodied, people who practice yoga, martial arts and athletes for example, this awareness has been developed and acupuncture can serve to heighten that awareness. For those who are not as connected to their bodies, acupuncture can be an introduction to their bodies and create an awareness that will help them maintain balance and health in the future.

acuwrist

6. Increased Energy

Many people come to have acupuncture for various kinds of stagnation. Stagnation is a common term in Chinese medicine and basically means a blockage of some kind in the body. It can be a blockage of blood, or of qi (the body’s vital energy). Stagnation is one of the main causes of pain in TCM, and acupuncture and herbs are excellent for moving stagnations. One of the side effects of moving blockages in the body is that it frees up all the energy that has been pooling around the blockage, and people will often find that their energy increases once the stagnation starts breaking up and things are flowing freely again. This is especially true of people experiencing pain which is very exhausting to the body. Once the stagnation, which is the cause of the pain, is moved, the body is no longer being drained and the energy stores are freed up for more constructive and pleasant bodily processes.

7. Clear Thinking and Better Concentration

A very nice side effect of acupuncture treatments is that people often report that they are able to think more clearly and are better able to concentrate. In this age of multitasking, long hours and lack of sleep we can all use all the help we can get. Acupuncture helps us to rebalance. When there is an imbalance in the body, our qi is disrupted. Often times, due to hectic schedules, improper nutrition and lack of sleep, we simply do not have enough qi to provide us with the energy we need, and the result often manifests in decreased cognitive abilities like dull thinking, forgetfulness and difficulty remembering. Because acupuncture treatments are rebalancing the entire body, it ensures that all the organs are functioning properly, making all the qi we need so we have plenty to think clearly, concentrate and remember. I think the term side effects has been sullied by the media. We are bombarded on a daily basis with commercials from drug companies that sing the praises of some new drug while quietly listing a myriad of side effects that are often worse that the symptom you are taking the drug for. This is what I think many people associate with the term side effects. But, in this case, I present to you a list of side effects which do not take away from the overall pleasantness of an acupuncture treatment, but enhance them exponentially.


The Science of Acupuncture - BBC Documentary

For thousands of years, what we now think of as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) was the only medicine; now, traditional cures are being treated with a fresh respect. For BBC TWO, scientist Professor Kathy Sykes from Bristol University Kathy Sykes investigates why science is starting to respond to these centuries-old remedies....

Part 1: Alternative Medicine: The Evidence on Acupuncture

Kathy begins her journey in China where she sees some incredible demonstrations of acupuncture. The most astonishing is a scene in a Chinese hospital in which doctors perform open heart surgery on a young woman - using a combination of acupuncture and conventional pain relief instead of a general anaesthetic. In China, she discovers, acupuncture is used alongside western medicine and, at times, as a replacement.

So, what does western science make of these claims? Kathy meets the key scientists, both in the UK and in the US, who have put them to the test. She discovers that - although for most conditions and illnesses acupuncture cannot be shown to work - scientists have, intriguingly, uncovered a number of conditions relating to chronic pain in which they can be fairly certain acupuncture is having a powerful effect.

Kathy recruits a team of top scientists and alternative practitioners to find out if acupuncture might be having an effect. Over several months they devise an experiment which they hope will find the answer and finally uncover the secrets of acupuncture. Kathy and her team scan the brains of volunteers undergoing acupuncture. The conclusions challenge current understandings of the workings of the brain and throws new light on this ancient practice.


Debunking Acupuncture Myths - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Myth: Anyone Can Practice Acupuncture and You Don’t Have to go to School to Study it

Truth: Not anyone can practice acupuncture, and you must go to school for many years to become a licensed practitioner.

I love this one. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I had to do any schooling to become an acupuncturist. The answer is yes, did I ever.

The amount of education required to become an acupuncturist varies by country, state and province. On average an acupuncturist spends between 3-6 years in school full time studying both Chinese and Western medicine and must have many clinical hours before they graduate. The number of clinical hours at my school was 780.

This question actually used to hurt my feelings. But now I realize that many people simply don’t know much about acupuncture and what is involved in its study. An important thing to note is that acupuncturists and practitioners of Chinese medicine study both Chinese and Western medicine. We must understand Chinese concepts like qi, jing and shen, but must also have a solid command of anatomy, physiology, pathology and diagnosis. Acupuncturists do a large component on nutrition, and have to learn many modalities used in TCM like cupping, guasha, moxibustion, electro acupuncture and tui na. There are also classes on how to speak to patients, being empathetic, listening and observation. The human component of the patient is an important part of both diagnosis and treatment. Meditation, qi gong and ba gua (a martial art) were large components of my TCM education. We meditated before each class to clear our minds and help us focus, and before exams. Discussions between students and clinic supervisors to go over case studies were common while doing our clinical hours and there were many papers written during our course of study.

Licensing, like education varies depending on where you are. In most places, you must finish your education with an accredited school of TCM where you have completed all your courses, passed your exams and completed all your clinical hours. You are then issued a license, must purchase insurance and you are ready to practice. If you would like to know what type of education your acupuncturist has completed and how licensing works where you live, ask them. I am sure they would be happy to explain it to you.

Myth: Acupuncture Hurts

Truth: Acupuncture does not hurt.

This is probably the one I hear the most. Many people have a fear of needles and are afraid that acupuncture will be painful. Your experience with acupuncture depends largely on your acupuncturist. My experience with my acupuncturist was painless. There was never pain with the needles. I have since had acupuncture with many practitioners and it really depends. Some were very gentle, and some were not. Acupuncture does not have to be painful. I am very gentle. I do not like pain if it is not necessary.

I think there is a lot of fear associated with acupuncture because people simply don’t understand it. I hope writing this will help. Acupuncture needles are tiny, not the hollow point needles used to take blood or give injections. Acupuncture is not painful, quite the contrary, most people find it relaxing and rejuvenating. Of course the treatment depends on your practitioner, but as a rule, I would say that acupuncture doesn’t hurt or at least, it doesn’t have to.

Myth: Acupuncture only works if you believe it will (Acupuncture has only a placebo effect)

Truth: If you don’t believe acupuncture will work, the effect will probably be lessened.

This is an interesting one. In my last year of school I wrote my thesis on the mind and its connection to healing. I read many books on the subject and I found them extremely enlightening. I think that the mind is a large component in most things we do. I think if you go into anything believing that it will help you, then chances are much better that it will. The mind is a powerful tool, and there are many studies illustrating its healing effect.

My basic answer to this one is that one of the most important things in life (and an acupuncture treatment) is being OPEN. If you come in for an acupuncture treatment being open to the possibility that it may work, the prognosis will be much better than if you are convinced that it won’t. This is just common sense. This has been illustrated time and again in trials using placebos.

If someone came to see me and said that they absolutely didn’t think acupuncture worked, I would wonder what they were doing in my office. I would suggest that they find something they thought would work and to try that. There is no point trying to convince a closed mind.

*Note - something interesting that I discovered during my research on my thesis about the mind and its effect on healing, was that attitude and openness had a huge impact on peoples ability to recover from serious diseases. They did many studies which illustrated that people who were rigid and closed in their thinking tended to suffer more and die more quickly than people who were positive and open to different types of treatment. The second group lived longer, had better quality of life and if there was recovery or remission, the people were usually in this group.

Myth: You can get diseases from Acupuncture because of dirty needles

Truth: Modern acupuncturists use disposable needles, so no worry about disease transmission

This is a common myth. Modern acupuncturists use sterile, disposable needles. In ancient China, there were problems with hygiene, and needles were reused and diseases spread. There may be places in the world where health regulations are not up to the standards we are used to in the West, so my advice to you would be to ask.

Every place I have ever had acupuncture, the needles were disposable - one time use. That is the only kind I use. One of the exams that acupuncturists take is dedicated to clean needle technique. This covers all aspects of needling, including hygiene, hand washing, germ theory, sterilization, etc. It also covers everything that could happen when needling a patient.

When you fill out the initial intake form when you first go to see an acupuncturist, they will ask you questions like if you have a bleeding disorder (which affects treatment), or if you have any blood borne diseases like HIV. This is for the safety of the acupuncturist, so they can be aware to be especially careful when dealing with blood.

Myth: Acupuncture is for people who believe in witchcraft, voodoo and astrology

Truth: Maybe. And so what? I hear voodoo is pretty dope.

I sometimes hear that acupuncture has been lumped in with things like witchcraft, voodoo and astrology. People sometimes think that if you believe in acupuncture that you must not have a rational mind and are incapable of logic and reason. If you are an intelligent person, you would never subscribe to something like acupuncture, you would stand firmly on the side of science and medicines that can be quantified and qualified.

I would say to anyone with this thinking that they are just misinformed. I do not profess to know much about witchcraft, voodoo or astrology, but I do know a little about acupuncture. I can tell you that there are no goat entrails, dead chickens or astral charts used in my practice. Acupuncture is based on a long history of medicine in China and is still employed by a large part of the population there. Acupuncturists have an honest desire to help people get better. The TCM practitioner teaches how to live, not dependence on their treatments. The goal is wellness.

The truth is, we need both - Eastern and Western medicine. Western medicine has much to offer. Advances in diagnostics, testing and imaging have helped save many lives. It is my opinion that if the two could work together, there is no limit to what we could achieve and the lives that could be saved. Every modality has its strengths and weaknesses. You can’t use a wrench to fix every problem with your car, you need a full set of tools at your disposal. And the most important thing is choice. We are blessed to live in a world where we have choice. We are all lucky to have the ability to seek out whatever type of treatment we want, depending on our ailment and our beliefs. Opinions are one thing, but trying to take choice away from people is something else altogether. I sincerely hope that through education, and an openness to information, more and more people will learn about the benefits of this wonderful medicine, so that for those of us who believe, will always have the choice to use it.

I will leave you with a quote...

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  ~ Aristotle

Acupuncture Research Studies

Studies on Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, listed by category - Acupuncture.com

http://www.acupuncture.com/research/

Acupuncture studies - Science Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=acupuncture+research
List of acupuncture studies - National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://search2.google.cit.nih.gov/search?q=acupuncture+research&site=NCCAM&client=NCCAM_frontend&proxystylesheet=
NCCAM_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=0&getfields=*&proxyreload=1&x=0&y=0

Articles about Acupuncture in the military

http://www.ukiahclinic.com/blog/doctors-specialists-use-acupuncture-to-treat-vetrans/
http://www.statesman.com/news/local/military-tries-acupuncture-to-treat-troops-for-ptsd-757786.html
http://hprc-online.org/blog/acupuncture-in-military-medicine-is-a-growing-phenomenon#.UDU3-GhShXc
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120105/Special-issue-explores-military-applications-of-acupuncture.aspx


Debunking Acupuncture Myths - Part 1

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine to some, are as mysterious as the cosmos. There are many “myths” about acupuncture and Chinese medicine out there, and as a result, there is a lot of misinformation and people making claims that are simply not true. We live in an age where we have access to unprecedented amounts of information. The sheer volume can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. As an acupuncturist, I see my job as not only to treat people with all the tools in my Chinese medicine toolkit, but to also be an ambassador and try to share what this medicine is, how it works and how it can heal mind, body and soul.

In my career I have had to deal with many people who think that acupuncture and Chinese medicine are not “real” medicine. I cannot tell you how many people at parties and other social events want to tell me how silly they think it is that anyone would study something like Chinese medicine.

I decided a long time ago that it was not my job to convince anyone how awesome acupuncture is. I feel about acupuncture the way I feel about most everything; I am grateful to have the choice to use it, or not. It is something that has helped and continues to help me, and so I use it. If people are against acupuncture, they should not have any. There are many healing modalities out there and every one of us has the choice of which ones we want to use. Where it becomes upsetting is when someone is told that what they believe in is WRONG and that it should not be allowed to be used by anyone. This is the line for me. It takes an evolved person to be able to step outside of themselves and see the bigger picture. If you think something does not benefit you, does not mean that it may not benefit others.

Over the years I have come across a lot of articles that represent the view that Chinese medicine is not "real" medicine and that its practitioners are a bunch of quacks. This article is a good example:

Quackery and Mumbo-Jumbo in the U.S. Military

It seems this is a very controversial subject (as you can see from the 1400+ sassy comments). Can you guess which comments are mine...?

Myth: Acupuncture Doesn’t Work and There is no Evidence to Support It.

Truth: Acupuncture does work and there are many scientific studies that support its efficacy.

I find this is a big one with the left brainers. Just as there has always been a disparity between science and religion, it seems there will be friction between medical “science” and any medicine that is not able to be “proven” adequately by scientific methods.

If acupuncture didn’t work, acupuncturists would be out of business, and the medicine certainly wouldn’t have survived for thousands of years in China. Acupuncture has been successful in treating a myriad of conditions. The goal of acupuncture is returning the body to a state of equilibrium and health so that symptoms disappear. The severity of the imbalance is reflected in the severity of the symptoms. Things like cancer are a serious imbalance or, more often than not, one that is long standing. The body is not being “cured” by the acupuncture, the acupuncture is allowing the body to cure itself.

For me, being able to say something “works” comes from direct experience. Research studies are one thing, but I want to try it for myself. I am an experience kind of girl. If someone tells me about a food I have never eaten, I don’t want to read about it, I want to TASTE it.

This is my experience with acupuncture:

As a teenager I was plagued by menstrual cramps. Western doctors told me I had to just suck it up. They gave me very strong pain meds that helped with the pain, but made me feel like a vegetable and I was unable to function. After suffering for years doctors finally suggested I have a hysterectomy (removing the uterus). I was 15 years old. This caused me to look for alternatives, and I discovered acupuncture. After a few months of acupuncture and herbs, the cramps that had plagued me for years were gone.

Evidence is out there. For me, the evidence is in my experience, both personally and professionally. I have seen it work, over and over again. Everyday in practice, I see people get better with acupuncture.

There are many scientific studies that illustrate the effectiveness of acupuncture. They are being published all the time. I have included a comprehensive list of current research and studies at the end of this article.

*Note - in the article mentioned at the beginning of this piece - Quackery and Mumbo-Jumbo in the U.S. Military - the author states that there is no evidence to support acupuncture’s efficacy. In my comment, I state that this is absolutely untrue. This was countered by 2 other people asking me to cite examples as they thought I was “making things up”. I cited 31 studies. There were no more comments. :)

Myth: Acupuncture is based on Qi, Which Doesn’t Exist Because it Can’t be Proven.

Truth: Qi does exist. I know it, because I can feel it.

Qi is at the very heart of Chinese medicine. It can be loosely translated as energy and is the life force by which all our physiological processes take place. It cannot be seen, weighed or measured. Because of this, it is difficult to “prove” in the scientific sense.

An acupuncturist spends years studying qi. Because acupuncture is energy work, an intimate knowledge of qi is essential. We spend years developing a sensitivity to it. We must learn to detect it, and use our needles to manipulate it to bring the body back to health. Pain is TCM is considered a stagnation or blockage of qi. Acupuncture is used to break up the stagnation and allow the qi to flow through the body freely.

In school we studied qi gong with a master from China. He took us to the park and asked us to stand next to a tree. We took our hands and held them a few inches away from the bark, trying to feel the trees qi. Most of us didn’t feel anything at first, but after practicing, and honing our sensitivity, we began to feel it in plants and living things everywhere.

I can feel someones qi when they walk into the room. I can tell if they are happy, or frustrated or having a bad day. I am very sensitive to qi. If you were to ask me if I could prove it, I would say that it isn’t something I have to prove, I can FEEL it. If someone doesn’t believe it exists, I would ask them to get onto the table and I will do an acupuncture point which will allow them to feel their qi. For me, this is the best way to explain what qi is. We are all made of qi. It is what keeps us alive, and for anyone who doesn’t believe in qi but is open enough to try, I would say have an acupuncture or qi gong treatment and you will be able to feel what qi is.

Any meditator, yoga practitioner or student of the martial arts knows what qi is. They are hyper aware of their qi because it is important to their practice. So it is not just acupuncturists that know qi, it is anyone with a sensitivity to their bodies and the world around them.

For those who are more scientifically minded I would say this. Qi is not something that can be seen or measured. Just like faith, pain or gravity. Yet religions of the world are built on faith, millions of people every year suffer with pain and the population of the planet is kept firmly on the ground thanks to gravity.

I have always been aware that there are things in (and out of) this world that are beyond my comprehension. They are bigger than I am. And thank gods, because, as a person, I am small. If we could know everything that was, how boring life would be. One of the best things about life is the wonder of it. Discovering new things, having new experiences. I don’t think science can explain everything, and I am glad there are things out there that are yet to be explained.

Myth: Acupuncture is Dangerous

Truth: Acupuncture is Very Safe.

Acupuncture is quite safe. In all my years of having acupuncture, and my subsequent years treating patients, I think the worst thing that has ever happened was a tiny bruise here and there. I have never killed anybody, made them pass out, and to my knowledge, no one has ever heard screaming coming from my office.

I sometimes read about people who say that there is research to prove that acupuncture causes deaths and serious injuries. I have looked up several studies. In one study I found there have been a total of 95 cases of “serious adverse effects” and 5 reported cases of death attributed to acupuncture. When you dig a little deeper, you find that these numbers are world wide and a grand total from the last 60 years.

There are some things that can happen when having an acupuncture treatment that you should be aware of. They are:

~ bruising (hematoma)
~ a feeling of heat or distension at the needle site
~ nausea (it is good to eat a little something before a treatment)
~ headache
~ bleeding (a drop or two may come out when the needle is withdrawn)

Some pleasant side effects often include:

~ an increase in energy
~ improved sleep
~ a sense of relaxation and wellbeing
~ an increased sensation in the body
~ a feeling of self awareness

Dangerous things can happen and have been reported from people who have received acupuncture. Things like pneumothorax (a punctured lung) can happen if the practitioner is not skilled. Needles can break and sometimes an acupuncturist can forget and leave a needle in after a treatment. These are extremely rare. Of course, these things can happen, but they largely depend on the skill of the practitioner. Make sure that you are seeing someone who has completed a certified program, is licensed and insured to practice acupuncture.

In all my years receiving and giving acupuncture treatments, I have never experienced any of these negative effects. The most common negative effects in my experience is occasionally slight bruising, and sometimes, when you remove a needle, a drop of blood comes with it. The effects that are far more common however, are that people become so relaxed that they fall asleep on the table, and they feel wonderful after a treatment and the problems they were coming to see you for are completely resolved. Other symptoms that they were not even coming in for often disappear as the body is rebalanced with acupuncture and many people find that they have an increase in energy and clarity of thought as a result of their treatments.

With any medical procedure there are risks. Everyone must weigh them and decide if the risks are worth it. In my opinion, acupuncture is an extremely safe and effective treatment with an experienced practitioner and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Myth: Using Acupuncture in the Military is Dangerous for the Troops

Truth: Acupuncture is safe, inexpensive and without side effects = Better for the troops.

I have noticed lately some articles talking about the military using acupuncture for their troops to combat the effects of pain, traumatic brain injury and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). There has been a lot of controversy about this issue, and the article cited earlier is a sad example of how destructive misinformation can be. I was particularly fascinated with the thread of comments that appeared (more than 1400 of them) throughout the day. And even though there are a lot of nay sayers, I thought that overall, it was a thoughtful discussion and was encouraged that there was an open dialogue on the subject.

The thing that is disturbing about this article is the lack of information, or misinformation that is presented. The other disturbing thing is that this person is suggesting that acupuncture be removed from the program because she thinks it is ineffective, a waste of taxpayers money and dangerous for the troops. I propose something that is perhaps more dangerous to the troops. WAR. A few needles in comparison to the atrocities these soldiers face in battle seems like a risk worth taking. And I am sure that receiving acupuncture treatment is completely voluntary.

The comments in this thread range from one end of the spectrum to the other. And it is wonderful that we are able to exercise the freedom to say what we think. I am thankful to the bravery of every man and woman who puts their lives on the line every day so that we all may enjoy that freedom. I am not a supporter of war, but I do support freedom.

My response to this doctor is that it seems that she had made up her mind before getting any information on the subject whatsoever. There are many modalities out there that can be used to treat a variety of maladies. I cannot imagine the kinds of things from physical injuries to psychological problems that must plague people in the military. Do we not owe it to them to offer as many options for their healing as possible even if they are not what we would personally chose for ourselves?

To Dr. Hall I would say, you have every right to feel the way you do about acupuncture. You are lucky to live in a country where you have that right. Many people do not. But I would ask that you not take the option away from others who may benefit. It would be like me saying that I don’t like eggs so I want to have chickens abolished everywhere so no one else can enjoy them either. We all deserve to have choice, and the troops should have as many choices for treatment as possible and make the choice for themselves.

Part 2 of Debunking the Acupuncture Myth Next Month! Stay tuned.... ;)