Acupuncture Acupuncture is a traditional Eastern therapeutic technique that uses fine needles, inserted into specific points on the body along the meridians in proper speed to achieve a specific therapeutic goal. Acupuncture originated in prehistoric China, and it is based on such theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine as treating blockages of Qi, yin-yang balancing, five elements theory and pulse diagnosis. The functional system of channels and organs uses concepts of yin-yang balancing. Nowadays, acupuncture has become commonly used in many Western countries as well. Around 200 B. C. the Yellow Emperor’s textbook of physical medicine called Huang Di Nei Jing described the essential metaphysics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese doctors saw man as an integral part of nature and all things both in Yin and Yang around him were related to him, and things in Yin and Yang should be in balance. The original meaning of Yin is the shady side of the hill, and Yang is the sunny side of the hill. The opposites complement each other in a dynamic process. Thus, Yin and Yang cannot exist without the other, and the two forces always combine to make up the whole. This polar system of Yin and Yang has an important role in medicine and in the description of life processes in the human body and of their pathologic disturbances. ” (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p88) Qi is the vital energy or life force, and it is omnipresent in nature and is apparent in all life in the form of change and movement. The action and movement of Qi expresses in every life process and every organic function. “In the body, Qi accumulates in the organs and flows in channels or meridians that are called Jing and Luo in Chinese. (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p. 88) The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are Qi. The fluent flow of Qi throughout the body is essential for optimal health. Blockage of this energy is thought to cause disease. The aim of the treatment in Chinese acupuncture is to harmonize the flow of Qi by dissolving blockages and stagnation in the organs and channels. If the Qi of an organ is weakened, the function of this organ will be incomplete or faulty, but if Qi of an organ is present in xcess, the function of this organ will be excessive. Acupuncture can balance the conditions of excess or deficiency in the organs, and thus achieve an undisturbed function. The system of “five element”, like yin-yang balancing, is a philosophy concept and is a way of recognizing and analyzing things. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. This system is used to explain the reasons of interaction relationship between all things in the nature through the interlinked relationship between the five elements.
These basic elements are intimately interlinked. Each element is controlled by another, while itself simultaneously controlling a third phase. According to Chinese medicine, Qi flows through meridians, and there are11 organs interact intimately with the channels. The 11 organs are described as functional systems and subdivided into six Yang organs and five Yin organs. Large intestine, small intestine, stomach, urinary bladder, gallbladder and “Sanjiao” are the six Yang organs, and lung, heart, spleen, kidney and liver are the five Yin organs. Pericardium (a double-walled sac that contains the heart and the roots of the great vessels) is not considered as a Yin organ, but as part of the heart, having a channel. ” (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p122) The 12 main channels form a system of three courses of channels at the body surface. Each course of channel consists of two pair Yin-Yang channels. One pair runs in parallel along the arm, and the other along the leg. This three courses flow in similar form. One Yin and one Yang organ form a functional unit, which involves a particular tissue and the corresponding channels.
Acupuncture points are located on those channels. By the application of needles, heat, or massage on acupuncture points, acupuncturists can make some damaged organs function better. A pair of channels consists of a Yin and a Yang channel. “Yang channels run laterally or on the dorsal side of the body, while Yin channels run medially or on the ventral side. ” (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p125) There are 12 main channels, like the months of the Chinese zodiac, each representing a major organ system of the body. In addition, there are two extraordinary channels named Ren Mai and Du Mai.
Ren Mai is the conceptional vessel, which counts as a Yin channel, while Du Mai is the governing vessel, which counts as a Yang channel. These two extraordinary channels and the 12 main channels together make up the system of 14 channels on which the 361 classic acupuncture points are situated. The 12 main channels form a system of three courses or cycles of channels at the body surface. Each course of channel consists four main channels, two Yin and two Yang channels. “One Yin-Yang pair runs in parallel course along the arm, and the other along the leg.
An internal branch of the channel derives from the main channel running to the corresponding Yin or Yang organ. ” (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p125) The first course is located on the ventral side of the body. It is made up of the lung, large intestine, stomach, and spleen channels. The lung channel starts at the chest wall and runs along the volar side of the arm to the corner of the thumbnail, and it belongs to the Yin polarity. The large intestine channel starts from the index finger and runs on the dorsal side of the arm to the face, and it belongs to the Yang polarity.
The stomach channel starts from the face and runs ventrally down the body to the second toe, and it belongs to the Yang polarity. The spleen channel runs from the foot along the inside of the leg back to the chest wall, and thus it belongs to the Yin polarity. The second course is located on the dorsal side of the body. It is made up of the heart, small intestine, urinary bladder and kidney channels. The third course is located on the lateral side of the body. It is made up of the pericardium, Sanjiao, gallbladder and liver channels. These courses flow similar to the first course.
A Yin or Yang channel axis is made up of two adjacent Yang channels or two adjacent Yin channels in the same course of channels. The Yang channel axes pass downwards from the arm to the leg through the head and body. The Yin channel axes pass upwards from the feet to arms through the body. The channel axes are important for diagnosis as well as for treatment. Acupuncture are very useful in treating some disorders, such as respiratory disorders, mental disturbances and illness, neurological disorders, skin disorders and disorders of the sense organs, etc.. Many respiratory disorders are successfully treated by acupuncture.
Especially in chronic conditions, such as chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, or bronchial asthma, acupuncture is more effective than other forms of treatment. External climatic influences such as cold, wind, dryness, and occasionally heat are sometimes the causes of a weakened lung Qi. Thus, acupuncture can dissolving the blockage and can strengthen the Qi. Acupuncture treatment is very effective in a large number of psychosomatic disorders, such as agitation or exhaustion conditions, insomnia, depression, sexual disturbances, drug addictions, obesity, and headache. Acupuncture has a harmonizing, sedative, or tonifying effect. Many points of the Du Mail, heart, pericardium, and gallbladder channels have strong psychological effects. ” (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p287) Also, organs that are affected in mental disturbances can be treated by stimulation of the points of the corresponding channels. Acupuncture also shows a good effect in migraine, chronic headache and trigeminal neuralgia. According to traditional ideas, chronic headache and migraine are attributed to a blockage of Qi in the Yang channels of the head.
The pain in chronic headache is mostly caused by an internal disturbance of organs. The location of pain is very important in planning for an individual acupuncture treatment. However, trigeminal neuralgia is attributed to a blockage of Qi caused by wind, cold, or heat, together with pronounced internal disturbances of the liver or stomach. “In the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, a large number of points in the face are needled on the contra-lateral side; they should be manually stimulated over and over again, for dispersing stimulation. (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p296) Acupuncture treatment is also effective in many skin disorders, such as neurodermatitis, acne, herpes zoster, psoriasis, and eczema. According to traditional ideas, the skin is related to the lung and the large intestine, and skin disorders are therefore treated with points on the channels relating to the lung and the large intestine. What worth mentioning is that points surrounding the disordered skin area should not be needled especially ulcerated regions.
Acupuncture treatment is highly effective in disorders of the sense organs, deafness, tinnitus, vertigo, conjunctivitis and visual deficiency. According to traditional concepts, the ear is related to the functional system of the kidney and urinary bladder, while the eye corresponds to the liver and gallbladder. In addition, the ear is closely connected to the Sanjiao channels, which circles round the ear. Stimulation of the distal points of the Sanjiao is higyly effective in ear disorders. Negative effects of acupuncture were rarely reported, however, they do exist and special attention should be paid to. The most frequent complication of acupuncture treatment is the vasovagal episode. More serious complications reported include rare pneumothoraces, lacerations of viscera, compression of nerve trucks due to local hematomas, sepsis, transverse myelopathy, eschars and scarring, endocarditis, and broken needles. ” (Ceniceros, Salvador and Geroge R. Brown, 1998) The first needles were sharp flints, and later metal needles had replaced sharp flints. Different acupuncture needles have different length and diameter. Usually, the length varies from 1. 5 to 15 cm, and the diameter varies from 26 to 36 gauge (0. 2 to 0. 5mm). Disposable needles are usually made of stainless steel with handles wrapped in copper wire. Today, most used needles are filiform steel needles because the steel is flexible and unbreakable. Filiform needles consist of a tip, a body and a handle. In most cases, 0. 3mm thick needles are used in acupuncture. When insert acupuncture needles, acupuncturist should hold them vertically use three fingers, the thumb on one side of the needle and the index and middle finger on the other side.
The needles should be held perpendicular to the three fingers and 1-2cm from the tip of the needles should not be held, especially with long needles, which are more liable to bend. There are two methods of insertion. One is fast method, and the other is low method. Fast method causes less pain, while low method may be painful. The insertion can be perpendicular (90°), oblique (30°-60°), or occasionally tangential (10°). The depth of insertion and the direction are given with the specific acupuncture point, but they can vary depending on the constitution of the patient.
In China in the 1960s, electro-acupuncture (EA) was introduced into clinical practice, especially for treatment of chronic pain and neurological diseases. “Electro-acupuncture is aimed at stimulate the points electrically by attaching flexible wires (via small alligator clips) to the needles. ” (Gabriel Stux, Brian Berman and Bruce Plmeranz, 2003, p315) Electro-acupuncture uses one pair of needles which are attached flexible wires (via small alligator clips) to stimulate the points electrically, instead of twirling the acupuncture needles by hand.
Pulses of electricity with the pulse width from 0. 1 to 1. 0 ms in duration are applied to the needles in order to stimulate nerves. One major advantage of Electro-acupuncture is that it is more convenient than manual therapy, and requires less skills and accurate needle placement. Acupuncture was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century. However, at that time, it was not widely accepted by Europeans. Most Western skeptics claimed that the traditional Chinese theory of acupuncture was merely anecdotal; therefore cannot be reliable.
This situation has dramatically changed in the past 20 years. Lots of publications who went to China and saw the use of acupuncture have revealed the reductionism, causal mechanisms for many of the acupuncture effects in many leading Western journals. It is estimated that over 300,000 physicians of over one million practitioners outside China use acupuncture treatment for chronic pain. About 90% of the physicians that were found in a recent study of German pain clinics used acupuncture. Also, there are over 11,000 physicians were interested in acupuncture in the USA.
In Canada, more than 2000 physicians have taken courses given by the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada. In North America, besides physicians, veterinarians, chiropractors, and naturopaths also use acupuncture. In conclusion, acupuncture based on the Tradition Chinese theory of Yin-Yang balancing, five elements theory to dissolve any blockages in the vital energy Qi. Acupuncture treatments are very useful in variable areas of disorders; despite there may few adverse effects. Nowadays, acupuncture is more familiar to Westerns, and it is accepted by growing number of people in the world.
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