8 Dec 2020
What is Acupuncture and How Does it Work?
8 Dec 2020
Acupuncture, a landmark component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is one of the world’s oldest healing modalities, dating back to about 700 B.C. or perhaps even further. Its efficacy & practicability have definitely stood the test of time. Its history is weaved with mysticism and rigorous science alike. Nowadays acupuncture is commonly known as an excellent aid in the treatment of infertility, various types of headaches, functional digestive & bowel disorders such as IBS and GERD, swelling & oedema and circulatory problems. Acupuncture is also great for treating all types of pain (of both chronic and acute nature) & musculo-skeletal disorders such as low back pain, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, deep bone pain, myofascial pain, etc.
In fact, acupuncture has stepped into our modern culture so much, that, in mid 90’s, even the American Institute of Health1 (NIH) and the British National Health Service2 (NHS) have recognized acupuncture as a useful ‘adjunct’ or a ‘primary therapy’ in numerous conditions. Examples of some the conditions cited are adult postoperative & chemotherapy associated nausea & vomiting, postoperative dental pain, stroke rehabilitation, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, neck pain, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, asthma, and chronic headaches among others.
Recognition at this level can be viewed as a stepping stone or a grand achievement for this ancient healing modality. However, to be frank, confining the utility of acupuncture to a given set of conditions or diseases is somewhat like confining a lion to a zoo cage not much larger than the lion itself. In other words, the scope of its applicability has to be seen from an entirely different point of view to be understood and appreciated, or, more to the point, from a different paradigm of health & disease.
Let me explain…
In acupuncture theory, the state of our health is seen as an immensely intricate interplay of fundamental “forces” which drive and allow for our physiological processes to occur and prosper. These fundamental internal forces make themselves known to the outside of the body in myriad different ways. For example, the outside of our bodies are traversed by what is referred to as meridians (or more simply, channels), each of which have many different connections to the various levels of depth within our bodies (and among each other). During a disease process, these connections may get severed, blocked or just impeded. This may result in tenderness, bruising, excessive dilation or constriction of surrounding blood vessels, a feeling of excessive heat or cold, a rash, unusual sensitivity to touch, excessive secretion of sweat, chronic goose bumps etc.
Another route of evaluation of these internal forces takes place via the nature of one’s pulse. A pulse may feel strong or extremely weak. It may be very quick or slow. Or it may feel like it is passing beneath one’s fingers like a slowly crawling snake or an electrical pulse in a wire and so on. Another common window into the state of these internal fundamental forces is given to us via the tongue. One’s tongue is evaluated for its shape (thickness, symmetry, geometrical shape), its color, nature of the coating (which may be thick, white, yellow, dark, or not present at all), its state of moisture and degree of swelling etc.
The point here is that the body constantly communicates to us what is going on on the inside, and when you know what to look for, you can get a pretty good idea as to what within our intrinsic mechanisms is faltering and thus resulting in a disease process and thus various signs and symptoms. Acupuncture is one tool that can be used to correct these mechanisms and nudge the body in the direction that will carry it back into its natural dynamic balance. This in turn, will manifest in health and well being.
The interesting part
What’s interesting about this paradigm is that the same set of symptoms in two people (i.e. the same disease or condition) can be caused by absolutely different internal imbalances. In fact, there are always multiple variations of internal imbalances that can lead to a single ‘disease’. This is one of the main ideas behind acupuncture. The key is to look behind the curtain of symptoms and attempt to establish the underpinning dysfunction. If that is corrected, the symptoms will simply fall away on their own.
In subsequent blogs we’ll take a closer look at some of the aspects of the above mentioned internal forces from the point of view of Traditional Chinese Medicine and also modern physiology & neuro-anatomy. This will bring us one step closer to answering the question as to what acupuncture can really do…
To learn more, book an appointment with me, Andre Inglot, Registered Acupuncturist, at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph
1. American National Institute of Health: https://consensus.nih.gov/1997/1997acupuncture107html.htm
2. United Kingdom National Health Service: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acupuncture/
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