Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
By Dr. Bonnie McLean
Chinese Medicine is about 5,000 years old. It is originally based on Taoist philosophy which speaks about the human body in terms of energy rather than matter. The ancient Chinese believed that a basis life energy called qi or chi is present in every living creature, and that it circulates along specific pathways in the body called meridians. As long as energy flows freely through these pathways, the balance ( homeostasis ) of the body is maintained and the body is healthy. When the flow of energy is blocked for any reason, this energetic system is disrupted and pain or illness results. This can occur in the case of injury, disease, use of alcohol or drugs, lack of exercise, poor nutritional status, weakness from birth, or even chronic mental or emotional anguish. By stimulating appropriate acupuncture points along the energy pathways, the blocked energy is released and health can be restored.
Along these energy meridians are acupuncture points. These points may be stimulated by a number of methods. The most commonly used method is acupuncture, the insertion of very fine solid sterile needles. Other methods may include stimulation by heat, cold, pressure, electricity, a burning herb called moxa, and lasers. The acupuncture meridians and blood circulation can also be stimulated by friction and suction which can be accomplished by the techniques of gua sha and cupping. These two techniques create a temporary bruising effect which will disappear in a few days. Chinese herbal formulas are also an important part of Chinese Medicine.
Research in the Eastern and Western parts of the world has shown that acupuncture stimulates the neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord. These are the substances that are responsible for proper transmission of nerve impulses and our sense of well-being. The best known of these are the endorphins which are endogenous morphine-like substances. Studies have also shown that acupuncture can produce physiological reactions in the body, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, blood chemistry, endocrine functions, intestinal and gastric activity, and immunologic reactions.
Chinese Medicine can be used to treat a wide range of conditions. These can include sprains, strains, and other injuries such as whiplash: neck, shoulder, and low back pain;
sciatica; tension, migraine, and sinus headaches; osteoarthritis and bursitis; anxiety and depression; female disorders; asthma; and gastro-intestinal disorders. In the U.S. acupuncture is best known for treating pain conditions, stress-related disorders, and addictions.
The frequency and duration of acupuncture treatments varies according to the type, chronicity, and seriousness of the problem, as well as the general condition of the patient.
The effect of acupuncture tends to be cumulative. An average course of treatment may be twice a week for 4-6 weeks, although treatment for detoxification from drugs or medications for severe pain may be daily for 3-7 days. Chinese Medicine addresses the unique needs and situation of each person. This is different from our usual “cook book approach” and expectation of a “quick fix” that we often find in Western Medicine.