Last updated on August 22nd, 2017 at 06:08 pm
Sitting across a small desk-like table, I extend my arms toward her. She places her index, middle and ring fingers on each of my wrists. Like a skilled piano player, she moves her fingers, first lightly, then with a bit more force and finally with an even deeper touch. She shifts these alternating pressures from one wrist to the other on three specific points on my radial artery. Nine pulses in total.
As we engage in lively conversation she asks me how I’m feeling. Then she announces that today I have the beginnings of a cold. Although I haven’t been experiencing any symptoms yet, I trust her. Especially after she studies my tongue and then quickly nods. She confirms that I am indeed showing the early signs of a possible cold.
This is not some kind of hands-on fortune teller predicting my future, but my acupuncturist Daniella. As I’ve been seeing her consistently almost weekly for many years, I smile. I’ve learned not to doubt her. When this session is finished all will be in harmony again. After her initial pulse and tongue diagnosis, I gladly move to the table, eager for my treatment.
Acupuncture is an Ancient Art of Healing
Acupuncture is an ancient art of healing, originating in China long before written texts began. There are reports that acupuncture is over 5,000 years old and that Egyptians talked about vessels that resembled 12 meridians in 1550 B.C. The first written documentation describing the organized system now recognized as acupuncture is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine which dates back to 200 B.C. Also called the Huang Di Nei Jing, it regarded the human body as a miniature representation of the universe as a whole. It taught that a state of health could be achieved by balancing the body’s internal environment with the external environment of the entire universe.
Acupuncture is part of the system called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine. In contrast, American or Western forms of health care have a much shorter history. The American Medical Association, which is the largest U.S. health care association, was formed in 1847 some 3800 years after the first mention of TCM.Acupuncture is one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine. #acupuntureClick To Tweet
Chi is Vital Life Force Energy
Many of the concepts in TCM do not have any true counterpart in Western medicine. One of the key concepts is qi (pronounced “chi” or “Chee”). Qi is considered a vital force or energy responsible for controlling the harmonious workings of the human mind and body.
Qi flows through the body via channels called meridians. There is a total of 20 meridians, 12 of them primary and corresponding to specific organs and organ systems or functions and eight secondary meridians. It is imbalances in the flow of qi that cause illness.
When the flow is corrected, the body is restored back to balance. Acupuncture is the most practiced way to restore this balance in Traditional Chinese Medicine, although techniques like acupressure, moxibustion and chi kung or tai chi are other practices incorporated.
Origins of Acupuncture
There are numerous references to the origin of the word acupuncture. The earliest European reports came from Jesuit missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. The word acupuncture was coined by French Jesuits from the Latin acus (needle) and punctura (puncture). Another report claims the term acupuncture was coined by Dr. William Ten Rhyne. It was earlier known as Chen in China, which can be translated roughly into “to be pricked with a needle”.
Acupuncture began to appear in medical literature in the U.S. in the mid-1800’s when Sir William Osler included a section on the use of acupuncture for “lumbago and sciatica” in his The Principles and Practices of Medicine.
Acupuncture Arrives in the United States
A turning point for the wide acceptance of acupuncture in the United States happened in 1971 when New York Times reporter James Reston accompanied President Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger to Beijing to report on a ping-pong match between China and the U.S. He developed acute appendicitis, requiring an emergency appendectomy. His report of his firsthand experience for postoperative pain management was published on the front page of the New York Times, sparking enormous public interest in acupuncture.
The first clinic, Acupuncture Center of Washington, opened in 1972 and received massive news coverage. The 20 Oriental acupuncturists, mostly brought from New York City, were soon treating more than 250 patients a day. It wasn’t long before the medical establishment tried to close it down by taking the city of Washington D. C. to court. They lost and acupuncture has flourished ever since. In the 40+ years since acupuncture has been legalized in more than 46 states and between 2002 and 2007, the number of acupuncture practitioners in the U.S. grew by 32 percent.#Acupuncture has flourished in the U.S. for 40+ years and is legalized in 46+ states.Click To Tweet
Benefits of Modern Acupuncture
Some people fear acupuncture because of its use of needles, but modern acupuncture uses disposable needles. This ensures the treatment is safe. Made of stainless steel, the needles come in various lengths and gauges of widths. They are solid, not hollow, and have a finely tapered point.
The benefits of acupuncture are wide reaching, showing great success when treating many health concerns including the following conditions.
• Relieving postoperative pain
• Nausea during pregnancy
• Migraine Headaches
• Dental pain
• Allergic Rhinitis
• Panic disorders
• Acute and Chronic Gastritis or Irritable Bowel Disease
The Art of Acupuncture
As I’m lying quietly on my back, my acupuncturist begins to insert the needles systematically in points on my legs and feet. She moves to my arms and hands, then to points in my ears and the top of my head. Each treatment for me is different, although the all too familiar points on my stomach and spleen meridians on my leg, generally cause me to open my eyes and pay attention.
My respect for her proficiency continues to grow, as I understand that Chinese pulse diagnosis is an extremely complex and subtle skill. As is the art of needle placement. Acupuncture is essentially painless. Some people do experience a slight pinch as the needle is inserted but generally, there is no discomfort at all.
How Acupuncture Works
Needling of acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. The chemicals will either change the experience of pain or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. Although acupuncture is most widely used for pain relief, it is effective in treating a wide range of ailments. From digestive problems to infertility and fibromyalgia to heart conditions, in addition to the conditions listed above.
With the needles all inserted, my mind begins to quiet and I fall into a deep state of peaceful relaxation. The needles will remain in for 20-30 minutes. Today I fall asleep for most of the treatment. Daniella’s gentle steps approach me and she removes the needles. I feel grateful that I’ve included acupuncture in my preventative health protocol for over 20 years now.
I get up from the table and return to my starting position. She retakes all nine pulses and studies my tongue again. She smiles and tells me my pulses are good now. I agree as I’m feeling great. As I venture out into the world I’m energized, confident that I’m again ready to accomplish just about anything.
Health is Highly Individual
Of all the things I’ve learned on my own health journey, the one thing that can’t be understated is that we’re highly individual. When it comes to health, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Acupuncture is one of the staples in my health protocol as I’ve continued to experience wonderful success with it.
My passion is to share information I’ve learned on my ‘journey back to health.’ To support people to live their lives in a way that optimizes their health and vitality. If you’re ready to take your health to the next level, I invite you to a complimentary wellness consult. Together we’ll create a customized program for you! It starts with our True Health Assessment and its three-part report based on your answers.
Do you have any experiences with acupuncture? Or other alternative therapies that have contributed to your overall health and well-being?