WHAT IS CHINESE MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE?
Chinese Medicine has a history dating back at least 2500 years, making it one of the world’s oldest forms of medicine. Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, dietary therapy, and Tui na (a type of physical therapy/massage), and other related disciplines including Qigong and Taiji. Chinese medicine is based on the concept that the body is a complex matrix with numerous interconnected systems that work in unison to maintain balance and health in the body. Life force energy, known as “qi” flows throughout the body in channels known as Meridians. The flow of qi can be disrupted by many different factors, leading to various states of disease, whether physical or emotional. The Chinese medical practitioner uses a number of diagnostic techniques, including questioning, palpation, and observation, to pinpoint the mechanisms of the diseased state, and then treats that condition accordingly. Acupuncture is the most widely recognized form of Chinese medicine, and it involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into acupoints along the body’s meridians to balance the flow of qi.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
As mentioned above, the aim of acupuncture is to promote the flow of “qi”, or life force energy within the body by inserting acupuncture needles into specific points along the body’s meridians. Meridians, which circulate the body’s qi run throughout the body and loosely follow the pathways of blood vessels or nerves. Acupuncture works to promote the free flow of qi and thus reduce pain and other disease states. There is a saying in Chinese medicine that states where there is no free flow there is pain and disease. Thus the most basic aim of acupuncture is to restore the free flow of qi. There is extensive empirical evidence that acupuncture works, and western research studies continue to explore the mechanisms, from a Western Medical perspective, that make acupuncture such a powerful treatment modality.
WHAT CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?
Acupuncture can treat a wide assortment of health issues and diseases, including musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, internal medical conditions, infections, and psycho-emotional issues. Because Chinese medicine seeks to balance the underlying imbalances that are leading to states of disease, its applications can be applied to almost any ailment. The World Health Organization recognizes a great number of diseases as being effectively treated by acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. See The World Health Organization’s website for this list.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE HURT?
Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are very thin, and their insertion is virtually painless. You may notice a sensation of heaviness, achiness or warmth at or around the area where needles have been inserted, all which indicate the circulation of Qi in the area. Most people find acupuncture to be very relaxing, and some people even fall asleep during treatment.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
The number of treatments that you will require depends upon the severity and duration of your health issue. In general, treatment of acute conditions requires fewer treatments, whereas the treatment of chronic conditions requires more treatments. It is generally recommended that you begin with 5 to 6 treatments and then reassess your treatment progress with your practitioner.
ARE THE NEEDLES STERILE?
Absolutely! Acupuncturists in the United States only use single-use, sterilized, disposable needles to ensure your safety.
IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BEFORE I TRY ACUPUNCTURE?
Please do not come to your appointment excessively tired or hungry. Please wear loose clothing. And please be sure to tell your practitioner about any medications you are taking, especially blood thinning medications.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER A TREATMENT?
Many patients feel relief of symptoms after a single treatment, while for others it may take longer. Oftentimes, your symptom relief will recur within a few days, but with continued treatment the effects will be more enduring. The aim is to resolve your symptoms altogether.
WHAT ARE CUPPING, GUA SHA, AND AURICULAR ACUPUNCTURE?
Cupping, Gua Sha, and Auricular acupuncture are all modalities that acupuncturists use in various treatment protocols.
Cupping relieves sore and stiff muscles and joints by aiding circulation. Cupping is also used for treating colds and flus. The process involves creating vacuum in the cup and then placing it on the skin. The cup pulls on the skin and underlying tissue, thereby increasing circulation of qi. Cupping is not painful, but can leave black and blue marks that go away within a few days
Gua Sha or scraping relieves sore and stiff muscles and joints, and can be applied to areas of the body that cupping cannot. Gua Sha involves applying a lubricating oil to the skin and than scrapping that area with a blunt tool, such as a porcelain spoon, or specially made wooden instruments, until the area turns red. This procedure can be a little painful, but the pain-relieving results are worth it. The red spots usually disappear within a few days.
Auricular acupuncture is a widely used microsystem within Chinese Medicine. Microsystems use one aspect of the body, in this case the ears, to remedy conditions that are present throughout the body. Auricular acupuncture is especially effective at treating psycho-emotional issues and several protocols are used extensively in treatment centers to aid the detox process and promote overall wellbeing.
HOW ARE CHINESE HERBAL REMEDIES PRESCRIBED?
Chinese herbs are prescribed based on an individual’s Chinese Medical pattern which your practitioner determines based on the symptom complex with which you present. You will be prescribed herbs that treat both the presenting symptoms, as well as your underlying constitutional pattern.
WHAT ARE HERBAL PRESCRIPTIONS MADE UP OF?
The Chinese material medica consisits of numerous types of natural substances, including bark, flowers, roots, leaves, twigs and stems. Occasionally herbal prescriptions may include minerals or materials from animals.
HOW ARE CHINESE HERBS TAKEN?
Traditionally, raw Chinese herbs were cooked by the patient into a tea that was ingested 2 to 3 times daily. This practice is still carried out today, but with our busy lifestyles this isn’t always feasible. Thus, many herbal formulas are available in pill form to ensure patient compliance. Similarly, herbs are also available in powdered extracts that can be dissolved into warm water.
DO CHINESE HERBS HAVE SIDE EFFECTS?
Very rarely. If you are prescribed the correct formula there should be no side effects. Most substances in the materia medica have a low toxicity, especially in comparison to Western Medications. The most common side-effect that patients experience is some mild changes in digestion, which usually go away as your body adapts to the herbs. If you ever do experience any discomfort while taking your Chinese herbs, be sure to inform your practitioner.
WHAT CAN CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE TREAT?
Chinese Herbal Medicine effectively treats a full range of diseases. Chinese Herbal Medicine can treat chronic, difficult to treat conditions, can be used to strengthen your constitutional weaknesses, and can treat specific ailments, whether acute or chronic. Some of the most commonly treated conditions include susculoskeletal injuries, chronic and acute pain, allergies, emotional issues, gynocolgical disorders, and degenerative diseases.
CAN PREGNANT WOMEN TAKE CHINESE HERBS?
Yes, herbs can safely be prescribed to pregnant women, and in fact, Chinese Herbal medicine can help with many conditions that pregnant women experience, including morning sickness, restless fetus, fatigue, and breech presentations.
CAN CHILDREN TAKE CHINESE HERBS?
Children respond very well to herbs and specially prepared pediatric herbal formulas are available in pill and liquid forms. Chinese Herbal Medicine can treat conditions including colic, teething, earache, cough, and diarrhea.