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What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture literally means 'needle piercing," involving the insertion of solid filiform acupuncture needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body for therapeutic purposes. Along with the usual method of puncturing the acupoints with needles, the acupuncturists also utilize heat, pressure, massage, scraping, cupping (suction), or impulses of electromagnetic energy to stimulate the points

What is TCM?

Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as TCM, is a unique and complete system of healing which has proven its effectiveness in China for over 5000 years. While it has only recently reached Europe and Northern America, it has already gained considerable recognition in the western world. According to a 1993 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report, Americans made up to between 9 and 12 million visits to acupuncturists every year. The number has no doubt increased since then.

TCM derives from the same philosophy that informs Taoist and Buddhist idealogy and reflects the classical Chinese believes that the life and activity of individual human beings have an intimate relationship with the environment on all levels. Each person is a seamless unity of body and mind. This unity is a reflection of, and dependent on, the natural world and external conditions in which it exists. A TCM practitioner acknowledges this connection by conduction a consultation that goes far beyond one’s basic medical history. By doing so, the TCM practitioner examines the whole person, not just the symptoms of the illness. The patient’s physical, as well as psychological state is closely observed and the subtlest disturbances are taken note of. With this information, the TCM practitioner can design a specific treatment program that is tailored to the patient’s unique clinical profile.

A key to success in TCM is the treatment of each patient as an individual. Since each individual is a whole organism, composed of physical body, mind, emotions and spirit. Disease develops when the balance within the individual is lost. Poor constitutional factors, stress, emotional instability, improper diet, and overwork can all affect this balance negatively. TCM treatment helps retain a person to health condition by restoring a harmonious bond between body, mind and emotions. In essence, TCM seeks to restore balance to the entire person, not just a piece or a part, and also to help the body to heal itself.

TCM also places great emphasis on lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. It recognizes that health is more than just the absence of disease and it has a unique capacity to maintain and enhance our capacity for well-being and happiness.

The following are the most important methods employed by TCM:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Moxibustion
  • Cupping
  • Scraping
  • Chinese therapeutic massage
  • Qi Gong
  • Tai Ji and Therapeutic exercises
  • Meditation
  • TCM nutrition
  • Lifestyle counseling

How Does Acupuncture Works?

Two very different theories exist as to how acupuncture works.

In the Western view, scientific research suggest that the acupuncture points show a variety of unique bioelectrical properties, and that stimulating the points causes definite physiological reactions, which affect the brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. It has been approved that acupuncture triggers the production and releasing of endorphins, enkephalins, the body’s own painkilling chemicals, alters blood flow in the brain and may prompt the release of certain brain hormones, such as serotonin, which transmit nerve impulses. Acupuncture may also cause the pituitary gland to discharge pain-blockers and to initiate a process that releases anti-inflammatory agents into the bloodstream. It also positively affects the endocrine and nervous system, helping the body to achieve a state of balance, or homeostasis.

But for Chinese acupuncturists, this explanation isn’t satisfactory since activating the release of endorphins would require a certain amount of needle stimulation, which in fact, does not take place in all styles of acupuncture. The problem, they assert, is that you cannot understand acupuncture from a Western perspective, which tries to isolate parts of the whole without considering abundant factors that may affect the individual, including physical and emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise or excessive activity, overexertion, poor diet, seasonal changes, environment, and medical history.

Acupuncture evolved from principles and philosophies unique to Oriental thinking and Oriental Medicine, and is most effectively applied when done in accordance with those principles.

According to Chinese philosophy, the body contains two opposing forces: Yin and Yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy. There is a universal life energy called “Qi” in every living creature. It circulates throughout the body along pathways called “Meridians” or “Channels”, which surface on the skin at specific points. Each point is connected to specific internal organs. This constant flow of energy keeps the yin and yang balanced. However, the flow of Qi can sometimes be blocked, like water getting stuck behind a dam. Normally, when a blockage or imbalance occurs, the body easily bounces back, returning to a state of health and well-being. Furthermore when this disruption is prolonged or excessive, or if the body is in a wakened state, pain, illness or disease takes place. Thus acupuncture is used to unblock the obstruction and restore the smooth flow of Qi to regain the balance and harmony of Yin and Yang, as well as the body’s ability to heal itself, ultimately leading to optimal health and well-being.

Is Acupuncture painful?

Acupuncture needles usually made of stainless steel, unlike hypodermics, they are ultra-thin and flexible, thereby permitting a nearly painless insertion. Acupuncturists attain a high level of skill in gently placing these needles, and often the insertion is barely perceptible. The needles are usually inserted only several millimeters in depth. Most of acupuncture clinics in Unite States use only disposable needles, which are discarded after each treatment. This eliminates the possibility of contamination and disease transmission.

A vague numbness, dull, heavy, aching, or slight tingling, or sometimes an electrical shooting sensation often occurs when the needle is correctly placed. This is referred to as “De Qi” (“De” means “Gain”) and is necessary for acupuncture to be effective. Even though the relief of pain can often be obtained without provoking the “De Qi” response, recent fMRI studies indicate that there is tendency to differ in the response of the brain to needling with and without the “De Qi” sensation.

After treatment, most patients experience significant level of relaxation, even euphoria due to body changes. Some patients may fall asleep during treatment.

 What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine is the oldest herbal systems in the world. The invention and application of Chinese medicine has a history of thousand of years. Although the earliest existing Chinese herbal book known to man “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” dates back over 2,000 years, it is believed that the origins of Chinese herbal medicine go back more than 5,000 years.

Chinese herbal medicine consists of 5000 more substances derived from plant, animal and mineral sources. It is one of the most important modalities utilized in traditional TCM, which is almost always prescribed in conjunctuin with acupuncture and other treatments. Medical herbs are dispensed to each patient in a formula based on the patient’s individual constitution and current medical condition. Each formula may contain about 5 to 15 different herbs, which can be administed in the form of herbal teas, liquid extracts, tinctures, tablets, capsules, granules, lotions, creams, salves, or poultices. Unlike western medications, the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are considered more important than the effect of individual ingredients.

Chinese herbal medicine is not based on conventional Western concepts of medical diagnosis and treatment, which treats patients’ main complaints or the patterns of their symptoms rather than the underlying causes. Chinese herbal medicine, along with the other components of Chinese medicine, is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang. It is believed that any illness occurs due to the loss of balance between Yin and Yang. Herbs are used with the goal of restoring a balance of Yin and Yang, energy, body, and spirit to maintain health rather than treating a particular disease or medical condition.

It aims to understand and treat the many ways in which the fundamental balance and harmony between the two may be undermined and the ways in which a person's Qi or vitality may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based upon diagnosis of patterns of signs and symptoms that reflect an imbalance. 

Are Herbs Safe?

Chinese herbal medicine is a holistic therapy, which integrates herbal remedies with the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of health into the understanding of the body’s functions. It acts gently by supporting systems and processes that have become deficient and helps to remove excesses in the body. It is very safe when prescribed correctly by a qualified practitioner.  Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the pharmacopoeia and placed great emphasis on the protection of the patient. Allergic type reactions are rare, and will cause no lasting damage if treatment is stopped as soon as symptoms appear.

What is Moxibustion?

Moxibusion also called “Moxa” is an ancient form of heat therapy, which applies focused heat from a slow burning herb called mugwort over acupuncture points to warm the meridians, strengthen the blood and stimulate the flow of Qi, warm the cold and tonify the weakness, thus to treat and prevent pain, discomfort and diseases. It is also quite effective against gynecological problems and chronic illness. 

What is cupping?

This modality involves the use of glass or bamboo cups to apply vacuum suction to the skin of an acupuncture point or affected area of the body. It increases blood circulation and heightens the flow of Qi, disperses the stagnation, expels the exterior pathogenic factors, and detoxifies the body. Cupping is useful for muscle injury, joint pain, headaches, infection, cold and acute bronchial congestion. Cupping is a very safe and noninvasive therapy.

What Are TCM’S Special Advantages?

TCM offers many advantages and can be used safely on its own or as a complement to Western medicine. The most significant advantages of the TCM approach are:  

It has thousands of years of experience in prevention and treating diseases, maintaining health with thousands of classification, testing, and refinement of herbal formulas.

It composes the formula to each individual patient according to its own constitution, the manifestation of disease (According to TCM point of view, the same disease may have deferent manifestations due to deferent age, constitution, season, severity, and other accompanied existing disorders, etc,) and the periods of the course of disease, unlike most of Western pharmaceuticals are given to all the patients only according to the same disease and without changing in the whole course of a disease.

It is holistic and heals mind and body, not just isolated systems or parts of the body. While receiving treatment for a specific condition, the patient often notices an overall improvement in health.

It focuses on treating the cause of illness, attempting to bring the entire body back to balance, not only treating the specific complains and symptoms of disease.

It helps the body restore the innate healing ability to heal itself by strengthening the function of the meridians and enhancing the free flow of Qi, thus it also has long-term results.

It revitalizes and rebalances the body's natural immune system, which plays a very important role in the recovery of diseases.

It is a very useful alternative for patients who do not respond to drugs, or not willing to take drugs for some conditions.

It is effective not only in treatment of excising diseases, but also in prevention of illness and improvement of overall health.

It is natural and very safe. TCM remedies have few side effects and tolerance does not build up over time.

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