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Understanding acupuncture

Even though medicine has moved ahead at a staggering speed, traditional methods with a millenary background are still around as important alternatives to Western medicine. Moreover, some of them have been adopted scientifically and have been found to be beneficial in many health problems, as it happens with acupuncture.

Today we live in a stressful world that’s continuously becoming more complex and convoluted. Traffic jams and crowded cities make it difficult to breathe, and working hours are becoming harsh instead of turning more relaxed and comfortable due to our current use of technology. That’s why many people are turning back to the ancient roots of medicine, and achieve significant improvement of various ailments by using aromatherapy, yoga, mindfulness meditation, and acupuncture. 

Chinese medicine is one of the most remarkable healing techniques nowadays, and since it is non-invasive and does not require introducing chemicals in our bodies, most people accept them as alternative medicine, even in cases of late-stage cancer and terminal disease.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a popular technique in Chinese medicine. It is a drug-free therapy that’s becoming a trend worldwide. You can find acupuncture specialists in almost every country you can visit, and different techniques can be applied for various health conditions. Not all of them are effective according to science, or the scientific data is insufficient or low-quality in some cases. But in the case of anxiety, stress, depression, and other problems associated with the central nervous system, acupuncture stands as a fascinating approach to treat various diseases without the need for expensive medications.

Acupuncture is based on the principle that we have a flow of energy in the body, which is addressed to as qi. Every organ has their own flow of qi, and certain emotional states and disturbances create qi stagnation associated with a given organ. According to Chinese medicine, qi stagnation is responsible for a wide variety of problems, including emotional disturbances that include depression and anxiety, and organ dysfunction, as in the case of menstrual disorders and gastrointestinal disease.

To treat these ailments, acupuncture uses a series of energy points and reactivates normal qi circulation. There are over 300 points in total, but some of them are more important than others. For example, we can highlight the importance of a combination of points called “Four Gates,” Yingtang, a point that is located in the forehead between the eyebrows, and the zero point, which is found in the ear and works to relieve articular pain.

Variants of acupuncture

Acupuncture is one branch of Chinese medicine, but there are other variants in different Asian countries, especially Korea and Japan. They share a similar foundation, which is energy flow throughout the body and fixing energy stagnation by using trigger points, but they are different in their methods and theories. Some of them use needles, others only apply pressure, and others use other types of stimulation. For example:

  • Shiatsu: It is the Japanese variant of Chinese acupuncture, and applies finger pressure on specific points of the body. It is an interesting variant that does not only apply finger pressure but also adopts a series of body postures and uses the patient’s body weight as a part of the therapy.
  • Acupressure: Similar to Shiatsu, acupressure does not need to apply needles, but the fingers, hands, elbows, and sometimes special tools. It is very popular and can be used by patients without a major understanding of Chinese medicine.
  • Moxibustion: It is a particular type of treatment that uses the principles of Chinese medicine to stimulate and invigorate qi points by heat with a moxa cigar. 
  • Modern forms of acupuncture: There are many modern applications of acupuncture, including laser needle acupuncture and electroacupuncture, which uses laser technology and small electrical currents applied to the patient as a complementary part of the treatment.

Both traditional and modern techniques are now readily applied in many hospitals as a cost-effective therapy to improve chronic pain, treat cases of post-traumatic stress disorders, and aid in the treatment of anxiety and other psychiatric conditions.

An overview of how acupuncture works

There are over 300 points to choose from in acupuncture therapy. So, how do you select acupuncture points? There are diverging schools of Chinese medicine, but most of them follow three basic steps:

  • Identify the affected meridian: There are 12 meridians or channels that connect the entire body and its organs. All 300+ acupuncture points are located in a given meridian, and the first step is identifying which meridian is affected. This is determined according to the type and location of pain or the symptoms the patient is describing
  • Identify a meridian that will balance the affected meridian: An affected meridian can be balanced by 5 remaining meridians. So, it is possible to choose which one to use according to various considerations of the medical texts in Chinese medicine. The I Ching is one of the most important books in this regard and covers these meridian relationships and how to address them.
  • Choose the appropriate acupuncture points: After narrowing down 12 meridians into only one, we will have fewer acupuncture points to choose from. Then, we will have to select them carefully. It is possible to choose which point to stimulate through the principles of body imaging in Chinese medicine, in which each part of the body has a correspondence with another area.

Of course, there are various techniques and methods to apply, and we can even combine different acupuncture points and variants of stimulation to obtain the best results.

According to various studies, acupuncture promotes relaxation and soothing in patients who are susceptible to chronic sources of stress, and according to an article that compared different acupuncture, they change the way the brain works, and the electroencephalographic readings start to resemble that of people sedated with general anesthesia.

Thus, Chinese medicine is one of the most acclaimed drug-free therapies, and it has been accepted by many health professionals worldwide. They are cost-effective, do not have any significant side effects, and have proven to be beneficial in many patients and several types of disease.

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