Acupuncture has been used for centuries as preventative medicine and to relieve acute conditions and chronic conditions that have no natural cure in western medicine, such as asthma, chronic pain, anxiety and depression.. This powerful medicine, with no side effects, can be your answer, but is not broadly accepted by the mainstream.
Practiced in China for thousands of years, acupuncture is one facet of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which also encompasses herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, eating for healing, and qigong. All are based on the principle that qi (lifeforce) flows through your body along meridians (think highways) similar to the way blood flows through veins. Qi can accumulate excessively in one area and be deficient in others. If one’s overall qi is deficient, the person is vulnerable to outside forces, for example, cold. Although in western medicine, the terms used are immunity and germs, a similar concept applies in eastern medicine, with a slightly different emphasis. If the terrain is weak, external pathogens can invade. One of the goals of Chinese medicine is to balance the qi (read strengthen immunity) to guard against external pathogens. TCM is an allopathic form of medicine meaning treating with the opposite. If a person is deficient, the cure is to tonify. If the person is excess, the cure is to reduce. Herbs are more effective at tonifying and acupuncture is effective at reducing.
The purpose behind all acupuncture therapy is the achievement of balance; specifically the balance of the flow of “Qi” in the body, loosely translated as the “life force.”
In TCM, the organs of the body are viewed differently than in western medicine. Each organ is associated with an energetic pattern. Many symptoms can be part of a single pattern. A typical pattern for New Yorkers is liver qi stagnation. Symptoms of liver qi stagnation are depression, feelings of frustration and anger, sensation of a lump in the throat, pain under the ribs, menstrual pain. While the liver is an organ that tends toward excess or stagnation, the spleen is an organ that tends to be deficient. The liver can invade the spleen causing symptoms such as nausea, belching, abdominal pain, and loose stool.
Acupuncture is a holistic medicine– it sees symptoms in relationship to the entire body, and not in isolation.
In addition to effectively treating the above syndromes, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in improving sleep quality and quality of life in postmenopausal women; helpful in alleviating chronic pain; reducing frequency and intensity of tension headaches and migraine attacks; increasing the effectiveness of IVF; alleviating low back and neck pain; reducing the harmful effects of stress; alleviating PTSD; increasing function and reducing pain in knee osteoarthritis and tennis elbow; inducing labor; reducing dysmenorrhea; helping to relieve labor pain; turning breech babies (moxa); and easing nausea and vomiting postoperatively and from chemotherapy.
Over 2500 years old, this time-tested method of preventative care and addressing acute and chronic problems speaks for itself by alleviating conditions normally addressed by drugs or surgery in Western medicine.
What to expect when visiting an acupuncturist. On an initial visit, the acupuncturist will do a full eastern evaluation, including asking about lifestyle, pains, bowel frequency and consistency, sleep patterns and analyzing pulse and tongue. Acupuncture needles are as thin as a thick hair. All needles are sterile. Most acupuncturists today use disposable needles. They generally do not cause bleeding, however bruising may occur occasionally. Acupuncture should not be painful, but should produce a sensation of qi, i.e. heaviness.
In New York State, acupuncturists are licensed by the NYS Department of Education. The training is a 3-year program after a minimum of two years of college. An acupuncturist must pass a state-approved licensing exam.