Acupuncture is an ancient technique in which a skilled practitioner inserts hair-thin needles into specific points on the body to prevent or treat illness. Practiced for over 2,500 years in China, where it originated, acupuncture is part of the holistic system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which views health as a constantly changing flow of energy, or qi (pronounced "chee"). In TCM, imbalances in this natural flow of energy are thought to result in disease. Acupuncture aims to restore health by improving the flow of qi. Acupuncture has become a widely accepted form of treatment in the U.S., practiced by M.D.s, D.O.s (osteopathic physicians), D.C.s (chiropractic physicians), and N.D.s (naturopathic physicians) who have received special training in its methods, as well as by professionally trained acupuncture practitioners (L.Ac.s, M.Ac.s, O.M.D.s), who specialize only in acupuncture and related traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies.
· Health Benefits of Acupuncture
While scores of illnesses have traditionally been treated by acupuncture in Asia, its primary use in the United States has been to relieve chronic pain--caused by such ailments as arthritis, headache, PMS, and back pain--and to assist withdrawal from addictions such as drug and alcohol dependency. Today more innovative applications for acupuncture are being explored by both conventional and alternative practitioners, including its use as an analgesic to reduce pain during surgery.
In 1997, an advisory panel for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) evaluated hundreds of acupuncture studies and concluded that the therapy is an effective treatment for postoperative pain after dental surgery and for nausea induced by chemotherapy, pregnancy ("morning sickness"), and anesthesia. The NIH panel also called acupuncture a useful adjunct and acceptable treatment for a variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia, stroke rehabilitation, asthma, headache, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
How does Acupuncture work?
According to the principles of TCM, qi flows through the body via 14 primary meridians or channels. To strengthen the flow of qi,or remove blockages in the meridians, an acupuncturist inserts a number of tiny, sterile, flexible needles just under the skin at certain specific points (called acupoints) along the channels. There are four to five hundred named acupoints along the meridians, some of which are associated with specific internal organs or organ systems. If you are suffering from nausea, for example, needles might be inserted into acupoints on your wrist, while a vision problem might be treated with needles in the foot. (Additional ear, scalp, and hand points are also commonly used by some practitioners.) Acupuncture practitioners believe that the therapy stimulates the body's internal regulatory system and nurtures a natural healing response.
Although Western science has neither proven nor accepted the notion of qi, a large body of evidence is accumulating indicating that acupuncture leads to real physiologic changes in the body. Numerous studies have shown, for example, that inserting needles into the skin stimulates nerves in the underlying muscles. This stimulation, researchers feel, sends impulses up the spinal cord to a relatively primitive part of the brain known as the limbic system, as well as to the midbrain and the pituitary gland. Somehow that signaling leads to the release of endorphins and monoamines, chemicals that block pain signals in the spinal chord and brain.
Tui na is a form of Chinese manipulative therapy often used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, Chinese herbalism, t'ai chi, and qigong. It is a hands-on body treatment that uses Chinese taoist and martial art principles in an attempt to bring into balance the eight principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The practitioner may brush, knead, roll/press and rub the areas between each of the joints (known as the eight gates) to open the body's defensive (wei) chi and get the energy moving in the meridians as well as the muscles. The practitioner can then use range of motion, traction, massage, with the stimulation of acupressure points; this is claimed to treat both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, as well as many non-musculoskeletal conditions.
Tui na is an integral part of TCM and is taught in TCM schools as part of formal training in Oriental medicine. Many East Asian martial arts schools also teach tui na to their advanced students for the treatment and management of injury and pain due to training. As with many other traditional Chinese medical practices, there are several different schools with greater or smaller differences in their approach to the discipline. It is related also to Chinese massage.
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps).
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cupping is a method of applying acupressureby creating a vacuum on the patient's skin to dispel stagnation—stagnant blood and lymph, thereby improving qi flow—to treat respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis. Cupping also is used on back, neck, shoulder and other musculoskeletal conditions. Its advocates say it has other applications, as well.
Cupping is used to treat a broad range of medical conditions such as; blood disorders (anaemia, haemophilia), rheumatic diseases (arthritic joint and muscular conditions), fertility and gynaecological disorders, and skin problems (eczema, acne), and is claimed by proponents to help general physical and psychological well-being.
Chinese herbs have been used for centuries.
There are roughly 13,000 medicinals used in China and over 100,000 medicinal recipes recorded in the ancient literature. Plant elements and extracts are by far the most common elements used. In the classic Handbook of Traditional Drugs from 1941, 517 drugs were listed - out of these, only 45 were animal parts, and 30 were minerals. For many plants used as medicinals, detailed instructions have been handed down not only regarding the locations and areas where they grow best, but also regarding the best timing of planting and harvesting them.
Some animal parts used as medicinals can be considered rather strange such as cows' gallstones. In general, Chinese traditional medicine emphasizes the penis of animals as therapeutic. Snake oil, which is used traditionally for joint pain as a liniment was extensively marketing in the West in the late 1800s and early 1900s and wildly claimed to be effective in treating many maladies; however, there is no clinical evidence that it is effective.
Chinese patent medicine is a kind of traditional Chinese medicine. They are standardized herbal formulas. From ancient times, pills were formed by combining several herbs and other ingredients, which were dried and ground into a powder. They were then mixed with a binder and formed into pills by hand. The binder was traditionally honey. Modern teapills, however, are extracted in stainless steel extractors to create either a water decoction or water-alcohol decoction, depending on the herbs used. They are extracted at a low temperature (below 100 degrees Celsius) to preserve essential ingredients. The extracted liquid is then further condensed, and some raw herb powder from one of the herbal ingredients is mixed in to form an herbal dough. This dough is then machine cut into tiny pieces, a small amount of excipients are added for a smooth and consistent exterior, and they are spun into pills. Teapills are characteristically little round black pills.
Chinese herbal extracts are herbal decoctions that have been condensed into a granular or powdered form. Herbal extracts, similar to patent medicines, are easier and more convenient for patients to take. The industry extraction standard is 5:1, meaning for every five pounds of raw materials, one pound of herbal extract is derived.
Acupressure is a type of bodywork that involves pressing specific points on the body with the fingers, knuckles, and palms (and sometimes the elbows and feet) to relieve pain, reduce stress, and promote general good health. Developed in China some 5,000 years ago, perhaps out of the natural human instinct to hold or rub a place on the body that hurts, acupressure is part of the holistic system of traditional chinese medicine (TCM) that also includes acupuncture.
In the United States acupressure is primarily used to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. In China, the technique is used more like first-aid: The Chinese typically practice it on themselves or on family members to treat everyday ailments such as colds, headaches, sore muscles, and hangovers. Specialists are consulted for more complicated problems.
Health Benefits of Acupressure
Many people have reported success using acupressure to relieve pain, reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation. A number have found the therapy especially helpful for easing back pain and for certain types of headaches, including migraine. Post-operative pain and nausea has been found to respond to pressure point massage. Chronic sinusitis sufferers have also found it useful for easing congestion. Although research results are mixed, acupressure is also commonly used for morning sickness, motion sickness, and other types of nausea.
How does Acupressure work?
Traditional Chinese medicine views health as the constantly changing flow of vital energy, or qi (pronounced "chee") throughout the body. If that flow is hindered, sickness may develop. The goal of acupressure (and acupuncture) is to release blocked energy by stimulating specific points--called acupoints--along the body's 14 primary meridians, or energy channels. Pressing firmly and steadily on the proper acupoints, it is suggested, can promote energy flow to a part of the body that is experiencing disease or discomfort, enabling it to heal itself more readily. While acupuncture involves stimulation with needles, acupressure typically uses only the practitioner's hands to restore the balance of qi.