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BODY PARTS JANUARY 2013

I have always been interested in acupuncture and CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). It seems more and more we are hearing about herbal remedies and acupuncture as techniques that are being used alongside conventional Western medicine for all sorts of aliments. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of problems, including:

muscular and neurological disorders, such as headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, and osteoarthritis; digestive disorders, such as gastritis, hyper-acidity, spastic colon, constipation, and diarrhea; and respiratory disorders, such as sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, and recurrent chest infections; and also urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems. Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world.


According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included questions on the use of various CAM therapies, an estimated 3.1 million adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. In addition, according to this same survey, approximately 17 percent of adults use natural products, including herbs, making it the most commonly used therapy.


WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine methodology originating in ancient China that treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles that have been inserted into acupuncture points in the skin. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating these points can correct imbalances in the flow of “Qi” through channels known as meridians.


Classical Chinese Explanation - Channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others.

The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy through the meridians.


Modern Scientific Explanation - Needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.

The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.

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Does acupuncture really work?

Yes. In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union, and in Europe. It is now being used more and more in North America.

Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, physiotherapy hands-on treatment techniques and herbal medicine. It is important that your acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he or she can help you get the most benefit from all your treatments.


Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude (“I don’t know if I really believe in this.”) will not block the treatment results.


Can acupuncture help for additions?

In Western medical terms, the positive effect of acupuncture for treating addiction can be attributed to the fact that research has shown acupuncture to raise endorphin levels in the nervous system. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and are similar in structure and function to drugs and addictions, which also have a strong analgesic effect. Research suggests that combating the strong withdrawal symptoms for people suffering from addictions is to raise endorphin levels in the nervous system. The desire to eat is also mediated by endorphin levels, which would also explain why acupuncture has a beneficial effect on people trying to lose weight by helping to control their appetites.


Chinese medicine has its own way of explaining why it is so effective in treating addictions. Chinese medicine is a holistic system where every part of the body works synergistically. It is a unified system. The concept of yin and yang is at the core of Chinese medical theory. Yin and yang are two opposing forces and when a person is in good health, yin and yang are seen to be in relative balance. Yang is the "fire" aspect and yin is the "water." Yin is substance, yang is function. Yang consumes and yin nourishes. Addicts are very often deficient in yin. Physiologically, an excess of yang causes hyperactivity, restlessness, and an excess of frenetic energy - behaviors that push an addict to constantly seek out their addiction. Psychologically, excess yang causes anxiety, agitation, and anger.

All in all my thinking is if the Chinese have been using acupuncture for thousands of years it should be safe and a natural way to increase your well-being. The FDA acknowledges Chinese medicine to belong to the “whole medical system” as an individual scientific system similar to conventional medicine. I’m thinking don’t knock it until you try it!


Submitted by: Kathryn Hartwell


References: www.nccam.nih/gov/health, www.acupunture.com

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