My mom has had back pain for years. The condition wasn’t serious at first, but then the pain started to occur daily, usually at night, which disturbed her sleep. Depressed by the medication that she had to take for the pain, she reluctantly decided to have back surgery in hopes to get better. A few months after the surgery, however, the pain returned. Then things started to change when my mom decided to try acupuncture. This alternative medicine method was the answer for dealing with her chronic pain. Following the success of my mom’s case, I did some research to find out more about this traditional Chinese medicine method of healing.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ACUPUNCTURE
The philosophical basis of acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Referred to in Chinese as ‘releasing the energy’ treatment, it is believed that this medicine originated thousands of years ago. The first recorded attempt at acupuncture in treating disease was during the Shang dynasty. Acupuncture had significant milestones during the Huangdi period (The Yellow Emperor), dating around the 26th century BC. The first known text that clearly discusses acupuncture as it is practiced today is in the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon).
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE
Acupuncture inserts very fine needles at particular points in the body following the Chinese energy lines called meridians to improve health and well-being. Acupuncture helps stimulate the body’s natural healing response by improving the immune system – alleviates pain, improves sleep & digestive functions, skin disorders, addiction and brings a sense of well-being. These fine needles do not hurt when inserted but rather has a slight pinprick or pinch sensation at the most. And contrary to logic, acupuncture needles are often inserted in places far away from the location of the pain or disease, as the body is connected by the meridians (also called acupoints) which become blocked.
METHODS OF ACUPUNCTURE
Acupuncture is known in Chinese as ‘zhenjiu’, with zhen meaning needle therapy and jiu relates to moxibustion therapy. In addition to the insertion of fine needles into the acupoints, there are other related methods that advanced from traditional acupuncture.
· Moxibustion: uses heat from moxa (dried plant materials) applied close to the surface of the skin to help stimulate energy and unblock certain meridians.
· Tui Na: Chinese therapeutic massage and bodywork helps relieve muscle tension, stimulate acupressure points, and opens the meridians in order to address disharmony.
· Electro-acupuncture: a very low frequency electrical current (1Hz) is applied between acupuncture needles to restore health, particularly good for treating pain.
· Cupping therapy: a localized suction is created on the skin’s surface using glass cups to stimulate blood flow and clear stagnated energy.
ACUPUNCTURE AROUND THE WORLD
Due to the positive effects on health, acupuncture quickly spread from China to Korea and Japan in the 6th century. Later, this alternative approach attracted European practitioners in the 1800’s, with general acceptance in Europe in the 1950’s following the positive impact of acupuncture on a range of health issues. Today we have acupuncture practiced by professionally recognized practitioners around the world