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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Making Yourself at Home with Acupuncture by Ken Rosen

Acupuncture is both clinical and mysterious. It has a long lineage practiced differently around the world by different schools of practice – five-element, Chinese, Korean hand, and Japanese Toyohari to name but a few. I recently found out that there are 30 different schools of acupuncture in Japan alone. And, of course, acupuncture is practiced differently still by individuals. The big point here is that people are getting relief; no matter what style of acupuncture or what individual. 

Acupuncture is rooted in a larger system of medicine which is known globally as Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. Traditional Chinese Medicine comprises five distinct branches of medicine to help people govern their health. The five branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine are exercise, nutrition, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and structural medicine like massage. Acupuncture, as a branch, has grown globally as well. I have met TCM practitioners from far-away places like Norway, England, India, America, Germany, Israel, Iceland and Thailand, to name a few. People from all over the world are finding relief from serious physical and mental illnesses with this ancient therapy. Acupuncture treatment most likely started with people poking each other in places that hurt with tools in a form of crude massage, or as way to lance boils. Eventually, the Chinese mapped rivers of energy called meridians, or channels, on the body. Much the way energy flows down a river, the same is true in the body. Energy moves quickly in some places, deeply in others, and also stagnates in common acu-point locations. As time passed, the ancients refined specific points on these meridians that created a broad range of action on both physical and emotional conditions. Needles used to be made from bones, then eventually metal. Today, they are made from stainless steel, making them also sterile and disposable. What Happens During an Acupuncture Treatment? After a series of questions, a practitioner of Chinese Medicine will look at your tongue, feel your pulse, and reach a diagnosis. Then an acupuncture prescription will be matched to your diagnosis. The combination of acupoints are needled and heat therapy (moxibustion) or mild electrical stimulation may be added to the needles. Needles are retained in the body for a period of 20 to 30 minutes. During that time, the nervous energy of the whole body tries to push these needles out and tunes into itself for healing. When the needles come to equilibrium with the body and mind, a healing message has been received. Unlike a needle that takes blood out of your body, an acupuncture needle is solid. It is not designed to cut through flesh. It is like putting a chopstick into a bowl of noodles. Instead of cutting into your body, it pushes tissue aside, letting your body’s nervous system grab it, reject it, accept it, and thereby reboot your whole system. This is how acupuncture is able to treat such a wide range of conditions. Needles vibrate within your body to help bring you into balance. The needles vent out built-up qi, which could be manifested in muscular pain, emotional tension, or a chest cold. Ultimately an acupuncture treatment should catapult your whole being into a deep state of ease so your body and mind can overcome energy imbalances, pain and disease.

The soft overcomes the hard – Tao Te Ching
These words from this ancient classic remind me of the tremendous power of acupuncture. Hard needles go into tight or hard acu-points or muscles, but it is the power of your soft body rejecting and then accepting these needles that makes the treatment effective. Your body has to become soft in the reaction to the hard needles. It is only natural.