Acupuncture originated in China around 100 BC, spreading to Japan and Korea and then to Europe. The practitioner inserts very fine needles into the skin at certain points called meridians. A good metaphor I found on describes meridians as a 3-D version of a road map where energy and blood flow moves corresponding to different organs. The Chinese word for this is Qi.
Acupuncture stimulates these energy points to restore balance; both physical and emotional. Certain meridian points affect various areas of the sympathetic nervous system. One, called pericardium 6, is located in both the right and left wrists. Stomach 36, located below the knee, treats nausea. All meridian points are symmetrical. Points in the earlobe have a connection to the eyes, and acupuncture is used to improve vision. This is perhaps why pirates wore earrings!
Recently, I visited the office of a physician who practices internal medicine. He learned acupuncture years after he started practicing. I must admit I’d never seen an actual treatment before. It was a great experience. During my visit, I asked many questions and got a flavor of the ancient practice.
The most common condition this particular physician treated was low back pain, the most common ailment treated in the office setting. I can attest to this, as I see lots of low back pain in my everyday practice. However, one of his patients was so severely limited in his mobility that he needed a caregiver to get him on and off the exam table.
The physician placed needles in appropriate places and then attached electrodes. A portable power source sent electricity to these areas. According to my teacher for the day, this releases neurotransmitters like endorphins to relieve pain. The patient, after having the acupuncture needles placed, lies on a table with or without soothing music playing. The needles (sterile of course) are largely not felt when inserted. It generally takes 24-48 hours for symptom improvement.
The biggest takeaway from the experience was acupuncture’s simplicity and elegance and how an ancient practice like this has use in our modern society.
I believe there is a place for acupuncture in medical practice. It is a simple, safe procedure to treat certain conditions in everyday practice. I do recommend, before considering this technique to research the practitioner carefully for current licensure and experience. If you have other medical conditions, I recommend going to a physician who also practices acupuncture. Sometimes acupuncture is not a suitable treatment option. If you’re otherwise healthy, it isn’t as important to go to a physician first.
I would be interested to know your experiences (if you have them) with acupuncture.