Under TCM, the body - both physical
and emotional / psychological - is controlled by the Qi (vital force), which circulates among the key organs along
. The 12 main meridians correspond
to the 12 major body functions. Treatment can aim to address a deficiency
in Qi, reduce an excess of Qi, or in some cases be neutral but aimed at
bringing about other specific changes.
Acupuncture points are
located along the meridians and provide a means of regulating the flow of
Qi. Illness is manifest by a deficiency or imbalance or yin & yang of
the vital fluid associated with the organs. Treatment is aimed at
restoring the patient to proper balance. The precise treatment depends on
the examination, diagnosis and patient and family history.
practice of acupuncture among conventional western doctors has grown
significantly in recent years. Acupuncture points are often interpreted in
western medical terms according to specific physiological / anatomical
features, often related to the nervous system. For example, a "trigger
point" is the part of the neuromuscular system having heightened
sensitivity to cause a characteristic pattern of pain. An example is a
tender area in the muscles of the neck and shoulder, which may relate to
various patterns of headache.
In auricular (ear) acupuncture, small
needles are affixed with small pieces of bandage on ear points and
maintained over a number of days. This practice enables the effects to go
on continuously during the period of treatment to produce the desired
effect. One example of auricular acupuncture is in treatment to help a
patient stop smoking.
Acupuncture points are located at the key junctures
where meridians come closest to the surface. Acupuncture facilitates and
regulates the circulation in these channels, mobilizing Qi, Moisture and
Blood, stimulating the working of the muscles, nerves, vessels, glands,
The effects of acupuncture, particularly on pain, can
- at least partially - be explained in conventional physiological terms.
Acupuncture is known to stimulate larger nerve fibers that transmit the
sensation of pain into the spinal cord and on to the brain. This is
interpreted as inhibiting pain impulses that are transmitted through
associated nerve fibers at other levels of the spinal cord. Acupuncture is
also known to stimulate release of endorphins and neurotransmitters such
The number of treatments depends on the patient's
condition. For chronic conditions such as some forms of lower back pain,
ongoing periodic treatment may be required.
Following the interview, the
acupuncture procedure is discussed with the patient, what sensations might
be experienced, how long the procedure will last. During treatment,
typically between 4 and 10 "points" are "needled" during the session. The
needles are usually left in place for 10-30 minutes. Needles may be
stimulated by manual twirling or electrical current.
Acupuncture needles are
extremely fine, and insertion of the needles may go unnoticed by some
patients, while others may feel a slight "pricking" sensation when the
needles are inserted. This may be followed by sensations of of numbness,
warmth or slight "achiness" Most patients feel relaxed and some say they
feel pleasant during treatment. When electrical stimulation is used, the
patient usually feels a slight tingling of the low voltage flow of
electrical current which may also effect a slight neuromuscular response
manifest by twitching of the extremities, i.e., toes or fingers on the
limb being needled. In the days following treatment many patients indicate
some alleviation of symptoms and elevation of spirit, although this
depends on the specific disorder and overall patient condition. For
safety, only disposable needles are used.
Most patients are pleased
to find that sessions are not uncomfortable and even look forward to them.
massage, called Tuina or acupressure, is a gentle, noninvasive form
of acupuncture. In acupressure, thumb or finger pressure is applied at
these meridian junctures with the same aim, to effect beneficial changes
and achieve harmony within the body's systems and structure.