CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP ME? – TAKING THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are together, very old and versatile medical systems, which for centuries had been employed as the primary health care system in the Orient before the advent of Western Medicine. Until today this ancient medical system is diverse and sophisticated enough and diagnostically correct to effectively help all sorts of conditions. Hence, we see more people who turn to it for not only the treatment of various conditions but also for health advice or for different perspectives on various health issues.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine has no particular specializations. Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that it is a holistic medicine – meaning that it treats the whole person not just one or a few parts, or isolated system while ignoring the whole person. Therefore, when we say someone is specializing in fertility or orthopedics for example it is because that practitioner took a special interest to deeply explore the subject and perhaps even mix in other treatments with acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture uses non-invasive diagnostic methods of interview, observation, auscultation, olfaction and palpation to determine patterns of physiological dysfunction of the body. This is called – differential diagnosis. The information gathered is then analyzed thru the perceptual filters of Yin and Yang, Eight Principles and Five Elements. These perceptual filters help the practitioners to further organize the patient’s information, understand the etiology of disease and come up with the treatment that will correctly address roots of the problem as well as branches or symptoms.
Chinese Medicine is very simple yet sophisticated. It is not difficult to learn but it certainly is very artful and difficult to administer with some level of mastery. As an art it takes talent, insight, skill, and experience on the part of the practitioner as well as familiarity with the latest research. Most importantly, practitioners of Chinese Medicine are always remaining the students of this medicine for as long as they practice. It simply is a very deep pool of knowledge.
When the prospective patient calls the office for the first time, she or he needs to know a few things about this unique healing art before they can make informed decision to address their problem using it. The first thing is to have some idea of how acupuncture works and when is it applicable.
As a complete medical system, Traditional Chinese Medicine is equipped to address all sorts of health problems and all different stages of illness.
To answer the technical question – how acupuncture works – would take a separate article. For the sake of putting things in the right perspective suffice it to say that as a natural healing method, acupuncture works similar way to physical therapy, homeopathy or chiropractic. Acupuncture employs body’s innate ability to heal and recover. Delicate filament needles are inserted quite superficially in the skin into strategic points and sometimes gently manipulated. This strategic placement of the needles is solely responsible for awakening the healing potential. It is a NATURAL healing at its best. The body finds its own way back to balance and harmony. While the body’s strength and stamina increase, the illness and discomfort subside. There is no medicine at the tips of the needles, nothing is injected, and nothing is added. The needles are inserted into the skin and retained for about 30 min and then they are removed. The patient leaves the office and the healing process, which was initiated at the time when the needles were first inserted, continues for the next few days. During those few days the patient may experience a wide range of changes – sometimes barely perceptible 10 -15% betterment thru 50, 70 or even (although rare) 100% improvement. The opposite may also happen – patient may feel markedly worse right after the treatment. This is not uncommon. It is often referred to as “healing crises” and has to do with encountering barriers and blocks in healing. These barriers are temporary creations of the body-mind, a coping mechanism that enables person to keep going despite the limiting problem. Healing crises don’t last long and once blocks are removed, the healing process blossoms.
Every natural healing process has its rate and momentum. This rate is unique to every individual. Most people experience gradual improvement over time as they continue with the weekly regiment of acupuncture treatments. The gradual progress is very desirable because it is steady and does not create sudden change that might be too much to handle. Sometimes there is however a complete, 100% turn around after just one session. The thing to remember here is that the SIMPLY FEELING BETTER DOES NOT MEAN THAT HEALING IS COMPLETE. Similar to taking antibiotics, when the type and dose of antibiotic is correct the patient starts feeling better within the first 3 days. They still need to finish the whole prescription. The usual course of acupuncture treatments is 10 sessions depending on the problem. Sometimes just a few sessions will completely resolve the problem or it may take many years. The healing process is highly individual. There may be a maintenance schedule needed as in the case of migraine headaches, chronic pain, recurring cycling immune problems, chronic organ deficiency like pulmonary problems and so forth. Some patients elect acupuncture for their pain management instead of medications or injections.
The healing rate will be inevitably affected by the type of problem, the patient’s age and general health and life-style habits. In general, the more acute the problem, the easier it is to treat even when it is serious. We are talking about the problems that don’t call for medical intervention for example sprained ankle, neck, shoulder and whip-lash injuries after a car collision, lumbago, falls and accidents that don’t result in hemorrhage or broken bones. Acupuncture works great for the fresh acute injuries. Administered within first 72 hours, it will stop the pain in its tracks, beginning the recovery process and preventing long and lingering complications. The longer one waits to address the injury the harder it is to help. In time, the old hurts and injuries tend to be well established, slowly turning into local stagnation of a cold nature, which is worse when the weather is cold or windy. So, we would like to encourage the public to think of acupuncture as the first resort, not the last. The same is true in the case of the early onset of cold or flu. In my practice I have seen that acupuncture administered within the first 24 hours may completely arrest the acute illness.
Acupuncture will also help old and complicated injuries but it will take some repetition and perhaps incorporating additional healing methods to break the pattern of stagnation. Old, long enduring problems tend to establish themselves in the patient’s body and create unhealthy, protective habits. Acupuncture treatments have a cumulative effect. Repeated several times, they tend to not only break the old habits but also strengthen the body and reinforce better and healthier alignment.
Acupuncture is easy to work with because it never interferes with any other treatments the patient may go thru whether it is – a medical treatment or medications, chiropractic, massage, physical therapy, homeopathy or others. We strongly encourage combining acupuncture with other treatments. Acupuncture helps to reinforce the effectiveness of other therapies. The best example is a combination of IVF therapy with acupuncture where acupuncture increases the IVF success up to 61%! Acupuncture is known for its application in reducing the adverse side effects of chemotherapy. Furthermore, it helps the patient regain stamina, strength and appetite, which are fundamental in recovery. Physical therapy and chiropractic work better when combined with acupuncture treatment. Even psychological therapies are reinforced by the relaxing and balancing effects of acupuncture.
As the last, acupuncture is commonly the last resort and we often see patients that the medical profession could not help. Conditions such as: enduring, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, CFS, Epstein Barr Virus, MS, lupus, arthritis and many other immune problems are frequently seen in the acupuncture office. In these cases patients had been already exposed to multiple invasive treatments, the picture of their health became unclear because of the side effects of medications, their energy is depleted and there is a general feeling of being overwhelmed by the complications and loss of some functional abilities. Chinese Medicine has a great power to comfort the patient who is in pain, depleted and discouraged, in need of pulling their energy together and improving their quality of life. Because acupuncture stimulates the body’s own healing process, it will help to regulate many physiological functions and strengthen the body no matter the severity or how chronic the conditions. In this case, putting things in the right perspective will mean acknowledging that the condition has progressed quite far and there needs to be a restoration of internal upright force and strength before the disease can be healed. Putting things in the right perspective will also mean to recognize and appreciate small changes as well as accepting the fact that there is homework to be done. Proactive patients always get better results. Notice that healing starts as soon as one begins to feel more energy, more optimism, and more clarity, better perspective on life, encouragement. All these qualities are signs of healing and they are as important as symptom-free life.
Because of my personal experience, I believe that every person has a power to heal. But I cannot promise that everyone will use this power. The power to heal comes first from personal determination and a sense of responsibility for ones-own life. I simply believe that the Universe is a forgiving place and as long as one exerts themselves, positive results will come.