Overview of Chinese Acupuncture

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Acupuncture's origins are shrouded in history, but one thing is certain, it goes back thousands of years. The earliest surviving reference we have to acupuncture is in the Nei China.
What is Acupuncture
Today in most western cultures Acupuncture is considered a "new alternative" medicine. In reality, Acupuncture (and its related Moxibustion) are practiced medical treatments that are over 5,000 years old. Very basically, Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles, (sometimes in conjunction with electrical stimulus), on the body's surface, in order to influence physiological functioning of the body.
 
Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with heat produced by burning specific herbs, this is called Moxibustion. In addition, a non-invasive method of massage therapy, called Acupressure, can also be effective.
 
Acupuncturists can use as many as nine types of Acupuncture needles, though only six are commonly used today. These needles vary in length, width of shaft, and shape of head. Today, most needles are disposable. They are used once and discarded in accordance with medical biohazard regulations and guidelines. There are a few different precise methods by which Acupuncturists insert needles. Points can be needled anywhere in the range of 15 degrees to 90 degrees relative to the skin surface, depending on the treatment called for. In most cases, a sensation, felt by the patient, is desired. This sensation, which is not pain, is called deqi (pronounced dah-chee). The following techniques are some which may be used by an Acupuncturist immediately following insertion: Rising and Thrusting, Twirling or Rotation, Combination of Raising/Thrusting and Rotation, Plucking, Scraping (vibrations sent through the needle), and Trembling (another vibration technique). Once again, techniques are carefully chosen based on the ailment.
 
There are many diseases that can be treated successfully by Acupuncture or its related treatments. The most common ailments currently being treated are: lower backache, Cervical Spondylosis, Condylitis, Arthritic Conditions, Headaches of all kinds (including migraine), Allergic Reactions, general and specific use for Analgesia (including surgery) and relief of muscles spasms. There have also been clinical trials in the use of Acupuncture in treating anxiety disorders and depression. Likewise, very high success rates have been found in treating addictions to alcohol, tobacco (nicotine) and "hard' drugs. Acupuncture can rid the body of the physical dependency, but can not rid the mind of the habit (psychological dependency). For this reason, Acupuncture treatment of addictions has not been fully successful.
 
Origins of Chinese Acupuncture
When we think of Acupuncture, we often tend to think of a sedentary older person with a bad back who has tried everything else. And now he's going to seek relief by having a bunch of needles stuck in his back.
 
While this is an accurate picture as far as it goes, the pain relieving aspects of acupuncture are the veritable tip of the needle, so to speak, of this ancient Chinese healing art.  
 
Acupuncture's origins are shrouded in history, but one thing is certain, it goes back thousands of years. The earliest surviving reference we have to acupuncture is in the Nei Ching, traditionally ascribed to Huang Ti, the legendary Yellow Emperor (2698-2598 B.C.).
 
Well known in Europe by the early 19th century, acupuncture was virtually unknown in this country until fairly recently. Most Americans became familiar with acupuncture when President Nixon made his historic visit to China in the early 1970's. At that time we saw dramatic footage of a patient eating an orange during open heart surgery. The anesthesiologist was an acupuncturist; his anesthesia: a few well placed needles.
 
When asked how acupuncture could be of use to today's natural bodybuilder or athlete, Ms. Katzman indicated that acupuncture can be used to increase energy, in the loss or gaining of weight, increased circulation, toning of muscle, suppression of appetite, stress reduction, and to promote vibrant good health. In addition, in the event of injury, acupuncture can be used for more than just pain. It can be used to increase flexibility, reduce swelling in the injured area, and promote the healing process, permitting bodybuilders and other athletes to get back to their training after a shorter healing interval.
 
Acupuncture is based on the concept of energy flow throughout the body. There are 12 principle energy meridians in the body. Usually, problems develop when there is a congestion in the energy flow from these meridians to one or more of the body's organs. This congestion often contributes to the patient's disease.  
 
When a patient comes in with a complaint, the acupuncturist first discovers the energy imbalances at the root of the problem. Based on that diagnosis, the acupuncturist develops a treatment plan to remedy the imbalance. Treatment is usually 1x per week for 10 to 15 weeks with a maintenance program of 4 times a year after that. However, if symptoms persist, the patient can engage in another course of weekly treatments after a two to four week rest from treatment.
 
Modern practitioners use safe, disposable, stainless steel needles. What we usually consider to be a needle in a doctor's office is actually a hollow tube through which a fluid is inserted into our bodies. Since the acupuncturist's needle is truly a needle, and not a tube, it is much thinner, and its insertion under the skin is painless.
 
How does Acupuncture work?
How does Acupuncture work? Scientists have no real answer to this; as you know many of the workings of the body are still a mystery. There are a few prevailing theories.
 
By some unknown process, Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is called the "Augmentation of Immunity" Theory.
 
The "Endorphin" Theory states that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the body (specifically Enkaphalins).
 
The "Neurotransmitter" Theory states that certain neurotransmitter levels (such as Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture.
 
"Circulatory" Theory: this states that Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body's release of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to Acupuncture.
 
One of the most popular theories is the "Gate Control" Theory. According to this theory, the perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the "Gate." If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed, and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting through. The first gates to close would be the ones that are the smallest. The nerve fibers that carry the impulses of pain are rather small nerve fibers called "C" fibers. These are the gates that close during Acupuncture.
 
Acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture is an important part of Chinese medicine. It was initially invented as a technique of medical treatment and gradually became a science. The science of acupuncture aims to record down the technique, the regulation of clinic and its basic theory.

Acupuncture has a long history. In ancient books, the tool for acupuncture was recorded as something made of stone. Such tool appeared at about 8,000 to 4,000 years ago, which was the later part of the clan society. In archeological excavation, needles made of stone were once uncovered. In Spring and Autumn period (770 B.C.- 476 B.C.), medicine shifted away from sorcery and there were some doctors. In the book, Chun Qiu Zuo Shi Zhuan, Doctor Yi Huan mentioned about acupuncture and moxibustion when treating disease for Duke Jing.

In the Warring and West Han period (476 B.C.- 25 A.D.), there were more and more needles made of metal with the development of the iron-smelting technique at that time. The needle made of metal could reach the part of the body which the needle made of stone could not do, thus further improving acupuncture. Then in the East Han and Three Kingdom period, there appeared many doctors good at acupuncture. The book, Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing, written by Huang Pu Mi was the first book which discussed acupuncture systematically. More and more books on acupuncture were written in the Jin and South and North period (256 A.D.- 589 A.D.). when acupuncture was introduced to Korea and Japan. 
 
In the Sui and Tang period (581 A.D.- 907 A.D.), acupuncture became a specialized subject. In the medical educational institutions, it was set up as a major. In the 16th century, acupuncture was introduced to Europe yet it experienced a set back in the Qing dynasty when it was not highly regarded.

After 1949, acupuncture has seen great progress. Currently acupuncture sections were set up in all Chinese Medicine hospitals which now reach the number of 2,000 all over China. It now can be applied to different systems inside the human body. And much valuable information have been obtained in the study of acupuncture, in its regulative function, in easing pain, in developing the immunity system, and in the study of human channels, acupoint and internal organs.

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