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What is Acupuncture?

Submitted by Dr. Malcolm L. Johnson

Acupuncture is a health science which is used to successfully treat
both pain and dysfunction in the body. Acupuncture has its roots deeply planted in China. In fact, authorities agree the science is between 5,000 and 7,000 years old. Its use spread throughout ancient Egypt, the Middle East, the Roman Empire and later into Western Europe as merchants and missionaries, traveling to China, told of the amazing discoveries the people of the Orient had developed. Acupuncture did not become known on a national level in
the U.S. until 1971 when diplomatic relations between China and America were relaxed. At first glimpse, acupuncture appears strange, because of the utilization of needles placed in the skin at various locations to relieve pain or affect a body part. Early Chinese physicians discovered that there is an energy network traversing just below the surface of the skin which communicates from the exterior to the internal organs and structures at over 1,000 “acupuncture points” on the body. This energy works in harmony with the body’s circulatory, nervous, muscular, digestive, genitourinary systems as well as all other systems of the body. When this vital energy becomes blocked or weakened, an affect in a body system or anatomic location becomes evident. Stimulation of one or a combination of key “acupoints” on the body may restore harmony to the affected area. Historians have indicated that more people have benefited from acupuncture over the course of fifty
centuries than the combined total of all other healing sciences, both ancient and modern.

What is Meridian Therapy?
Meridian therapy is the accepted name employed by those who practice
the principle of acupuncture without the use of a penetrating needle.

Acupuncture is a principle, not a technique. Therefore, there are many ways to stimulate an acupoint other than a needle; just as there are many different strokes used in swimming. Many practitioners use electronic stimulation, laser beam or pressure massage to treat an acupoint. The principle of acupuncture does not change, only the technique.

How Does it Work?
In the medical professions, a patient often is told after extensive
examination, “There is nothing wrong. It is all in your head. Sorry, you’ll have to learn to live with it.” The examining doctor, who is unable to find the cause of the problem, has little else to tell the patient. Fortunately, many physicians are now referring their patients for an acupuncture evaluation as a last resort.
The human body’s energy flows over twelve meridians or channels that are normally well balanced. If a disruption of energy flow exists, it can alter the entire system, producing pain or symptoms in the body. If we were to compare a 175-pound man on one end of a seesaw and a 45-pound child on the other end, it becomes obvious the seesaw would appear broken because the heavier person is sitting on the ground and the lighter individual is dangling in the air. Even though the seesaw is producing a symptom of being broken, extensive

examination would not reveal anything wrong with the seesaw. The obvious answer is in the balance. Correction of the balance corrects the problem. Balance is the goal in Acupuncture– restore normalcy to the body’s energy balance by utilizing a combination of acupoints located on the fourteen meridians. This is accomplished by a variety of means and the needle is one of these methods. Medical research continues in the U.S. as well as other countries. These researchers attempt to explain, in western scientific terms, what the ancient Chinese described seventy centuries earlier. Today, many theories have been postulated as to why acupuncture is so effective in pain
control. As more discoveries are made, more research is indicated.

Is Treatment Painful?
One would assume inserting a needle into the skin would be painful
since most of us can relate to being stuck with a pin or having hypodermic injections. However, four acupuncture needles can easily be inserted into the hollow tube of a hypodermic needle. Because of the slenderness of the needle, most people compare the sensation as “less than a mosquito bite.” A phenomenon referred to as “THE CHI” occurs when the energy is contacted. This sensation is felt as a mild to moderate heaviness or tingling. Needles obviously still have their place in clinical practice. However, many physicians who are certified in acupuncture and are licensed acupuncturists are employing electronic and laser stimulation to the acupoint with
equal effectiveness as the needle. Both of these procedures are painless and are quickly becoming standard worldwide. The tapping needle “teishein” is not really a needle since it does not pierce the skin. It produces a mild to moderate sensation. Compare it to tapping a ballpoint pen on the skin. This form of stimulation has been used successfully for centuries. Thumb pressure is equally impressive and not considered painful.

How Many Treatments are Usual?
The number of treatments varies with different conditions and
individuals. Chronic problems generally require more treatment than acute ones. Some patients notice an immediate improvement after the first treatment, whereas others may not notice any effect until the seventh or eighth visit. A certain percentage of patients receive maximum benefit up to three months following a course of therapy.

A small number of patients will experience a worsening of symptoms as the body’s energies are returning to normal. This is not unusual, hence, no need for alarm because it is followed by improvement. Researchers internationally agree that the usual number of treatments is between eight and sixteen. The frequency ranges between two and four times a week. Patients are urged not to enter an acupuncture program with the thought of “taking a few” to see what will happen. Even though it is possible to achieve success, a program of ten visits would have a better chance for success. Patients are encouraged to be patient with the healing process. If ten treatments are recommended and results occur in just five visits, the doctor may elect to discontinue treatments or continue their use to stabilize the condition.

Are Results Psychological?
Many critics of acupuncture have suggested the science of hypnosis or “mind over matter.” This criticism is totally unfounded. Acupuncture has startling effects in infants and toddlers as well as veterinary applications. The effect it has had in surgery as an anesthetic further disclaims what the skeptics claim. Even total disbelievers report favorable response to acupuncture. Of course, a positive outlook on the part of the patient is beneficial in healing.

What Conditions Are Accepted?
Acupuncture textbooks list over one hundred different conditions that respond well to acupuncture. The World Health Organization, working in close harmony with the International Acupuncture Training Center of the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has indicated that acupuncture is effective in the following conditions: Acute and chronic pain relief, migraine, tension cluster and sinus headaches, trigeminal neuralgia, bladder dysfunction, bed wetting, cervical (neck) pain, upper and mid-back pain, low back pain sciatica, osteoarthritis, sprains and strains, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, post-operative pain relief, gastric problems, asthma, allergies, skin conditions, hemorrhoids, abnormal blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, neurological syndrome, various eye problems, etc. This is only a partial list where there has been success in using acupuncture.

Is Acupuncture Expensive?
The cost for acupuncture treatments varies in different parts of the
U.S. However, the average appears to be comparable to a traditional medical office visit.

Are Results Permanent?
For acute problems, where there has been little or no organ system or tissue damage, results are often permanent. For chronic conditions, symptoms may recur from time to time. Generally a few additional treatments are sufficient to obtain relief. It’s suggested that patients with severe or chronic conditions return for a booster treatment two to three times a year.

Acupuncture Anesthesia
Acupuncture has been used successfully in place of chemical anesthesia for a variety of surgeries within the last twenty years. At the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, it is issued routinely on all cases of Caesarean section. At the Long Hua Hospital in Shanghai it is used routinely on cases of thyroidectomy. It has been effective in gastric surgeries and brain operations. During the procedure the patient remains alert communicating with the surgeon. The patient does not feel pain, only any pulling, tugging, etc. which may be employed during surgery. It is unlikely that acupuncture will replace chemical anesthesia in the U.S. However, it is a favorable possibility for those patients who are unable to tolerate regular anesthesia. The applications in dentistry are extremely significant. The first U.S. national media coverage concerning acupuncture was in 1971 during President Nixon’s visit to China when visiting columnist, James Reston, told of his emergency appendectomy performed using acupuncture anesthesia.

Acupuncture Examination
Perhaps the cornerstone of acupuncture examinations is pulse diagnosis. During this procedure, a trained practitioner feels the pulse. Next, the practitioner determines the balance of the twelve meridians. This is an ancient method of diagnosis and it is giving way to modern electronic evaluation that is referred to as “ryodoraku” or “electro meridian imaging”(EMI). Using this modern EMI procedure, the practitioner places a small painless electronic pen on the skin over specific acupoints. With a sensitive metering device, the electro potential of the point is measured.

This examination is extremely reliable and is rapidly becoming the
standard method of diagnosis internationally. Some physicians utilize applied kinesiology which is an examination involving testing certain muscles and correlating them to the associated meridian. Case history, consultation and simple palpation over specific body parts determine what is abnormal.

Addiction Control
Acupuncture has gained a great deal of notoriety in recent years
concerning its success with addiction control. The use of acupuncture combined with professional counseling has a very positive effect in the areas of both drug and alcohol addition. Currently there are several clinics in the U.S. devoted solely to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Another noteworthy addiction acupuncture has helped is smoking. The average patient will
reduce their intake by at least one half within twenty-four hours of
the first treatment. Several additional treatments generally allow the patient to stop without experiencing the negative side effects. Acupuncture is used effectively in weight control.

Veterinary Acupuncture
Acupuncture is being used in veterinary clinics throughout the U.S.
The response seen on small animals is significant. Many doctors of
veterinary medicine are utilizing this procedure as the initial treatment and not as a last resort. Equine application response is especially significant.

Acupuncture for the Ear
The therapy for using acupuncture on the ear is known as
auriculo-therapy. It has been used throughout history for at least twenty-five centuries. It was especially popular in ancient Greece and Rome and has enjoyed an excellent reputation throughout the Near, Middle, and Far East. It was in 1951 that Paul Nogier, an M.D., re-discovered this lost art and reintroduced it to Europe.

On the ear there are more than one hundred acupoints which relate to
various organ systems and parts of the body. During fetal development the first structure to form is the brain and spinal cord. At about the same time the external ear also develops. Accordingly, there is a very strong relationship between the external ear and the central nervous system.
The ancient Chinese viewed the ear as resembling an upside down fetus with all the body parts proportionately arranged in and on the ear. Therefore, the lobe of the ear corresponds to the head, brain stem, face, etc. The top of the ear relates to the knee, foot, ankle, etc. The success rate in auriculo-therapy is remarkable. Thousands of American physicians have begun using auriculo-therapy as an adjunct to their practice.

Hand and Cerebral Acupuncture
Throughout the body there are a number of acupoints which have a particular effect. This is significant on the hand and scalp. Cerebral Acupuncture consists of a number of zones which are primarily used for serious neurological conditions. Hand acupoints are used for a variety of common conditions. By stimulating specific hand points, headache, sore throat, neck and shoulder pain, even toothaches may be treated successfully.

Malcolm L. Johnson, OMD, HMD, DCM is trained in Traditional Chinese
Medicine and Homeopathic Medicine. He is the Director of Godobe Health Services located at 131 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE #228, Atlanta, GA 30308, He can be reached at 404-872-2090 or e-mail him at

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