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What is Acupuncture?
Submitted by Dr. Malcolm L. Johnson
Acupuncture is a health science which is used to successfully
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
the principle of acupuncture without the use of a penetrating
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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.
Acupuncture is being used in veterinary clinics throughout the
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
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
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
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
For more information, please contact us at (770) 621-5056