Acupuncture originated in ancient China over five thousand years ago and is perhaps the oldest medical system in the world. Today nearly one-third of the world’s population uses it as a primary healthcare system. It is one modality of a powerful healing discipline based on the theories of Oriental Medicine. These theories describe a harmonious relationship between organs and vital substances. The vital substances are transformed from the air we breathe and food we eat. In a balanced state, these substances are abundant and freely flowing.
One of these vital substances, Qi – pronounced chee – flows throughout the body in channels called meridians, a life-giving network. These channels flow externally and internally connecting the organs with each other and with the limbs of the body. The closest translation we have for the word Qi is energy, but Qi encompasses a more expanded concept. Qi gives us the ability to function, warms us, protects us from pernicious influences that cause disease and vitalizes our spirit.
When the vital substances are abundant and flowing freely, we are healthy. When they are vacuous or obstructed, we are susceptible to disease. We may develop physical, emotional or mental symptoms.
Acupuncturists evaluate a person’s state of health, completing adetailed history, palpating (feeling) pulses – six on each wrist – and examining the tongue and palpating the abdomen.
Based on these examinations, the Acupuncturist determines the pattern that is causing the person’s disorder. Diagnosing the pattern leads to therapeutic treatment principles that can be accomplished by Acupuncture or the prescription of medicinal decoctions or similar preparations.
The Acupuncturist inserts very fine, flexible sterile needles at certain points on the body that address the pattern being treated. These points may address interior organ function, imbalance, clear pernicious influences or treat pain. The needles used for Acupuncture are approximately the thickness of a human hair. Typically, four to six points are needled bilaterally for each individualized treatment.
The sensation varies from person to person, from Acupuncture point to Acupuncture point, and even among Acupuncturists. Most people describe the sensation as either distending, dull, sharp or tickling with usually little or no pain.
Occasionally, a small amount of an herb called moxa may be burned at the end of the needles or over the points to heat the area below them.
Because Oriental Medicine treats the pattern that manifests in each individual rather than the disease, there may be more than one approach to treating any one condition. Likewise, patterns are recognized in Oriental Medicine for which Western Medicine has no treatment, so that many more conditions may be helped with this approach.
In Oriental Medicine, women’s physiology is elegantly described and differentiated from men’s. Because of this basic theory, Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is particularly effective in treating women’s disorders such as menstrual irregularity and pain, PMS, infertility, morning sickness and breech presentation in pregnancy, postpartum recovery, insufficient lactation, and problems associated with menopause.
The World Health Organization recognizes Acupuncture as being effective treatment for many chronic and acute conditions, such as:
- Musculoskeletal painshoulder, neck, legs, back
- Arthritis – degenerative and rheumatoid
- Headaches – tension, stress and migraine
- Digestive disorders–ulcers and colitis
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic fatigue and pain
- High blood pressure
- Asthma and allergies
- Women’s disorders
- Acute infections – colds, flu and bronchitis
- Sports injuries – tennis elbow, shin splints and rotator cuff strains
Each person who seeks out Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine for treatment of their health issues is seen as a unique individual. Even though a person’s symptoms may be labeled as bronchitis, flu or PMS, these health issues are uniquely personal and specific to each patient’s life process. In this way, symptoms are potent teachers for the recovery of each person’s wholeness of health and balance. Patients are enriched by learning from their illness, and health is facilitated and augmented as treatment unfolds.
The State of Colorado registers Acupuncturists. To qualify, an Acupuncturist must be a graduate of a recognized school of Acupuncture, and pass an exam administered by the NCCAOM. This national organization is the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which is often abbreviated to its original, shorter name NCCA. Candidates who pass the exam are awarded a Diplomate in Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.).
A similar process awards a Diplomate in Chinese Herbology (Dipl. C.H.), although this certification is not required for Registry, but serves as an additional voluntary credential. NCCA certified Acupuncturists have a minimum of 1800 hours of instruction in Oriental Medicine, the most extensive available in the US for this modality.
Source: Valerie Hobbs, NCCAOM Diplomate, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology, Boulder CO
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