TCM Acupuncture Healing Center
Traditional Chinese medicine
Treatments & Therapy

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of solid, generally thin needles in the body.
Through its origins, acupuncture has been embedded in the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Its general theory is based on the premise that bodily functions are regulated by the flow of an energy-like entity called qi.

Acupuncture aims to correct imbalances in the flow of qi by stimulation of anatomical locations on or under the skin called acupuncture points, most of which are connected by channels known as meridians. Scientific research has not found any physical or biological correlate of qi, meridians and acupuncture points, and some contemporary practitioners needle the body without using a theoretical framework, instead selecting points based on their tenderness to pressure.

The earliest written record of acupuncture is found in the Huangdi Neijing (黄帝内经; translated as The Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon), dated approximately 200 BCE. The practice of acupuncture expanded out of China into the areas now part of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, diverging from the narrower theory and practice of mainland TCM in the process. A large number of contemporary practitioners outside of China follow these non-TCM practices, particularly in Europe.

Theory
The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that bodily functions are regulated by an energy called qi which flows through the body; disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. Acupuncture describes a family of procedures aiming to correct imbalances in the flow of qi by stimulation of anatomical locations on or under the skin (usually called acupuncture points or acupoints), by a variety of techniques. The most common mechanism of stimulation of acupuncture points employs penetration of the skin by thin metal needles, which are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation. Traditional Chinese medicine distinguishes not only one but several different kinds of qi (氣). In a general sense, qi is something that is defined by five "cardinal functions":

  1. Actuation (推動, tuīdòng) - of all physical processes in the body, especially the circulation of all body fluids such as blood in their vessels. This includes actuation of the functions of the zang fu organs and meridians.
  2. Warming (溫煦, pinyin: wēnxù) - the body, especially the limbs.
  3. Defense (防御, pinyin: fángyù) - against Exogenous Pathogenic Factors 
  4. Containment (固攝, pinyin: gùshè) - of body fluids, i.e. keeping blood, sweat, urine, semen etc. from leakage or excessive emission.
  5. Transformation (氣化, pinyin: qìhuà) - of food, drink, and breath into qi, xue (blood), and jinye (“fluids”), and/or transformation of all of the latter into each other.

Acupuncture points are mainly (but not always) found at specified locations along the meridians. There also is a number of acupuncture points with specified locations outside of the meridians; these are called "extraordinary" points and often credited with special therapeutic properties. A third category of acupuncture points called "A-shi" points have no fixed location but represent tender or reflexive points appearing in the course of pain syndromes. The actual number of points have varied considerably over time, initially they were considered to number 365, symbolically aligning with the number of days in the year (and in Han times, the number of bones thought to be in the body). The Huangdi Neijing mentioned only 160 and a further 135 could be deduced giving a total of 295. The modern total was once considered 670 but subsequently expanded due to more recent interest in auricular (ear) acupuncture and the treatment of further conditions. In addition, it is considered likely that some points used historically have since ceased being used.

What problems are commonly treated with Acupuncture?
The most common ailments presented to an acupuncturist tend to be pain related conditions. For example; arthritis, back, neck, knee and shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system that is capable of diagnosing and successfully treating a wide range of conditions including:

  • Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat Disorders
    Sinusitis, Sore Throat, Hay Fever, Earache, Nerve, Deafness, Ringing in the Ears, Dizziness, Poor Eyesight
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
    Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Spastic colon, Colitis, Constipation, Diarrhea, Food Allergies, Ulcers, Gastritis, Abdominal Bloating Hemorrhoids
  • Gynecological / Genitourinary Disorders
    Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Irregular, Heavy or Painful Menstruation, Endometriosis, Menopause, Fibroids, Chronic Bladder Infection, Complications in Pregnancy, Morning Sickness, Kidney Stones, Impotence, Infertility in Men and Women, Sexual Dysfunction
  • Musculoskeletal & Neurological
    Arthritis, Neuralgia, Sciatica, Back Pain, Bursitis, Tendonitis, Stiff Neck, Bells Palsy, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Headaches and Migraines, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy, Polio, Sprains, Muscle Spasms, Shingles
  • Circulatory Disorders
    High Blood Pressure, Angina Pectoris, Arteriosclerosis, Anemia
  • Immune Disorders
    Candida, Chronic Fatigue, HIV & AIDS, Epstein Barr Virus, Allergies, Lupus, MS, Hepatitis
  • Emotional & Psychological
    Anxiety, Insomnia, Depression, Stress
  • Respiratory
    Asthma, Emphysema, Bronchitis, Colds & Flu
  • Addiction
    Smoking Cessation, Drugs, Alcohol
  • Others
    Chemotherapy / Radiation Side Effects – Diabetes, Dermatological Disorders, Weight Control

Traditional diagnosis
The acupuncturist decides which points to treat by observing and questioning the patient in order to make a diagnosis according to the tradition which he or she utilizes. In TCM, there are four diagnostic methods: inspection, auscultation and olfaction, inquiring, and palpation. 

Inspection focuses on the face and particularly on the tongue, including analysis of the tongue size, shape, tension, color and coating, and the absence or presence of teeth marks around the edge.

Auscultation and olfaction refer, respectively, to listening for particular sounds (such as wheezing) and attending to body odor.

Inquiring focuses on the "seven inquiries", which are: chills and fever; perspiration; appetite, thirst and taste; defecation and urination; pain; sleep; and menses and leukorrea.

Palpation includes feeling the body for tender A-shi points, and palpation of the left and right radial pulses at two levels of pressure (superficial and deep) and three positions Cun, Guan, Chi (immediately proximal to the wrist crease, and one and two fingers' breadth proximally, usually palpated with the index, middle and ring fingers).

Needles
Acupuncture needles are typically made of stainless steel wire. They are usually disposable, but reusable needles are sometimes used as well, though they must be sterilized between uses. Needles vary in length between 13 to 130 millimetres (0.51 to 5.1 in), with shorter needles used near the face and eyes, and longer needles in more fleshy areas; needle diameters vary from 0.16 mm (0.006 in) to 0.46 mm (0.018 in), with thicker needles used on more robust patients. Thinner needles may be flexible and require tubes for insertion. The tip of the needle should not be made too sharp to prevent breakage, although blunt needles cause more pain.

Apart from the usual filiform needle, there also other needle types which can be utilized, such as three-edged needles and the Nine Ancient Needles. Japanese acupuncturists use extremely thin needles that are used superficially, sometimes without penetrating the skin, and surrounded by a guide tube (a technique adopted in China and the West). Korean acupuncture uses copper needles and has a greater focus on the hand.

Since most pain is felt in the superficial layers of the skin, a quick insertion of the needle is recommended. If skilled enough, a practitioner purportedly can insert the needles without causing any pain.

Both peer-reviewed medical journals, and acupuncture journals reviewed by acupuncturists, have published on the painfulness of acupuncture treatments, in some cases within the context of reporting studies testing acupuncture’s effectiveness. A peer-reviewed medical journal on pain published an article stating that "acupuncture is a painful and unpleasant treatment". There are other cases in which patients have found the insertion of needles in acupuncture too painful to endure. An acupuncture journal, peer-reviewed by acupuncturists, published an article describing insertion of needles in TCM acupuncture and random needling acupuncture as “painful stimulation”. In a peer-reviewed medical journal, one medical scientist published that Japanese acupuncture is “far less painful” than Chinese acupuncture, and that Japanese acupuncture needles are smaller than Chinese acupuncture needles.