by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine with the first documented use dated approximately 200 BC. It is an alternative medicine or CAM that involves inserting tiny solid needles into the skin at certain points on the body. Practitioner and believers of this type of medicine believe that energy flows through and around the body along pathways called meridians. The Chinese mapped these channels centuries ago and still use the same pathways today.
There are 20 meridians or pathways that the energy or Qi (chee) flows through. There are “12 regular meridians” and “8 extraordinary meridians.” Each meridian corresponds to an organ providing “nourishment” and extending to an extremity. the meridians are divided into 2 groups known as yin and yang. The “yin” meridians of the arm affect the lungs and heart, where as the “yang” meridians of the arm affect the large and small intestines. The “yin” meridians of the leg are related to the spleen, kidneys and liver and the “yang” meridians affect the stomach, bladder, and gallbladder. The 8 extraordinary meridians are believed to be reservoirs or storage units for energy and not directly related to the internal organs.
In traditional Chinese medicine it is believed that disease or illness occurs when there is imbalance in either the function or the interaction between any of the 20 meridians. When making a diagnosis to determine which meridians(s) are imbalanced the acupuncturist uses 4 diagnostic techniques.
1. Inspection primarily of the face but especially the tongue making note of its size and shape, color and coating and tension. also if there are teeth marks around the edges.
2. Auscultation and olfaction, in other words listening to and smelling the body for unusual sounds like wheezing or odor.
3. Interviewing focusing on the “seven inquiries” which are chills and fever, perspiration, appetite, thirst, and taste, defecation and urination, pain, sleep, menses, and leukorrhea.
4. Palpation is when the practitioner uses his/her hands to feel the body for tender points and they will palpate the radial pulses of both the right and left wrists in 3 different positions ans at 2 different levels of pressure.
After completing the examination the practitioner will look for the appropriate landmarks on the body that map out the points for needle placement.
Acupuncture has been found useful in treating a number of illnesses and problems especially regarding pain whether it’s from headaches or post surgical. Other areas that acupuncture has been used include treatment of allergies, and tobacco cessation. Recent research indicates it is also useful in stroke rehabilitaion helping the damaged brain with relearning skills.
Acupuncture is considered very safe when done by a certified practitioner, some practitioners also have a certificate from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Other things to consider when looking for a practitioner are is the practitioner willing to work with you and your Dr as part of the team formulating a treatment plan? Does the practitioner thoroughly explain the process before, during and after treatment. Also, be sure to know the length of time and frequency of treatment visits needed and of course the cost.