Acupuncture is an oriental medicine that has been practiced, refined and developed for 4,000 years. Just like our Western medicine, it has a theory of how our bodies (and minds) work the way they do, and it has methods of treating and healing it.
(Western medicine has created its anatomy and physiology by inspecting, dissecting and microscopically defining the anatomical and chemical components of the physical body. All the way down to micro-tubules that are part of the infra-structure of each cell, or the cascade of chemical reactions that turn breathed-in oxygen into a usable fuel, ATP. Likewise, diseases are identified by the ways they distinguish themselves from every other healthy and unhealthy pattern; and treatment is designed to change, control or destroy.)
To an acupuncturist, the symptom will only make the most sense when seen in the context of the whole. Talk to an acupuncturist about your chronic sinus congestion and we will probably ask you about your bowel movements, and about any shortness of breath, recent deaths in the family, your eating habits and how you usually deal with stress.
Acupuncturists are energy (Qi) engineers. We move energy that is stagnant and bollixed up, or we stoke an area that is cool and deficient in energy; we look at the whole and try to balance the energies within the system, top to bottom, side to side, back to front. The Central Nervous System appears to be only one of the communication networks in the body, and it is not the one the needles interact with. Instead, the needles make contact with the fascia, a super-thin conductive material that wraps each tissue group, each organ, each gland and is inter-connected from one end of the body to the other, like a web extending everywhere (the gauzy material you see when you pull apart a chicken to prepare it for cooking, that’s fascia). There seem to be major conduits of fascia, called planes, that mirror the channels that acupuncturists exploit.
All licensed acupuncturists use sterile, single-use-only, disposable needles. Clean-fields are established according to medical standards, the patient’s skin is prepared with alcohol, and the needles are disposed of in medical-waste containers. Linens are fresh with each patient. Infection control is a priority in our office, as it is in virtually every other acupuncturist’s office in New York State.
An acupuncture treatment is an hour of relaxing, effortless work in a quiet, private, comfortable setting with a Bach adagio playing in the background and a Feldsten mobile languidly drifting in concert with the mildest current of air.
Here’s a more detailed description of what happens:
First, we chat
The treatment begins with conversation. We follow up on previous work and determine the focus of the day’s treatment.
Second, the physical encounter
Where is the pain, exactly? (The more explicit we can be, the more focused the work can be.) What brings it on or what makes it worse? Does it hurt when I move it while you remain relaxed, or does it hurt only when you move it, yourself?
Most treatments will begin with a pulse diagnosis, or with my gently palpating the abdomen. I am looking for patterns that are reflections of an underlying cause… treating the symptom and the cause reduces the healing time and improves the likelihood that the issue will more completely resolve. Why, after all, is that shoulder taking so long to heal; or why is that my digestion is always so gassy and uncomfortable.
Third, the work
Most of my patients are extremely comfortable with my acupuncture pins – and why not? They are fine, super-thin, solid filaments that often extend just barely beneath the surface of the skin. And when they invigorate an area that has been chronically spasmed by stress or stagnant, lacking adequate blood flow and muscle movement, they stimulate a physiologic response that relaxes the whole body, and the mind as well. On average, we work with 8-15 points on the body.
My patients who are skittish about acupuncture pins might receive Zero Balance bodywork, acupressure or Frequency Specific Micro-therapy.
Pins are typically kept in place for 20 to 45 minutes. Often, we use supplemental techniques to enhance the work: the micro-current therapy, or magnets, or cupping, or zinc/copper diodes, or moxa (commonly known as the punk of mugwort, or Artemis Vulgaris), the most ancient, most pungent burning herb of Chinese Medicine.
Fourth, ‘And, so, what happens next?’
This work is always a partnership between an Oriental Medicine Practitioner and an individual. Before my patient leaves we always review the various goals of the treatment and what we just did to accomplish them. We talk about what changes the patient might observe and experience, and there might be even be home work.
There is no simple answer to this question.
- Acute problems resolve faster than chronic problems.
- The young heal faster than the ‘less-young’.
- Less complex problems – problems that have impacted just the lungs, or just the soft-tissue of a specific area – resolve faster than more complex, systemic issues.
- Improvements are typically seen within 2-3 treatments.
- Lasting results usually require an average of 6 to 15 treatments.