What is the theory behind acupuncture and moxibustion?
The use of acupuncture in managing acute and chronic pain and it's use in place of, or in conjunction with, chemical anesthetics in surgery is becoming commonly known in the United States. But the ancient Chinese medical practices of acupuncture and moxibustion have been used for over 4,000 years, not only for pain management, but also in the prevention and treatment of a broad range of diseases and for maintenance of general health and enhancement of stamina.
Chinese medicine delineates 14 meridians in the human body, called the conceptual channels, and numerous associated collateral branches. These meridians and their branches constitute a network that interconnects all the tissues and organs of the body. Twelve of the 14 meridians are associated with 12 specific organs, and the meridians can be classified as yin or yang in nature.
A key idea in Chinese medicine is that of qi (pronounced chi). This invisible force manifests in the human body as an energy flow which circulates to all parts of the body through the meridians and supports the body's vital activities. According to the theory of Chinese medicine, the equilibrium of bodily functions is maintained through a balance of yin and yang, two life forces with opposing natures (yang being positive and active, yin being passive and receptive). Any imbalance between these two forces in the human body causes an obstruction of qi flow in the meridians and, whenever the qi flow is interrupted, a pain or illness results. The chief aim of Chinese medicine is to restore the balance between yin and yang in the body, thus restoring the smooth flow of qi in the meridians.
There are 361 acupuncture points distributed along the 14 meridians and all these points can be used to treat disorders of the related organs. Disorders generated from or associated with a specific meridian have characteristic manifestations. After diagnosing an illness and determining the meridians involved, the doctor selects appropriate acupuncture points to form an acupuncture prescription. Determining the correct combination of points is very important, and manipulation of the needles to achieve the desired effects requires a studied skill.
Is acupuncture painful?
No. The patient usually feels a sensation similar to a mosquito bite when the very fine needle (about as thick as a human hair) is inserted into the skin at rapid speed. Some complex feelings such as soreness, distention or numbness will be generated at the acupuncture point when the needle is manipulated. This indicates that the patient is responding to the treatment.
Are the needles safe to use?
Yes. Acupuncture needles are sterile and disposable.
How does Chinese herbal medicine work?
Of the several thousand Chinese herbs that are classified and described in detail in the Chinese medical literature, about 600 are commonly used clinically. Derived mainly from plants and minerals, Chinese medicinal herbs are classified by their natures (cold, cool, warm and hot) and flavors (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty). Different "natures" and "flavors" correspond to different physical and chemical features of the herbs. For example, most of the sour herbs contain organic acids and have an astringent effect, while most of the herbs with a cold nature can be used to treat febrile disease (bacterial and viral infections). Different herbs "have a preference for" different meridians. Huang-Qing, Ma-Huang and Sha-Shen, for example, "prefer" to enter the lung meridian and are often used to treat respiratory problems such as asthma and cough. In Chinese medicine, unlike in Western medicine, herbs are rarely used individually. They are almost always combined in a formula in order to achieve synergistic effects as well as to cancel out any adverse effects of other herbs in the combination. One formula or prescription is usually composed of about 10 different herbs.
What are the side-effects of Chinese medicine?
Acupuncture, herbal formulas and other Chinese medicine techniques are natural therapies with minimal or no side effects. Occasionally, an herbal formula is found to disturb the gastrointestinal tract of initial users but this disturbance can be avoided by taking the herbs after a meal. Patients can generally receive Chinese medicine treatments for a lifetime without worrying about side effects. Nor is there any tolerance or addiction to Chinese medicine.
How many treatments are needed?
For many acute problems, two or three treatments will suffice. For chronic diseases, treatment is generally longer, usually weeks or months. Frequency of treatment also varies, depending on the nature and length of the illness, from two treatments per week to one treatment per month. The patient's general health, and individual differences among patients, can also affect the length and frequency of treatment. The effects of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are usually long-lasting because Chinese medicine aims at getting beyond the symptoms to the root-cause of an illness and restoring the balance of the body as well as mobilizing the body's own potential to overcome illness.
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Chinese medicine emphasizes the overall regulation of the body and is used commonly to strengthen one's overall health, stamina, and immune system.