Acupuncture ? A Chinese Tradition Essay, Research Paper
Acupuncture?A Chinese Tradition
I hate needles. Don?t get me wrong, I want to be a doctor, and I have no problem sticking other people with needles, but as soon as I become the patient, there?s a problem. I?m scared of things piercing my skin and my body. But when I decided to do my project on acupuncture, I told myself that in order to get the whole experience, I must face my fear and do it. So one Monday afternoon I went with my project partner Fritzie to the acupuncture clinic and had my first experience with this ancient form of Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture is used for many medical conditions, but I went in primarily for stress. Dr. Susan Shao, the licensed acupuncturist, had me lay down on my stomach, and she felt for tense spots on my lower back and up to my neck. She found that my left side was much firmer than my right, which was typical of stress-related tension. I had particularly large knots in the lower back region and shoulder area, and I also had tension in my jaw muscles, since I tend to grip and grind my teeth when I feel stress.
Dr. Shao started the acupuncture treatment using one-inch needles, so about three-fourths of an inch penetrated the skin. An interesting fact that she shared with us is that the ancient acupuncturists made their own needles out of gold or silver, so the needles were fairly large. Needless to say, the old forms of acupuncture were very painful for the individual, unlike today?s techniques. She felt for pressure points along my back and put the needles in those spots. I didn?t even feel the needle go in, only the plastic surrounding the needle tapping my skin. She put in about ten or so needles down each side of my back including one in each of my forearms. Dr. Shao then hooked the twenty needles up to a battery that produced the electrical stimulation, which ran for fifteen minutes. I felt a slight tapping feeling as the electrical current went through my body, but I didn?t feel much else. During the fifteen minutes, I felt very relaxed, and I just wanted to lie there all day and rest. After the time was up, Dr. Shao removed the needles and gave me a short but deep massage. She felt the same spots I had tension in before, and the stiffness was almost completely gone. There was an even, jello-like feeling on both the left and right sides, and the tension in my jaw was much better. I stood up and felt fifteen pounds lighter?the weight in my back was gone, and I felt so relieved.
The whole concept of acupuncture ties very closely with other medical systems that use balance as the key to feeling healthy. The Chinese word chi meaning ?energy? is constant throughout the body. According to the traditional Chinese medicine of acupuncture originating three to five thousand years ago, the major organs produce vital energy that flows along the continuous circulatory channels called meridians. If the flow of energy through the meridians is smooth, the body is balanced and healthy. If, however, the flow of energy is disturbed in any way, there will be pain or illness?a sense of imbalance. Acupuncture is applied to specific sites along the meridians called acupuncture points that stimulate energy flow, so the organs will function in a way that restores the balance of the individual. This then creates a feeling of wellness in the individual, both physically and mentally.
Dr. Shao gave me some examples of imbalance as I talked with her. For example, if one has cold hands and toes, there is probably a lack of energy in the right kidney, so an acupuncture treatment would focus on a meridian that the right kidney lay in. Another example is my own experience with acupuncture. In my case, ?getting rid of the knots? in my back allowed the built-up energy to flow again, which relieved any pressure or pain that I felt. The chi was able to flow freely, and I in turn felt balanced. My partner Fritzie had a similar experience. Although she was much tenser than I was, she too felt relief of tension after her first acupuncture treatment.
The mechanism of this Chinese healing art has recently gained attention because of the available scientific evidence on acupuncture. Western medicine now sees a biological reason for the positive effects of acupuncture. First, there is a natural pain-suppression system in the brain. Once this is activated by acupuncture needles, the release of endogenous morphine-like substances called endorphins occurs, which creates the analgesic effect?the effect that the patient feels no pain, but he is still conscious. Secondly, acupuncture has been found to strengthen the body?s immune system, which makes one feel better, since the body is using its natural defense mechanism to heal itself. Acupuncture also has two natures: it can raise the energy level (as in low blood pressure) or it can lower the energy level (as in hypertension, or high blood pressure). All these aspects of acupuncture have allowed it to become so popular in modern medical systems.
The treatment plan for each person differs simply because each person is unique. The illness, severity, duration, and physical state of the patient all contribute to the treatment plan. An average course of treatment takes about ten sessions, depending on the case. Some cases may need constant attention, as many as three visits per week, and others may only require a few visits total. A ?health maintenance program? may also be used in which treatments continue once a week or every two weeks. This treatment helps the internal organs function properly so that the body?s balance is constant throughout everyday activities.
The Chinese have been enjoying this ancient tradition for centuries, and today more and more Western doctors are agreeing that the acupuncture treatments actually work. Not only does it relieve stress, but acupuncture also helps in a number of medical conditions including headaches, osteo-arthritis, depression, hiccups, infertility, allergies, nervousness, and hypertension, to name a few. Dr. Shao said the best results of acupuncture in her practice mostly dealt with headaches and nervous pain, but she emphasized that the results of the treatments vary with each person.
After learning about this new medical technique, I believe acupuncture can and does work. Acupuncture focuses on the problem; rather than using drugs to cover up the symptoms, it gets to the root of the pain or illness and heals the body. It certainly worked for me in my own case of stress, but my own case seems somewhat small as far as the positive effects of acupuncture. Dr. Shao shared with us just how powerful acupuncture can be with the following story: A woman with cancer could not walk because she had been going through so many treatments of chemotherapy. Her body was deteriorating and the medicine she was taking didn?t seem to help. With nothing left to do, she started acupuncture treatments to relieve the pain in her legs. After only a year of treatments, the woman started to walk again without the use of her cane. She then continued the treatments and still walks wherever she needs to go.
Acupuncture is finally getting the recognition is deserves, which may provide more and more people with an effective form of treatment for various illnesses and diseases. Even though acupuncture may seem like just an old Chinese remedy, it has sufficient evidence that it can relieve pain and create a feeling of comfort and balance for the individual. I would recommend this form of treatment to anyone feeling stress or having other medical conditions, and I would definitely use this form of relaxation again. My acupuncture experience has taught me to realize that the concept of balance is a precious thing.