Acupuncture is an alternative form of therapy, which consists in puncturing the body in specific locations using fine needles. Its birthplace is China where it was known in the Neolithic (ca. 10-4 millennium BC). The legend which explains the origin of the method says that acupuncture is the result of observation of Chinese warriors. They noted that the wounding of the body with an arrow may paradoxically cause relaxation or even relief of persistent pain which was earlier in this part of the body.
After an analysis of the situation some relationship between the region of puncture and the achieved results was found. The results involved not only the possibility of pain relief, but also alleviation of various diseases. The direct predecessor of acupuncture was Tcha-Tchin method used by physicians 3000 years BC, consisting in a combination of pressure with a shallow incision of the skin in selected locations. Acupuncture needles were initially made of flint, bone, or bamboo and then iron, bronze, gold, and silver. Currently the most commonly used needles are made of stainless steel.
The concept of acupuncture is found on three basic assumptions. The first of these says about the existence of two opposing forces of Yang (male positive force) and Yin( negative feminine force) in the human body as well as in the nature, the balance of which is a guarantee of health. These forces are components of Qi energy which fills the body. If Qi has free access to each part of the body, the body is healthy and working well but in the case of any disruption in the flow, eg. due to the blockade, especially with prolonged persistence of this situation, the man becomes sick. The second theory on which acupuncture is based is the concept of five interdependent elements which in nature are: earth, metal, water, wood and fire. Their equivalents in the human body are: heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Relations between them also affect the balance of the system and provide a state of well-being. The third theory of Zang-Fu is the most complex and its precise interpretation is difficult even for outstanding connoisseurs of oriental medicine. It is related to the functioning of internal organs.
The point of view of conventional medicine
Qi energy, as mentioned earlier, can be compared to bioelectrical activity. Its appropriate level is the key to achieve balance in the body. It was found that the puncture of the body in specific places restores suitable electrical conductivity. The designated areas of punctures are located in the so-called “Head Zones”, therefore the effectiveness of acupuncture results from the occurrence of segmental reflexes. Pricking stimulates the sympathetic and parasympathetic system, regulates the function of internal organs, relaxes smooth muscles, causes vasodilation, and improves blood circulation. The result is better nutrition and purification of the area from an excess of metabolism’s by-products.
The analgesic effect of treatment is explained by the Haymanns law (“two stimuli exert on one another the inhibitory effect, however stronger stimulus act proportionately stronger” and “subsequent stimulus is felt more strongly or as the only one stimulus”), stimulation of secretion of opioids (endorphins and enkephalins), neuromediators (eg. serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine etc.), because of tissue stimulation by a needle. Studies on analgesic effect were led by Pomeranz (Canada), who in one of his experiments on cats obtained clear evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture.
Acupuncture was alleged of lack of established parameters whereby it would be possible to program the therapy. That is why Japanese doctor Nakatani has created a diagnostic tool for this called Ryodoraku. It is a form indicating the level of excitability of the tissues in certain channels (called meridians), both in health and disease. Analysis of these measurements allows precise localization of disease processes, treatment planning and evaluation of its effectiveness.
Visit to the acupuncturist
On the day of the visit one should not consume alcohol or food which may change color of the tongue. At the beginning therapist evaluates the patient’s health. The diagnosis is based on medical history and a inspection of the body, skins, ears, eyes, nose, and a control of the heartbeat. However, the most important for diagnosis is appearance of the tongue which is a kind of the “map” of the body health. The therapist also makes palpation looking for places with increased sensitivity. Then he applies the treatment by placing the needles (one to twenty) in the coatings of skin for about 15 minutes.
Acupuncture for centuries had its ups and downs, it was very popularized, then placed on the list of prohibited methods, but now it is a system generally accepted and widely applied. We should also remember that the indications (about one hundred and fifty) to apply the method are clearly defined and definite.
Written by: Maja Sołtysik
1. „Akupunktura – mechanizmy działania” B. Chmielnicki
2. „Akupunktura we współczesnej medycynie-tom I” Z. Garnuszewski, wyd. Amber, Warszawa 1996
3. „Akupunktura we współczesnej medycynie-tom II” Z. Garnuszewski, wyd. Amber, Warszawa 1997
4. „Electroacupuncture in the treatment of painful lumbar – sacral spine” P. Kowalczyk, P. Ziółkowski, P. Woźniak; Polish Acupuncture No 2 (35) 2006, 2265-2273
5. „Treatment of patients with low back pain – evaluation of the use of acupuncture and other methods of physiotherapy” A. Żytkowski; Polish Acupuncture No 1 (28) 2003
6. „Medycyna chińska” pod red. Dr Duo Gao, PZWL, Warszawa 2003
7. „The role of acupuncture in the treatment and rehabilitation of Guillain-Barré syndrome – a case report” P. Ziółkowski, P. Woźniak, P. Oszukowski, A. Pięta-Dolińska; Polish Acupuncture No 2 (35) 2006, 2274-2281
8. „Suppression of noxious responses in single neorons of cat spinal cord by EA and reversal by opiate antagonist naloxone” Pomeranz B, Cheng R, Exp Neurol 1979, 64, 327-49
Want to know more about pain? Watch on medtube.net “Severe Foot Pain First Thing in the Morning”