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By Chuck Groot

Acupuncture is the art of inserting very thin needles just under the skin to stimulate specific points on the body in order to bring about relief of pain and wellness to the body. This is accomplished by restoring the balance of qi to the body. It is a way to unblock or influence chi and help it flow back into balance.

Qi is the life force which is found in everything, both human and non-human, from breath to the blood that flows through us, and the movement of qi throughout the body is a sensation brought about by acupuncture that you will not want to miss. It kind of feels like blood flowing, as if you could hear it, but not really. When the acupuncturist takes the needles out of your body you can almost feel the qi moving, it feels like a thread being pulled from your leg, or foot, or wherever the needle is being drawn out from. It is a very calming experience. Simply, the flow of your qi is being restored by stimulating it using needles.

The philosophy of Dao, ying and yang, must be understood in order to understand acupuncture.

Dao is the way of life in Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. Dao advocates living in moderation, and striving for balance with nature. The Chinese believe that moderation is the key to living a long life, and use the practice of acupuncture to balance bodies and spirit to maintain health and to bring into balance ill health.

We are made up of three elements, qi (pronounced Chee) is our energy, Shen is your spirit, and Jing is the essence of ourselves. Qi establishes the interconnectedness with everything and is found in one's blood and heart, lungs and oxygen. Shen is compared to ones soul in that it provides thought and the awareness of the self. Jing helps us grow and reproduce. Once we lose jing, it cannot be replaced, as the Chinese believe that we are each born with a finite amount. Because we lose jing if we live carelessly, acupuncture can reduce the loss by balancing the qi, or energy, helping to preserve jing. When our Jing is used up, we die.

Now on to Ying and Yang, the other elements of life, when these two opposing forces are balanced we are at peace, we are much more likely to let things slide and take life easy, when they are out of balance we exhibit arrogance, pride, lust, gluttony, and the other excesses of living which eat away at our Jing. The emotions run amok and we become sick.

This is also why acupuncture is often used in cooperation with herbal therapy. Acupuncture works with the yang because it comes from outside the body and goes inside (the act of inserting the needle), while herbal therapies are considered to be ying therapies because they move throughout the interior of the body.

While acupuncture is widely thought to be used primarily to control pain, acupuncture can benefit a host of other illnesses, such as repertory ailments (asthma), cataracts, hiccups, ulcers, migraines, and toothache, just to name a very few.

Studies find that acupuncture reduces hot flashes for half of women.

In a study published in the Sept. 28 issue of the journal Menopause, scientists reported that about half the women in the study reduced the frequency of hot flashes, while half did not. Many people who have chronic low back pain have found acupuncture to be helpful. "Women bothered by hot flashes and night sweats may want to give acupuncture a try as a relatively low-cost, low-risk treatment," said Nancy Avis, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine, a part of Wake Forest Baptist. "Women will know pretty quickly if acupuncture will work for them. Women who had a reduction in their hot flashes saw a benefit beginning after about three to four weeks of weekly treatments."

The truth is that I have never seen an ailment that can't be alleviated with acupuncture, including alcoholism and addiction cravings. There is a point in the ear which can help alleviate cravings of all addictive behaviors, and acute withdrawal from alcoholism can be helped with the point used for the liver.

Western medicine is beginning to concede to acupuncture for its use in alleviating chronic pain, such as neck and back, which a lot of westerners suffer from. We are only now beginning to accept the fact that it can also be used to help anxiety and chronic fatigue, and more and more medical insurance is beginning to include acupuncture on claim forms.

What happens during acupuncture?

Your acupuncture provider will give you an examination and ask questions about your pain and how well you are functioning. He or she will also ask about your overall health. Then your provider will look for the places (called points) on your body to access the chi that is blocked or not flowing right. Each of the points relates to certain health problems or body functions. Your provider will look for landmarks on your body—using certain muscles or bones, for example—to find the points so that he or she can place the needles. After the provider finds the points, he or she will quickly tap very thin needles into your skin. He or she will probably place several needles. Some may be placed deeper than others, depending on what the provider believes is needed to restore the flow of chi. Every provider is different, but in most cases treatment lasts for 15 minutes to an hour. You may have several visits to complete your treatment. Some people have ongoing visits.

This article is meant to be informative only, and does not go into the detail that acupuncture deserves; please see a practitioner of Chinese medicine for more information.

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