In this paper I will be dealing with the
ancient medical art of Acupuncture. Today in most western cultures
it is considered a "new alternative" medicine. In
reality Acupuncture (and its related
Moxibustion) are practiced medical treatments that are over
5,000 years old. Very basically, Acupuncture is the insertion
of very fine needles, (sometimes in conjunction with electrical
stimulus), on the body's surface, in order to influence physiological
functioning of the body.
Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction
with heat produced by burning specific herbs, this is called
Moxibustion. In addition, a non-invasive method of massage therapy,
also be effective.
The first record of Acupuncture is found
in the 4,700 year old Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Classic
of Internal Medicine). This is said to be the oldest medical
textbook in the world. It is said to have been written down
from even earlier theories by Shen Nung, the father of Chinese
Medicine. Shen Nung documented theories about circulation, pulse,
and the heart over 4,000 years before European medicine had
any concept about them.
As the basis of Acupuncture, Shen Nung theorized
that the body had an energy force running throughout it. This
energy force is known as
Chee). The Qi consists of all essential life activities which
include the spiritual, emotional, mental and the physical aspects
of life. A person's health is influenced by the flow of Qi in
the body, in combination with the universal forces of Yin and
Yang . (I will discuss Yin and Yang a little later). If the
flow of Qi is insufficient, unbalanced or interrupted, Yin and
Yang become unbalanced, and illness may occur. Qi travels throughout
the body along "Meridians" or special pathways. The
Meridians, (or Channels), are the same on both sides of the
body (paired). There are fourteen main meridians running vertically
up and down the surface of the body. Out of these, there are
twelve organ Meridians in each half of the body (remember they
are in pairs). There are also two unpaired midline Meridians.
There will be a diagram of Acupuncture points for treating diseases
of the Meridians at the end of the digestive system paper. (See
Appendix 1). The acupuncture points are specific locations where
the Meridians come to the surface of the skin, and are easily
accessible by "needling," Moxibustion, and Acupressure.
The connections between them ensure that there is an even circulation
of Qi, a balance between Yin and Yang.
Energy constantly flows up and down these
pathways. When pathways become obstructed, deficient, excessive,
or just unbalanced, Yin and Yang are said to be thrown out of
balance. This causes illness. Acupuncture is said to restore
Yin and Yang is an important theory in the
discussion of Acupuncture treatment, in relation to the Chinese
theory of body systems. As stated earlier Qi is an energy force
that runs throughout the body. In addition, Qi is also prevalent
throughout nature as well. Qi is comprised of two parts, Yin
and Yang. Yin and Yang are opposite forces, that when balanced,
work together. Any upset in the balance will result in natural
calamities, in nature; and disease in humans. Yin is signified
by female attributes, passive, dark, cold, moist, that which
moves medially, and deficient of Yang. Yang is signified by
male attributes, light, active, warm, dry, that which moves
laterally, and deficient of Yin. Nothing is completely Yin or
Yang. The most striking example of this is man himself. A man
is the combination of his mother (Yin) and and his father (Yang).
He contains qualities of both: This is the universal symbol
describing the constant flow of yin and yang forces. You'll
notice that within yin, there is Yang, and within Yang, there
is the genesis of Yin. Whether or not you believe in Taoist
philosophy, (which all this is based on), one thing is indisputable:
Acupuncturists can use as many as nine types
of Acupuncture needles, though only six are commonly used today.
These needles vary in length,
width of shaft, and shape of head. Today, most needles are disposible.
They are used once and disgarded in accordance with medical
biohazard regulations and guidlines. There are a few different
precise methods by which Acupuncturists insert needles. Points
can be needled anywhere in the range of 15 degrees to 90 degrees
relative to the skin surface, depending on the treatment called
for. In most cases, a sensation, felt by the patient, is desired.
This sensation, which is not pain, is called deqi (pronounced
dah-chee). The following techniques are some which may be used
by an Acupuncturist immediately following insertion: Raising
and Thrusting, Twirling or Rotation, Combination of Raising/Thrusting
and Rotation, Plucking, Scraping (vibrations sent through the
needle), and Trembling (another vibration technique). Once again,
techniques are carefully chosen based on the ailment.
There are a few related procedures that
fall into the range of Acupuncture treatments. The first is
Electro-Acupuncture. This is the using of very small electrical
impulses through the Acupuncture needles. This method is generally
used for analgesia (pain relief or prevention). The amount of
power used is only a few micro amperes, but the frequency of
the current can vary from 5 to 2,000 Hz. The higher frequencies
are generally used for surgery (usually abdominal), and the
lower frequencies for general pain relief. The first reported
successful use of Electro-Acupuncture was in 1958 in China for
a tonsillectomy. Today, it is a common method of surgical analgesia
used in China. Other methods for stimulating Acupuncture points
Lasers and sound waves (Sonopuncture).
A very commonly used treatment in the United States is Auriculotherapy
or Ear Acupuncture. The theory is that since the ear has
a rich nerve and blood supply, it would have connections all
over the body. For this reason, the ear has many Acupuncture
points which correspond to many parts and organs of the body.
Auricular Acupuncture has been successful in treating problems
ranging from obesity to alcoholism, to drug addiction. There
are numerous studies either completed, or currently going on
which affirms Auricular Acupuncture's effectiveness. (These
will be mentioned in detail later on in the paper.)
Another popular treatment method is Moxibustion,
which is the treatment of diseases by applying heat to Acupuncture
points. Acupuncture and Moxibustion are considered complimentary
forms of treatment, and are commonly used together. Moxibustion
is used for ailments such as bronchial asthma, bronchitis, certain
types of paralysis, and arthritic disorders.
Cupping is another type of treatment. This
is a method of stimulating Acupuncture points by applying suction
through a metal, wood or glass jar, in which a partial vacuum
has been created. This technique produces blood congestion at
the site, and therefore stimulates it. Cupping is used for low
backache, sprains, soft tissue injuries, and helping relieve
fluid from the lungs in chronic bronchitis.
One of the most popular alternatives to
Acupuncture is Acupressure. This is simply Acupuncture without
needles. Stimulation of the Acupuncture points is performed
with the fingers or an instrument with a hard ball shaped head.
Another variation of Acupressure is Reflexology (also called
Zone Therapy). This is where the soles of the feet and the posterio-inferior
regions of the ankle joints are stimulated. Many diseases of
the internal organs can be treated in this manner.
The question arises, how
does Acupuncture work? Scientists have no real answer to
this; as you know many of the workings of the body are still
a mystery. There are a few
- By some unknown process, Acupuncture
raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins,
white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall
anti-body levels. This is called the "Augmentation of
- The "Endorphin" Theory states
that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in
the body (specifically Enkaphalins).
- The "Neurotransmitter" Theory
states that certain neurotransmitter levels (such as Seratonin
and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture.
- "Circulatory" Theory: this
states that Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or
dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body's release
of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to Acupuncture.
- One of the most popular theories is the
"Gate Control" Theory. According to this theory,
the perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous
system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted
as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the "Gate."
If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed,
and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting
through. The first gates to close would be the ones that are
the smallest. The nerve fibers that carry the impulses of
pain are rather small nerve fibers called "C" fibers.
These are the gates that close during Acupuncture.
In the related "Motor Gate"
Theory, some forms of paralysis can be overcome by Acupuncture.
This is done by reopening a "stuck" gate, which
is connected to an Anterior Horn cell. The gate, when closed
by a disease, stops motor impulses from reaching muscles.
This theory was first stated by Professor Jayasuriya in
1977. In it he goes on to say:
"...one of the factors contributing
to motor recovery is almost certainly the activation of
spindle cells. They are stimulated by Gamma motor neurons.
If Acupuncture stimulates the Gamma motor neurons, the
discharge causes the contraction of Intrafusal Muscle
fibers. This activates the Spindle cells, in the same
way as muscle stretching. This will bring about muscle
There are many diseases that can be treated
successfully by Acupuncture or its related treatments. The most
common ailments currently being treated are: lower
backache, Cervical Spondylosis, Condylitis,
all kinds (including migraine),
Reactions, general and specific use for Analgesia (including
surgery) and relief of muscles spasms. There have also been
use of Acupuncture in treating
disorders and depression. Likewise, very high success rates
have been found in treating
to alcohol, tobacco (nicotine) and
drugs. Acupuncture can rid the body of the physical dependency,
but can not rid the mind of the habit (psychological dependency).
For this reason, Acupuncture treatment of addictions has not
been fully successful.
Obviously, especially for a paper
such as this, my research would not be complete without backing
it up with some case studies. Here they are.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
has sponsored three studies examining the effectiveness of Acupuncture
for the treatment of substance abuse.
The first was at the Lincoln Medical Medical
Center in Bronx, NYC, New York. It was headed by Dr. Douglas
Lipton, and completed in 1991. This study used Auricular Acupuncture
on Crack Cocaine users. The study was split into groups, one
getting the correct Acupuncture treatments, the other getting
"placebo" Acupuncture (needles placed in the "wrong"
spots). Urinalysis results showed that the subjects receiving
the correct treatments had lowered their use of the drug, in
as little as two weeks. This was verified by testing for cocaine
metabolite levels. However, the reduction was not as significant
as had been anticipated. *Note that no other type of treatment,
such as counseling as given.
In two other studies currently going on,
(the first by Dr. Janet Konefal of Miami School of Medicine;
and the other by Dr. Milton Bullock at the Hennepin County Medical
Center in Minneapolis), counseling combined with acupuncture
is being tested. The preliminary results have been quite promising.
Additional studies, too numerous to mention
here have proven the effectiveness of Acupuncture therapy in
Nicotine addiction, (look in Bibliography for some case citings).
Between 1971 and and 1972 a series of doctors
(Frank Z. Warren: New York University Medical Center; Pang L.
Man and Calvin H. Chen: Northville State Hospital, Northville,
Michigan), conducted seven surgeries at both Northville State
Hospital and at Albert Einstein Medical Center. they used both
standard Acupuncture and Electro-Acupunture techniques. They
found that in all cases of surgery (six invasive and one dental)
these Acupuncture treatments were successful in stopping the
pain of surgery without additional anesthetics. In only one
case (a repair of an inguinal hernia) did the patient complain
of "discomfort;" and only in one additional case did
a patient (the same one) complain of post-operative pain.
In conclusion, I feel that Acupuncture should
be considered a valid form of treatment alongside, not only
other "alternative" forms of treatment, but also along
side mainstream medicine. More and more
companies are discovering the cost effectiveness of Acupuncture.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies still do not cover Acupuncture
therapy, with the exception of Drug Addiction treatments; and
then only if other therapies have been unsuccessful, or as part
of another program. Part of the reason for this is that as of
the writing of this paper, the Food and drug Administration
classifies Acupuncture needles as "investigational"
devices. However, since this paper was written, the FDA has
reclassified acupuncture needles
and so, now, one great block to insurance coverage has been
Acupuncture Doctors are
independently in most states
while some states require you
to be a Medical Doctor to practice Acupuncture.
schools are federally accredited by the ACAOM (Accreditation
Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). This accreditation
allows the school to offer federal guaranteed student loans.
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Holden, Constance. "Acupuncture:
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Lever, Dr. Ruth. Acupuncture
For Everyone. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, Ltd, 1987.
Lipner, Maxine. "Different
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31, 32, 85.
Moss, Dr. Louis. Acupuncture
And You: A New Approach To Treatment Based On The Ancient Method
of Healing. London, England: Elek Publishers, 1972.
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Ponce, Pedro E. "Eastern
Medicine Collides with Western Regulations at Mass. Acupuncture
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1993, pg A32.
Saslow, Linda. "Scores
of Students Take Up Acupuncture at Center in Syosset."
New York Times, November 6, 1994.
Warren, Dr. Frank Z. Handbook
of Medical Acupncture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.,
Dr. Douglas Lipton:"Lincoln
Clinic Study"; Dr. Janet Konefal:"Miami Study";
Dr. Milton Bullock: "Hennepin County Study." U.S.
Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes
of Health, Office of Human Services, AM, Volume 1, Number 3,
Brewington, Vincent, et
al. "Acupuncture as a Detoxification Treatment: An
Analysis of Controlled Research." Journal of Substance
Abuse Treatment, Volume 11, Number 4, 1994, pg 289-307.
Professor Jayasuriya: Paper
for the 5th World Congress of Acupuncture;1977: Tokyo, Japan
Special Thanks To:
Dr. Thomas Barba, Barba Chiropractic
Clinic; Columbus, Ohio. Nigel Dawes, Co-Director of the
School for Oriental Medicine; Syosset, New York.
Dr. Gerard O'Grady; Lake Grove,
......... for all your help and information.