The focus of acupuncture is not only to treat a symptom or condition but also to balance the person to enable the person’s own body to heal. Hair-fine needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points along meridians which are energy channels throughout the body. Any ailments to the body, such as disease, chronic pain, anxiety, stress, infertility and many other conditions manifest themselves in the body due to an imbalance of energy called “Qi” (pronounced ‘chee’) which courses through the meridians, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
A recent study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has provided the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain. The study provides robust evidence of the effects of acupuncture on pain management. The modern scientific theory behind acupuncture’s effectiveness is that the needles stimulate the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain, which may influence the body’s own regulatory system. The acupuncture needle does not pierce tissue; it only separates it. The result is little to no pain and bleeding. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems including:
Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension, stress and emotional conditions.
Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices placed on the skin. There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Suction can also be created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material (like leather) to protect the skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it. Flames are never used near the skin and are not lit throughout the process of cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups.
Once the suction has been created and applied, the cups can be gently moved across the skin. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage—rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suction has been applied, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.
Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. There are five meridian lines on the back, and these are where the cups are usually placed. Using these points, cupping can help to align and relax qi (life force) as well as target more specific maladies. By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to open these channels through which life energy flows freely through all tissues and organs of the body, thus providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force). Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these affected four inches. Even hands, wrists, legs and ankles can be cupped. This treatment is also valuable for the lungs and can clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person's asthma.
Gua Sha is a technique used by practitioners in Asia to control pain. In Gua Sha, the skin is pressured, in strokes, by a round-edged instrument. This tool is used to scrape or rub the surface of the body to relieve blood stagnation.
This procedure helps extravasate blood and metabolic waste congesting the surface tissues and muscles, promoting normal circulation and metabolic processes. By resolving fluid and blood stasis, Gua Sha is valuable in the treatment of pain, in the prevention and treatment of acute infectious illness, upper respiratory and digestive problems; and in many acute or chronic disorders.