by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
Acupuncture is one of the best known, least understood, and most popular of the Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM) therapies. Practiced for thousands of years by many different cultures, these holistic therapies encompass not only acupuncture but also meditation, qigong or breathing exercises, nutrition, tai chi or mindful movement, Fengshui, herbology, and bodywork. Acupuncture is merely a part of the whole of holistic medicine.
Holistic medicine differs from Western medicine in many different ways. A western doctor may prescribe a potent pain killer for chronic headaches and send them on their way. The symptom is eased during the time the patient takes their pill, but it does not address why the patient is having chronic headaches in the first place. And, the pill the doctor prescribes will likely be the same pill he prescribes for all of his patients with similar complaints. A holistic practitioner will likely ask the patient questions about their lifestyle, familial support, stress levels, dietary habits, and sleep patterns before delving deeper into what might be the root cause of their discomfort. A practitioner will search for root causes of the pain and prescribe a unique, personalized treatment plan to restore the body to a condition of health, balance and harmony. Asian medicine teaches us that what happens to one part of the body has an influence on all other parts of the body. Similarly, the mind and body are viewed as being one where the mind influences the body and the body influences the mind.
Our bodies are made up of energy, or Qi (chee). Qi is constantly changing and shifting as it flows in channels throughout the body. When Qi becomes blocked, the practitioner simply manipulates it back into balance. This is accomplished using their knowledge of the 12 meridians that travel through precise areas of the body, and the corresponding acupoints. The lungs, bladder, stomach, and liver are just four of the 12 meridians. But, each of these organs have a profound influence on other organs of the body. The practitioner places needles into certain acupoints based upon their understanding of your root cause of pain. Patients often report little to no discomfort, as the needles are exceedingly thin. The needles are used to open up blocked areas of Qi and allow the body to begin healing itself.
Acupuncture has been used to treat headaches, carpal tunnel, sports injuries, high blood pressure, arthritis, depression, anxiety and a host of other disorders. It is a part of a “whole body” approach used by holistic practitioners to induce energy, reduce stress, increase mental clarity, and most of all, encourage the mind / body balance.
A professional acupuncturist will be licensed by the state and have the title of Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc).