Acupuncture is an ancient medical system, believed to be over 3,000 years old, which uses the body’s own energies to heal itself. While Licensed Acupuncturists in the U.S. have received a minimum of six years of college education en route to their certification and are quite familiar with the concepts upon which Western Medicine is based, the principles which guide acupuncture treatment are quite different from those which guide western treatments. Consequently, there are many cases in which Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be successful where Western Medicine has failed. This is not to claim that Chinese Medicine is a superior form of medicine to Western Medicine; only that there often are times when one approach turns out to be more appropriate and effective than another.
The Chinese Medical System upon which acupuncture is based is a “holistic” medical system, which means that it sees all aspects of the patient as connected to and relevant to the health of all the other parts. It also means that its goal is to bring the patient back to a state of optimal health, not merely to eliminate the isolated presenting symptoms at the time the patient seeks treatment. This is an important distinction, because the real question upon which an acupuncturist’s treatment is based is this: What are the shortcomings or imbalances in the body of the patient that allowed this illness to manifest? Why did this individual become sick (or why has this problem not resolved yet) when other individuals exposed to the same factors would not have gotten sick (or would have recovered completely by now)? By using this approach, a skillful acupuncturist will not only bring about relief of the symptoms causing the distress, but at the same time, his or her treatment will greatly reduce the likelihood of similar symptoms returning again later in life.
Acupuncture is actually only one component of the larger system often referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM. Typically acupuncturists also utilize other elements of the TCM system, such as the use of medicinal herbs when indicated, dietary and lifestyle recommendations, and other forms of treatment such as cupping, moxibustion, or Tuina massage. Throughout it’s long history, practitioners of TCM have learned that these techniques can also prevent illness as well as curing it. When utilized regularly, acupuncture treatment is believed to increase vitality, enhance mental clarity, and lead to long life. And unlike many medications in use today, acupuncture carries no risk of unpleasant or dangerous side effects.
Contrary to many people’ s fears, acupuncture is virtually painless in most cases. Acupuncture needles are not much thicker than a human hair, and because there is nothing being injected into the tissues through them, a patient does not experience the pain that comes from the increase in pressure in the tissues experienced when getting “a shot.” In fact, most people find the experience enjoyable, and profoundly relaxing.
Many of the principles utilized in TCM are the same as those that can be found in much of Eastern Philosophy such as the in the famous writings of various Taoist, Confucian, and Zen masters, as well as in the principles upon which much of the Martial Arts are based. Chinese Medicine should not, however, be misconstrued as a religious or spiritual practice, or something that requires some sort of belief system on the part of the patient in order to be effective. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that Chinese Medicine is a system that evolved out of thousands of years of observations of the patterns in nature, and the recognition that human beings, as a part of nature, are subject to the same principles.