Natural remedies for anxiety are becoming more and more popular. While traditional Western medicine often favours medication, traditional Chinese medicine TCM) diagnoses the patients’ symptoms differently. Today TCM claims to cure a number of problems by using a variety of methods. One such method is acupuncture.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one area of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which also includes herbs, diet and massage.
Acupressure is a blend of acupuncture and pressure and uses physical pressure applied to acupressure points by the hand, elbow, or with a variety of devices.
According to TCM the body has 12 major channels (meridians) of flowing energy which are the life force of existence. Along these 12 points lie 365 specifically-mapped acupuncture points which lie close to the surface of the skin. Apart from these points, there are over 1,000 other points on the ear, hand and scalp.
While traditional Western medicine often favours medication, TCM diagnoses the patients’ symptoms differently. Today TCM claims to cure a number of problems.
Acupuncture focuses on the "seven inquiries". These include chills and fever; perspiration; appetite, thirst and taste; defecation and urination; pain; sleep; and menses and leukorrhea during pregnancy.
Benefits of Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been found to be a most effective treatment for a number of ailments and diseases. Apart from anxiety and depression, acupuncture can help allergies, angina, asthma, fibromyalgia, headaches (including migraines), high blood pressure, infertility, menopausal symptoms, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, shingles, stroke rehabilitation, tinnitus, and urinary tract infections. Many types of pain also appear to be helped by acupuncture treatment.
What Would You Expect if You Visit a Practitioner
The acupuncturist observes several areas of the body. Inspection focuses on the face and particularly on the tongue, including analysis of the tongue size, shape, tension, colour and coating, and the absence or presence of teeth marks around the edge.
Examination of the tongue is among the principal diagnostic methods in TCM. Certain sectors of the tongue's surface are believed to help with diagnosis of diseases. For example, teeth marks on one part of the tongue might indicate a problem with the heart, while teeth marks on another part of the tongue might indicate a problem with the liver.
Practitioners listen for particular sounds such as wheezing, the quality of breathing or the sound of the voice. They also observe body odour, the smell of the breath.
Pulse palpation is also another principal diagnostic method in TCM. It involves measuring the pulse at a superficial and at a deep level at three locations: two finger breadths from the wrist crease; one fingerbreadth from the wrist crease; and right at the wrist crease. It is usually palpated with the index, middle and ring finger of each arm, for 12 pulses. The pulse is examined for several characteristics including rhythm, strength and volume, and described with qualities like "floating, slippery, bolstering-like, feeble, thready and quick". Each of these qualities can then indicate to the acupuncturist whether there are certain diseases present. Learning TCM pulse diagnosis can take several years to master.
The acupuncturist also interviews the patient asking questions in order to evaluate a pattern of deficiency or excess contributing to the disease. He/she also hopes to evaluate the state of health of the body’s internal organs and energy channels.
Once the patient has been diagnosed a number a number of very thin stainless steel needles are inserted along the energy meridians in order to promote the flow of energy and restore balance to the body.
Needles generally are made of stainless steel making them more flexible and preventing them from breaking. A needle is used only once to prevent contamination. Needles are between 13 to 130 millimetres in length with the shorter needles being used near the face and eyes, while the longer ones are used in the fleshier body areas. Tubes are often used for the thinner needles for easier insertion. If the needle tip is too sharp it can easily break, but at the same time, if it is too blunt, it may cause more pain.
Does Acupuncture Only Include Needles?
No, it also includes:
- Suction cups (fire cupping) which draws heat from the body.
- ‘Guasha’ uses spoons to apply friction to the skin.
- ‘Tuina’ is a TCM method of attempting to stimulate the flow of energy by bare handed techniques rather than using needles.
- Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture in which needles are attached to a device that generates continuous electric pulses which is used to stimulate the points. This is hardly noticeable by the patient.
- Sonopuncture or acutonics is a stimulation of the body similar to acupuncture but uses sound and again no needles.
- Acupuncture point injection is the injection of various substances such as drugs, vitamins or herbal extracts which are injected into the acupuncture points.
Acupuncture is often followed by moxibustion, the burning of cone-shaped preparations of mugword on or near the skin, but generally near or on an acupuncture point. Traditionally acupuncture was used to treat acute conditions, while moxibustion was used for chronic diseases.
Moxibustion could be direct (the cone was placed directly on the skin and allowed to burn the skin producing a blister and eventually a scar), or indirect (either a cone of mugwort was placed on a slice of garlic, ginger or other vegetable, or a cylinder of mugwort was held above the skin, close enough to either warm or burn it.
A session in the United States can last from 10 to 60 minutes and sometimes needles are left in the ear for up to 3 days.
Today many Western doctors are changing their opinions on the benefits of acupuncture and have found it to be of assistance as an alternative or adjunct to conventional treatments for a number of problems, including anxiety. Because it has so many positive effects on the body with minimal side effects, it is often considered an integrative medicine treatment plan.
Learn how traditional Chinese medicine is useful for treating anxiety disorders. Acupuncturists sometimes use a method called the four gates in order to help alleviate stress. Learn more about this and how it can help you by viewing this video.