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Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine involving the insertion of solid acupuncture implements (today we use needles) into the skin at specific points on the body to achieve a therapeutic effect by shifting qi (pronounced “chee”) / biochemistry. Nothing is injected. The needles alone stimulate the beneficial effects of acupuncture.
Acupuncture needles are solid, usually stainless steel, generally measure from 13-70 mm in length, and have variable diameters. The needles are very fine, flexible and rounded but sharp at the tip which minimizes insertion discomfort. They are ‘atraumatic’, meaning that they do not have a cutting edge like a hypodermic needle. Their design allows them to slide smoothly through tissues and makes them unlikely to cause bleeding or damage to underlying structures. They cause minor micro trauma that is quickly healed by the body after needle removal.
Acupuncture is based on a holistic view of the human body. It is used to encourage natural healing, improve mood and energy, reduce or relieve pain and improve the energy movement and biochemical function of affected areas of the body. It is safe and effective and is often successfully used as an alternative to medications and even surgery. Relief is often obtained with acupuncture when Western medical therapy has not been successful.
Acupuncture points (aka acupoints) are places on the skin that have a lower resistance to the passage of electro-magnetics than the surrounding skin and are part of a network of points that were mapped well over 2000 years ago by the ancient Chinese people. Most acupoints are found along ‘meridians’ that are believed to be the pathways by which energy or qi – including your biochemistry – flows through our bodies.
Typically, the needles are left in place anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes depending on both what is being treated and the nature of the patient. Patients are usually very relaxed once the needles are in place, and nearly always fall asleep during a treatment.
Needle manipulation is a Chinese medical practice to increase the healing potential of the treatment. But I have found over the years that it is not necessary in most cases to do this or at least not painfully. Unless requested or when inducing labor in overdue pregnant women, I do not overtly manipulate acupuncture needles once they are inserted. This sets my style apart from many therapists as it means both a decrease in pain responses and significant anxiety relief in patients who fear needles.
Most illnesses present with a core set of recognisable signs and symptoms, but the actual presentation of a particular illness will vary from person to person. For this reason, people with similar health conditions may receive quite different acupuncture treatments. From a selection of about 2000 acupoints, I choose acupoints in patterns to treat patients’ underlying system dysfunctions. In this way, every patient can be treated based on their particular illness presentation. As a patient’s condition changes and improves with treatment, the acupuncture point selection is adjusted and modified until the desired health outcome is achieved.
I have a Theralase cold laser that can be used in place of needles to stimulate appropriate acupoints. There is little to no sensation involved when receiving a laser treatment. I’ve rarely needed to use the laser for full body treatments as most patients are comfortable with the needles. However, I always use the laser for the Smoking Cessation Program and with younger children.
Auricular or ear acupuncture views the ear is a ‘micro system’, meaning that there is a point on the ear that represents nearly every part of the body. I usually do not offer auricular treatments on their own, except during Acupuncture Happy Hour events. But I often do include some auricular therapy as part of full body acupuncture treatments to improve treatment outcome. Occasionally I apply tiny round seeds or tiny magnets with special tape to various points on the ear that patients can press throughout the day to stimulate that body area beyond the clinic treatment. These seeds and magnets tend to remain stuck to the ears for up to five days, even with hair washing. I have beautiful Swarovski crystal + magnet auricular pellets too and use the money from their sale for various charities throughout the year.
Electro-acupuncture or TENS is known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Needles are electrically stimulated at various frequencies and voltages by attachment to a battery-powered TENS machine using wires with small alligator clips on the ends. I generally use milder settings so as to maintain a very comfortable treatment experience while still inducing a quality healing experience. Usually TENS is used to quicken pain management and muscle relaxation.
TDP Lamp & Moxibustion
Sometimes the needles are heated by either a TDP infra red lamp or by burning a piece of the herb, Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort or moxa), on the needle handle or by holding a cigar-shaped piece of tightly-packed ‘smokeless’ moxa near the handles of the needles. Both the lamp and moxa warm the needles which conduct the heat deeper into the body tissues and improve the therapeutic actions. Occasionally I burn specially prepared moxa pellets on thermal pads directly on some acupoints for a magnified response.
In a typical cupping session, a vacuum is created inside glass or plastic cups over body parts whereby body tissue is pulled inside the cup by the vacuum action. I use glass cups. I use a cotton ball which is soaked in alcohol, carefully light it on fire, then place it inside the cup to remove all the oxygen, thus creating a vacuum. As the cotton ball burns, I turn the cup upside-down over a specific body area. The vacuum created by the lack of oxygen anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the glass as the air inside the jar cools. It is quite safe when performed by a practiced therapist like myself.
Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balance and realign the flow of qi, break up obstructions, and create an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body.
Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will only be left in place from 10 to 15 minutes. Several cups may be placed on the body at the same time. Sometimes I will also apply small amounts of medicated oils or herbal oils to the skin just before the cupping procedure, which lets me move the cups up and down particular acupoints or meridians. A common side effect of cupping is bruising, but there is little to no pain from the procedure.
I use cupping primarily to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and congestion, some digestive disorders, many types of pain and to reduce swelling. Fleshy sites on the body, such as the back and stomach and, to a lesser extent, the arms and legs, are the preferred sites for treatment.
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