Prof. Dr. Andreas Nicolaou Principal & Director Neo-Hippocrates School Cyprus 30 successful years in Acupuncture Training & Practice
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The intent of acupuncture therapy is to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. The method by which this is accomplished, though it may seem strange and mysterious to many, has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be validated today.
China’s barefoot doctors were a major inspiration to the primary health care movement leading up to the conference in Alma-Ata, in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan in 1978. These health workers lived in the community they served, focused on prevention rather than cures while combining western and traditional medicines to educate people and provide basic treatment.
The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of “vital energy,” “energetic balance” and “energetic imbalance.” Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages traveling via the nervous system, the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this “vital energy” within its pathways, known as “meridians and channels”.
The acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these “meridians”. Traditionally these areas or “acupoints” were stimulated by fine, slender needles. Today, many additional forms of stimulation are incorporated, including herbs, electricity, magnets and lasers. Still, the aim remains the same – adjust the “vital energy” so the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time. This helps your body heal itself.
Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizies a number of theories which group acupuncture points together based on their functions and/or other relationships. Many of these theories are important in a clinical setting and are used, along with other theory and diagnostic information, to decide which acupuncture points will be used for a given condition
Japanese acupuncture has been well established as the primary form of health care for over a thousand years. An acupuncturist’s role was comparable to that of a modern physician. When Dutch and German medicine was introduced in the 19th century, the Western modality of medicine quickly became the dominant medical practice.
Today in Japan, acupuncture remains an integral part of the health care system, offered in conjunction with medicine. In North America, acupuncture has grown into what is now a common form of pain management therapy in many clinics and hospitals. The Washington Post reported in 1994 that an estimated 15 million Americans, or roughly 6% of the American population has visited an acupuncturist and has tried acupuncture for a variety of symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, nausea, arthritis, and digestive problems.
In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified acupuncture needles as medical instruments and assured their safety and effectiveness.
The medical community for the most part now accepts acupuncture and a growing number of medical schools, such as UCLA, include acupuncture training in their curriculum.
In 1997, the US National Institute of Health issued a report titled: “Acupuncture: The NIH Consensus Statement”. It stated that acupuncture is a very useful method for treating many conditions. It acknowledges the side effects of acupuncture are considerably less adverse than when compared to other medical procedures such as surgery or
Acupuncture is just one form of therapy used within the coherent system of healing known as Oriental Medicine. Oriental Medicine includes herbology, physical therapy, dietetics and special exercises (such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong), and is a complete medical system unto itself and is not another branch of modern Western medicine. Acupuncture evolved from principles and philosophies unique to Oriental thinking and Oriental Medicine, and is most effectively applied when done in accordance with those principles.
Acupuncture Mechanisms of Action
Several processes have been proposed to explain acupuncture’s effects, primarily those on pain. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to release chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain.
These chemicals either change the experience of pain or release other chemicals, such as hormones, that influence the body’s self-regulating systems. The biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being. There are three main mechanisms:
Conduction of electromagnetic signals: Western scientists have found evidence that acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulating points along these pathways through acupuncture enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at a greater rate than under normal conditions. These signals may start the flow of pain-killing biochemicals, such as endorphins, and of immune system cells to specific sites in the body that are injured or vulnerable to disease.
Activation of opioid systems: Research has found that several types of opioids may be released into the central nervous system during acupuncture treatment, thereby reducing pain.
Changes in brain chemistry, sensation, and involuntary body functions: Studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones.
Acupuncture also has been documented to affect the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes whereby a person’s blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature are regulated.
Preclinical studies have documented acupuncture’s effects, but they have not been able to fully explain how acupuncture works within the framework of the Western system of medicine.