Acupuncture is the most commonly practiced branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the United States. It originated in China over 2000 years ago. Acupuncture is the use of very fine needles at specific sites on the body in order to achieve a desired healing effect.
Qi is the life energy that flows throughout the body. The Chinese have mapped the pathways, or meridians, through which the qi flows. When the flow of Qi is abnormal or blocked, this disharmony creates disease.
Western science has demonstrated that acupuncture points are points of decreased electrical resistance on the body. There are devices that can be used to locate these points. Acupuncture points correspond with major nerve pathways, nerve-blood vessel junctions, nerve tendon-sheath junctions. Each acupuncture point causes the release of a different set of neurohormones, or neurochemicals. It's like having a computer keyboard with direct access to the neurohormonal system.
The skill of the acupuncturist determines the degree of success in treatment. The acupuncturist who has a clear understanding of the depths of Chinese Medicine will have a much deeper and more powerful effect than someone who uses a cookbook approach.
Some people are afraid of acupuncture because they believe it is painful. The needles are much smaller than those we use for injections, so there is not as much sensation when they pierce the skin. If there is pathology where the needle is placed, then the patient may get the sensation of a little electric shock. Usually, after a few minutes, the body begins to release endorphins, and the patient relaxes noticeably. My patients begin to yawn and stretch under treatment. Some fall asleep with needles placed.
There are many different techniques. The most commonly used technique is classical needling. Needles are placed and either left in, or twirled. The time and technique depend on whether sedation or stimulation is needed.
Another technique is electro-acupuncture. Copper needles are placed and attached to an electro-stimulator. A tiny current is allowed to run between needles. This is especially helpful in patients with intervertebral disc disease, wobblers disease, and paralysis.
Moxa is a herb with warming medicinal properties. Moxa can be burned over the head of placed needles, or directly over acupuncture points. Moxabustion is used in cases whose origin is cold or damp. For example, the arthritic patient who is stiffer when the weather is cold and damp.
Acupuncture is very versatile and can be used effectively for most conditions. It is most commonly used in the West for conditions of chronic pain such as arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, paralysis, epilepsy, allergies.
Initially, treatments are more frequent. For acute cases like intervertebral disc disease, we treat daily for three days. Then begin every three to seven day treatments until the patient is better. For chronic cases like arthritis, we begin treatment weekly, then as the patient feels better and the herbals begin to take effect, we spread treatments out. Eventually we reach a point that we are seeing the pet for occasional "tune-ups", which average every three weeks to every six months depending on the patient.
I have been treating patients with acupuncture for 24+ years and have had great success with many patients with chronic conditions that hadn't responded to Western medicine.