Most of us know a little bit about acupuncture- the idea of sticking very small needles at specific points around the body to alleviate disease, or at least, to alleviate pain associated with disease. But, for many, that's the extent of the knowledge, and to that extent, it may seem a bit hokey. As Americans, we understand pills and ointments and embrace the idea of massage to loosen tight, painful muscles. But needles? Put WHERE?? How can a needle placed in the wrist alleviate nausea or one in the hand temper a fever?
Acupuncture originated 3-4 thousand years ago in China when people began to notice that pressure applied to one place in the body generated altered sensation in another part of the body. How? In very simple terms: by stimulating the nervous system. Our bodies are covered by a vast and intricate neural network. The nerves all interconnect and "talk" to one another. Westerners call these "synapses", and easterners describe them as "meridians". With this in mind, it is really not difficult to imagine that a nerve in the hand might ultimately talk to one in the neck. Touch the one in the hand, and the pain of a stiff neck disappears.
In the practice of acupuncture, we understand that pain is due to an accumulation or "stagnation" of nerve impulses or "energy". By stimulating the nervous system, we can open up this flow of energy and alleviate the discomfort. We are all familiar with the idea of stagnation- think of the last bruise you had. You had a blunt trauma and the result was an accumulation of blood and inflammatory proteins- a bruise- in that area, and it hurt. THAT is stagnation. We see the accumulation of blood and we see the swelling, we FEEL the stagnation of the energy in that area. Alleviate the energy stagnation, and the pain (and, yes, the bruising) disappears. In the case of the bruise, your body gradually reabsorbed the blood, degraded the inflammatory proteins, and the pain resolved. But what about a larger injury, or a chronic one? The magnitude of the stagnation can overwhelm the body's ability to resolve it- the body becomes unbalanced- and the pain persists. This is where acupuncture can be very helpful. The stimulation of nerves along the appropriate networks (meridians) help rebalance the flow of energy, and alleviate the pain.
Take this one step further and you can apply this principle to any internal disease. Can there be stagnation in the liver? How about lack of energy in the spleen? Absolutely.
What causes disease? Western doctors and veterinarians, including myself, spend many years learning the pathophysiology of diseases, of which I am deeply committed to upholding. For example, I know and BELIEVE that seizures can be caused by liver disease or tumors or blood sugar derangements. But what about the case of "idiopathic epilepsy"?? This is the dog or cat or human who is NORMAL other than having seizures. This is the most common category of seizures. The mere word idiopathic MEANS "of uncertain or unknown cause". Couldn't it be that there is an energy imbalance? We acupuncturists certainly think so. By using the needles to redirect and rebalance the energy, we can see seizures become less severe and less frequent, with fewer medications and their side-effects.
The opportunities are almost endless. By applying the principle that disease occurs when the body is out of energetic balance- too much here, not enough there- you can use acupuncture as part of your treatment collective for almost any disease. To re-establish the balance and alleviate the disease is the goal. A goal that can be reached with the help of tiny metal needles.