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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkHealth & Beauty | May 2009 

Acupuncture: An Ancient Way of Achieving Renewed Wellness
email this pageprint this pageemail usMarla Hoover - PVNN

Acupuncture, just the word conjures up fear and skepticism in many. Beyond the notion that it is only to become a human pin cushion what exactly is it and how does it work?

Acupuncture chart from Hua Shou (fl. 1340s, Ming Dynasty). This image from Shi si jing fa hui (Expression of the Fourteen Meridians). (Tokyo : Suharaya Heisuke kanko, Kyoho gan 1716).
The beginnings of acupuncture can be traced back for at least 2,500 years. According to Acupuncturist John Stuart Baker TCMD, who holds an Acupuncture degree from both the Alberta College of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine and the University of Bejing, China, the practice was spread and further developed its different subtleties along the Silk Road many centuries ago. The Silk Road is and extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent that connected Asia with the Mediterranean world including North Africa and Europe. As you can see it would have a significant impact on how this practice evolved and was introduced to other parts of the world.

Scientifically, acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into specific points on the body for pain relief or therapeutic reasons. According to Chinese medicine, a pre-scientific paradigm of medicine that has developed over several thousand years, acupuncture points are situated on the meridians along which Qi, or vital energy flows. These meridians consist of 12 invisible lines that carry energy throughout the body and can be associated with how the body's internal organs function.

Optimum health is when there is a balance of Yin and Yang within the body. Yin and Yang are the two interconnected forces that together along with Qi form the foundation of eastern medicine. "In the theory of Yin and Yang balance, problems can occur when Qi is not flowing, where there is no Qi coming off the internal organs. Simply put acupuncture reduces the resistance to free flowing Qi in the body. We are all born with a certain amount of original qi, which we get from out parents. That is why some people seem to be lighter and happier while others are more sluggish. It has to do with the amount of this orginal Qi. Alcohol, drugs, general health and other factors have to do with the amount of Qi that is received from the parent, which is why it is important to be in optimum health if you are going to conceive children yet most are not." said Baker.

During an acupuncture treatment a patient can be sitting or lying depending on the treatment area. Sterile needles are inserted in the proper spots, then gently tapped so that "Qi will come to the needle" said Baker. "It feels similar to fishing, when a fish hits the line; there is a tightening around a needle. That is when it is said, 'the Qi has arrived.'" For the patient there is a deep aching sensation when the needle reaches the correct depth. This I can attest to as I had my very first acupuncture treatment from Mr. Baker as research for this article. Typically between 10 and 20 needles can be used for one treatment. They are then left in place for 20 minutes. During this time I felt extremely relaxed.

"Acupuncture stimulates the branches of the nerves, but not the nerves themselves. As a result there are all kinds of trigger mechanisms, endorphins are released which causes the relaxation that is to be expected when all of the systems are working well, there is also extra cellular fluids being removed and blood being redirected to different areas of the body. As the Qi is released and begins to flow more freely along the channels, there is a subtle energy burst, a general feeling of increased well being after treatment which is in response to organs working better." said Baker. This may account for the increased vitality that I experienced post treatment.

Tatjana Haas, Professional Acupuncturist of Alkaemia Massage, states that "Acupuncture releases stress. Since all diseases are stress related, what is needed is to restore the natural balance. Unfortunately, we don't know what harmony is anymore. The goal of acupuncture is to achieve harmony which is disrupted by stress as the natural flow in our bodies is blocked. The needles open up the natural flow gain. And with acupuncture there are no side effects. The treatments use the energy in our bodies that is already there."

Studies of how acupuncture works has demonstrated that it can cause multiple biological responses that can occur both locally at the needle insertion site and at a distance to other structures within the central nervous system. This means that it can have an effect in the brain as well as the periphery. Acupuncture is commonly used in pain reduction by a variety of causes. This has been shown to occur due to the opioid peptides that are released during treatments. There is also evidence that stimulation by acupuncture can not only activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effect but that it can also alter the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Neurotransmitters are chemicals which relay, amplify and modulate signals between a neuron and another cell. A neurohormone is any hormone produced by neurosecretory cells, usually in the brain. Their activity is distinguished from that of classical neurotransmitters as it can have effects on cells distant from the source of the hormone. Immune function and regulation of central and peripheral blood flow have also been seen to change with treatments. This explains how the effects can be systemic.

Electrodes can be connected for additional stimulation to the needles for a more intense effect. Anyone who has seen the movie "The Matrix" will know what this looks like as the character Neo had this done for his muscular atrophy.

According to Mr. Baker, "Most patients will see some kind of results after the fist treatment and much improvement after three. We look for patterns of dis-harmony, one or two treatments should start to change the patterns."

Acupuncture can be used for a myriad of diseases and disorders. In 2003, the World Health Organization, WHO, published a landmark study on the effectiveness of acupuncture. Below is a list of diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials- to be an effective treatment:

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Hypertension, essential
Hypotension, primary
Induction of labour
Knee pain
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain
Renal colic
Rheumatoid arthritis
Tennis elbow

The same study showed there are also diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed as well as for where acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult. The entire report and these lists can be found at the WHO website.

Obviously the benefits of acupuncture have been outweighing the fear factor for dozens of centuries and it is now becoming considered one of the mainstream eastern modalities that are being used to achieve a higher degree of wellness.

John Stuart Baker Acupuncture is located in Marina Vallarta at Royal Pacifico. O44 322 135 3865

Tatjana Hass of Alkaemia Massage - Francisca Rodriquez 258. 223 4678

Marla Hoover is a practicing yogini, a registered RN, a Puerto Vallarta Real Estate professional and an accomplished journalist with over 300 published articles in both international and local print and online publications.

Click HERE for more articles by Marla Hoover.

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