Acupuncture is one aspect of Chinese and Tibetan medicine. Using acupuncture outside of the full discipline of these medical philosophies can be likened to using physiotherapy and no other treatment when dealing with orthodox medicine.
Acupuncture is thought to have originated from the observations by Chinese physicians of their warriors who had been stabbed, speared or injured in battle. Specific wounds seemed to create changes, depending on their placement superficially in the body.
The West has adopted the attitude that the placing of very thin needles at strategic points around the body causes the release of endorphins and enkephalins – the body’s natural opiates – to create pain relief and a ‘feel-good factor’. Whilst there is definitely evidence for the release of these. chemicals, it only occurs at some of the known acupuncture points and is only one part of the acupuncture principle.
In truth, and perfectly scientifically provable on the basis of observation, the acupuncture points are stimulatory areas along energy lines known by the Chinese as meridians and the Tibetans as channels. The Tibetans have many points along known nerve routes, whereas the Chinese have little correlation with these. Stimulation of these points increases, decreases or varies the energy in these lines. These channels or meridians represent organs or systems within the body, mind and soul of a human being.
Acupuncture treatment consists of inserting fine needles into the skin to correct the imbalances or disharmony discovered in your meridians or channels. The acupuncturist will first ask you questions and examine you in ways that other medical systems may not find important. For example, he may feel the palms of your hands and look at your tongue. He will also feel your pulses at both wrists. On the basis of his understanding of the ‘symptom picture’, he will will decide where to place the needles, the depth to which they need to be placed, the application of heat and the need to apply movement to the needles .
There are twelve principal meridians, each corresponding to an organ or function of the body. In addition there are two special meridians, the
Conception vessel, and the Governor vessel. In the Chinese tradition, each meridian is associated either with Yin or Yang, and with one of the five elements.
Acupressure is an ancient healing art based on the same principles as acupuncture except that, instead of needles, finger or thumb pressure only is used to harmonize the flow of energy through the body. There is evidence that acupressure was used even earlier than acupuncture, when the Indians first documented some basic principles of massage over 5,000 years ago. The Japanese have advanced this therapeutic application of massage and from it developed the technique now known as Shiatsu.
Application of pressure, either gentle or deep, to specific pressure points can stimulate the meridians or channels in the same way as acupuncture. Unlike acupuncture, it can be performed at home either as a self-treatment or to treat other members of the family. If you know the right pressure points to use it makes an effective first-aid measure for pain or cramps. Acupressure massage will also boost the immune system, relieve stress and fatigue and treat many common ailments. It is effective for chronic conditions including insomnia and joint pain and stiffness, and for acute ailments such as indigestion and headaches. In addition acupressure will release lymphatic blockages and help relieve ‘knots’ in muscles.
The points and meridians, which correspond to those in acupuncture charts, are pressed for at least 20 seconds with the thumb, middle or index finger, whichever feels most comfortable. This pressure may be varied in intensity according to the condition being treated. For example, for fatigue or lack iDf energy the point needs to be stimulated and this is achieved by applying deep clockwise pressure; to sedate a point for pain or stress-related conditions, somewhat lighter, anticlockwise pressure is applied. When the person you are treating feels slight discomfort or tenderness under pressure you will know that you have found the exact point. Points on the body will usually need firmer, more prolonged pressure than those on the face.