What are acupuncture and Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine is a whole-person healing modality that has been in continuous practice for over 2000 years. Although it is commonly referred to in the US as ‘acupuncture’, acupuncture is merely one of the most widely-used of many treatments based on the Chinese medical theoretical system. These other treatments include Chinese herbal therapy, Shiatsu or Tui Na bodywork, acupuressure, moxibustion, cupping, Gua Sha, dietary and lifestyle advice, and various forms of movement therapy like Qi Gong or Tai Chi. This tradition regards human beings as complex energetic systems, from which spring both the physical body and the mind and spirit– so diseases and disorders of any one of these might affect any of the others, and treatment of any of these might influence symptoms of any of the others. Chinese medicine addresses physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual diseases and disorders by encouraging the patient’s energetic systems to balance the production and flow of qi (roughly, the energy or life-force), blood, and essence, and strengthening the systems to withstand the influence of external pernicious influences.
What is acupuncture and Chinese medicine good for?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that acupuncture has been conclusively proven to help the following. It is not considered a comprehensive list, but is a good indicator of the breadth of applicability of this medicine.
Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever) [allergies]
Biliary colic [gallstones]
Depression (including depressive neurosis, depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary [bacterial intestinal inflammation]
Dysmenorrhoea, primary [painful periods]
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm) [spastic stomach pain]
Facial pain, including craniomandibular disorders
Hypertension, essential [high blood pressure]
Hypotension, primary [low blood pressure]
Induction of labor [triggering childbirth]
Leukopenia [decreased number of white blood cells, infection risks]
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of [turning breech babies]
Morning sickness [in pregnancy]
Nausea and vomiting
Pain in dentistry (incl. dental pain, temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder [tendon or bursa inflammation in shoulder]
Renal colic [kidney stones]
Rheumatoid arthritis [autoimmune disorder initially affecting joints]
Sciatica [nerve pain from low back to leg]
What can I expect from a treatment? What do I need to do to prepare for it?
During an initial acupuncture treatment, I will ask you about your chief complaint, as well as your health history and general health. The acupuncture is performed on a massage table, and you will often remain fully-dressed; make sure your clothing will allow access to your legs to above the knee and your arms to your elbows. Most patients feel very little needle sensation, though other sensations are often experienced– most of which patients experience as pleasant and interesting. You will typically be left to rest with the needles in for 15-25 minutes. Other modalities, including bodywork, moxibustion, cupping, etc., may be used as well, and you can also be evaluated for herbal treatment during the same session. You should leave feeling relaxed and energized, although some patients report some fatigue after their first session.
Group acupuncture is performed at The Pilates Studio in Hadley with several other patients present. The interview and treatment are abbreviated, but the treatments are still very effective. Points on the head, arms and legs below the elbows and knees, and hands and feet are employed, so clothes can remain on and in-place.
Shiatsu treatments begin with a brief interview about goals and symptoms, followed by a diagnosis made with abdominal palpation. The bodywork is performed on a massage table or on a cushioned mat on the floor. Patients should wear stretchy, soft, comfortable clothing, like sweats or yoga clothes, which fully cover them, including clean socks.
None of these treatments are expected to fully resolve your problem during one session, though I aim to have you feel better each time. Your prognosis and treatment plan will vary by what issue you’re trying to address, how severe it is, how long you’ve had it, and your age and general health.