How does acupuncture affect our body?

It has been known for a long time that conventional medicine is only a secondary form of natural medicine. The oldest history of our human civilization focused on diseases and ways of combating them. Of course, the development of technology and the possibilities it brings are favored by classical medicine and it is thanks to it that we can now make many diseases curable. On the other hand, science is worth watching, as it often discovers something that has long been invented. For example, quantum physics explains to some extent how many herbs and weeds work on human health. It therefore reveals something that folk knowledge has long possessed. Natural medicine has been a mystery to people for centuries. It is no different with acupuncture, which, although it helps, is often treated negligently or even with a slight distance. Is it right?

Natural, unconventional or non-traditional medicine?

Or maybe folk? There are many possibilities. Both acupuncture, herbal medicine and other activities on human health derived from the folk space, have a great relationship with the countries of the Far East. The first association here is naturally Tibet, Mongolia and China. Moreover, this association is completely correct, because it is in these ancient civilizations that special care for unconventional methods of treatment was born. Which does not mean that our lands or the lands of other continents have avoided popular beliefs. Even the form of ‘witch’ has survived in Polish, which was formerly referred to as herbalists who “know what for what” [1]. Only later did the name take on a pejorative overtone. Today, natural medicine merges with traditional medicine, although it still remains in its shadow. However, this does not mean that we should not use it. On the contrary! Therefore, it is worth asking yourself a few basic questions …

What is acupuncture?

Although today it is considered one of the methods of medicine, its lineage goes back thousands of years to the areas of ancient China. Acupuncture comes from the words ‘acus’, which means ‘needle’ from Latin, and ‘punctus’, which translates as ‘stinging’. Its Chinese name is “zhēnjiǔ”. It is inseparable from Far Eastern mythology. Acupuncture is a special, precise and controlled stimulation of places on the body, the so-called acupoints, in such a way that the stimuli we send open the energy channels (the so-called meridians), stimulate the functioning of the body and stimulate qi energy. The roots of acupuncture date back to the Stone Age. It was then that the peoples of today’s Mongolia first used stone knives, then stone or bamboo needles to treat various ailments. A unique form of acupuncture was the Chinese method of treatment with bian stones. These are specially sharpened fragments of a meteorite that fell many million years ago in the Far East. The first texts relating to acupuncture were also written in antiquity, and are already around 2,500 years old!

The work called The canons of internal medicine of the Yellow Emperor it conquered the world there and set the treatment for many centuries. So it is clear that the rooting of acupuncture in the history of humanity goes back to very distant times. Moreover, according to the report The Lancet there is evidence that the method of puncturing the body has already been used in Eurasia [2]. All this creates a picture of a method of treatment that is complete and integral with history, which today is included in the group of unconventional methods used in many countries around the world.

Map of our body

Each acupuncture treatment focuses on the appropriate stimulation of a specific part of the body. According to ancient beliefs and the assumptions of traditional Chinese medicine, the human body can be divided into many zones in which there are energy channels corresponding to specific organs or parts of muscles and other “elements” of the human body. In this way, a map has been created that shows roughly where the nerve endings and meridian connections in our body are.

(…) one can influence the system regulating the energy flow in the meridians, consisting of a series of active points on the map of the entire human body. If this flow is not uniform, ie too high or too low, there is pathology or disease in the organ or area [3].

Scientifically proven mechanisms of acupuncture

Acupuncture treatments are designed to relieve pain and clear energy channels. Medical issues are explained in detail by Professor Piotr Woźniak from the Polish Society of Acupuncture:

Discussions about whether the meridians exist or not have been going on for many years, but at the moment we explain the effects of acupuncture on the basis of knowledge about the functioning of the nervous system. The flow of the nervous signal in the extra-neuronal system is scientifically proven. In 2004, prof. Helene Langevin has published papers based on the use of electron microscopy and incl. thanks to this, we are one step closer to confirming what the Chinese noticed 5000 years ago. [4]

The way of using needles plays an important role in the process of acupuncture treatments. Although it seems that the invasion of the needle in the body – in this case it is worth remembering, for example, the injections – must be painful, it turns out that the pain in this case is much less than with the injection. Why? First of all, this is due to the specificity of acupuncture. The doctor does not puncture the body to cut the tissues, thereby tearing the sheath of the pain nerves, which will signal the brain immediately. The needles about which I am talking about are rounded, which allows the tissue to be disassembled, stimulating its structure from the outside, not inside. Therefore, during the procedure, the doctor inserts the needles into the patient’s body at the right angle and to the appropriate depth, in places that exactly correspond to the flow of energy and nerve channels. In this way, it can precisely stimulate the nerves and stimulate them to the desired responses.

Generalization in acupuncture treatment

During the procedure, you should insert as few needles as possible. Their number, of course, depends on the specific form of action, but a properly performed procedure should
rationally limit their number. What rules should we still remember?

  • The optimal number of needles: from 10 to 15;
  • The injection depth depends on the patient, but it is assumed that the needle does not go deeper than 0.5 cm;
  • The site of invasion is important. The forehead is different, the feet are different, and the abdomen is different. The angle of insertion of the needle also depends on the place and specificity of the patient;
  • The number of treatments is, of course, an individual matter, but an average number of treatments is a series of 10 treatments with a frequency of 3 – 4 treatments per week.

The specificity of acupuncture needles

However, not every needle is suitable for acupuncture procedures. First of all, they must be disposable needles. Therefore, sterilization is not an option. Theoretically, the procedure may cause the needle to break, but its design rather precludes such events. It is an object made of flexible materials, and at the same time it is full, so different from the one we are used to with injections. This allows it to bend but not break. Traditionally, needles are divided into three types:

  • Korean – a handle wrapped with a tight, metal wire, most often steel or copper, less often silver or gold. The absence of a loop at the end dissipates energy qi and therefore does not circulate it. They correspond to the Korean school;
  • Japanese – not closed with a loop, made using a different production technique. The holder of these needles consists of a steel tube which is clamped over the needle. Art of the Japanese acupuncture school;
  • Chinese – the most common. A loop made of the same material as the handle is to make the energy qi it will circulate by penetrating the needle and re-entering the body. The handle itself is tightly wrapped with steel, copper or silver (rarely gold) wire.

Needles are also distinguished by the length and width of the blade. The most common length is 40 mm. Treatments in more difficult places may require 50 mm. In turn, needles up to 15 mm are used for the face, ears and su jok. Precise and accurate. The longest needles can be up to 100 mm and can be used for specialized treatments or on special occasions. By contrast, the blade diameter is a tenths of a millimeter difference. Typically it is 0.12mm to 0.30mm. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the diameter, the sharper the needle. The specialty of these treatments and their precision mean that only specialized doctors can deal with this type of treatment. There is no comprehensive training in Poland that would allow to educate the generation of acupuncture doctors. It is quite different in the West and, of course, in the Far East. Only doctors who have experienced the art of Eastern medicine can firmly say of themselves as specialists. It is worth remembering that acupuncture is a method of treatment, and therefore a method that, in the first place, is not to harm.

About what it helps, and where should not be used?

So what can we use acupuncture for, so that it would be helpful and relieved in hardships of pain? Let the experts speak again:

Here is Professor Piotr Woźniak once again:

The classic is the treatment of pain, as well as migraines, joint and bone pain. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, accelerating repair processes, e.g. healing. In addition, acupuncture has a positive effect on functional changes resulting from disorders of the vegetative system.[5]

And Dr. Łukasz Kmieciak, secretary of the Polish Society of Acupuncture:

Acupuncture is believed to have a neuromodulatory effect, i.e. it influences the conduction of pain impulses in the sensory pathways, although some studies indicate that it influences the interpretation and perception of pain stimuli at the brain level. [6]

What does this mean exactly? Acupuncture works in three ways. First – local. It affects blood vessels. It widens them, which changes their permeability and diameter. The second level is a segmental response based on nerve reflexes. It takes place adjacent to the puncture, in the tissues. The third and last level is related to central effects and the secretion of endorphins during the procedure. This directly stimulates the nerve centers in the brain. What can it be used for:

  • treating migraines
  • against headaches of various origins;
  • for neuralgia and muscle pain;
  • for pain in the sinuses and teeth;
  • for PMS syndrome and painful menstruation;
  • various types of pains: postpartum, postoperative, childbirth, cancer;
  • with attacks of kidney stones;
  • in allergic diseases, asthma, hypertension or coronary diseases – as an adjunct.
Acupuncture can also relax our body and bring it to rest. Thus, it can be used as an antidote to stress. The best solution is to use acupuncture where we can bypass pharmacology. In this way, we will allow our body to rest, and at the same time we will reduce the amount of toxic substances that we introduce into it every day, also in eating and drinking.

However, as Professor Piotr Woźniak says, acupuncture should not be used as a medicine for all evil:

I believe that we are not well educated yet to cure cancer with acupuncture. The essence of cancer treatment is inhibition (i.e. removal of the tumor mass and suppression of the disease with either chemotherapy or radiotherapy or derivatives), and we cannot judge to what extent we inhibit this process and whether we accidentally reignite it [7].

Then he clarifies by adding:

In my opinion, cancerous diseases are contraindicated in acupuncture treatment. Of course, the exception is in the field of palliative medicine.

Above all, however, acupuncture should not be used where full diagnostics have not been performed. If for some reason we have not ruled out the causes of the ailments that require more effective and specific therapy, we should not start a series of acupuncture treatments. Doctors, in an attempt to prevent inappropriate treatment effects, recommend an initial pain blocker, and only then begin treatment with the methods of ancient Chinese wisdom.

Although acupuncture treatments are not that popular in Poland, and the development of the Polish Acupuncture Society does not resemble what is happening in China, Japan, Tibet or Mongolia, but also in Great Britain or France, it is worth asking specialists for help. When choosing doctors, we should be guided by their experience, history of science and the place they come from, because acupuncture treatment requires a change in the way of thinking and perceiving the world of medicine. However, it is worth getting to know your own body and letting wisdom triumph.

Footnotes:

[1] Cf. Witold Mańczak, Polish Etymological Dictionary, p. 216, Kraków, Polish Academy of Learning, 2017.

[2] http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673698122420/fulltext, accessed on: 23/03/2018.

[3] Gazeta Lekarska, interview with prof. dr. hab. Piotr Woźniak, president of the Polish Society of Acupuncture, http://gazetalekarska.pl/?p=34613, accessed: 23/03/2018.

[4] prof. dr. hab. Piotr Woźniak, president of the Polish Society of Acupuncture, http://gazetalekarska.pl/?p=34613, accessed: 23/03/2018.

[5] Gazeta Lekarska, interview with prof. dr. hab. Piotr Woźniak, president of the Polish Society of Acupuncture, http://gazetalekarska.pl/?p=34613, accessed: 23/03/2018.

[6] Gazeta Lekarska, interview with prof. dr. hab. Piotr Woźniak, president of the Polish Society of Acupuncture, http://gazetalekarska.pl/?p=34613, accessed: 23/03/2018.

[7] Gazeta Lekarska, interview with prof. dr. hab. Piotr Woźniak, president of the Polish Society of Acupuncture, http://gazetalekarska.pl/?p=34613, accessed: 23/03/2018.

[8] Idem.

The scope of our assistance:

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Classical medicine - internal medicine

Traditional Tibetan-Mongolian Medicine (TMM)

Eastern Traditional Medical Systems (TSM)

Prof Enji’s books

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