Acupuncture is an art of healing where very fine needles are introduced into the skin for curing a disease at quite definite spots called acupuncture points. The usual inference that could be drawn from this is that it might be a very painful procedure, but the reality is just contrary to it. The needle prick is hardly as painful as an ant-bite.
The acupuncture points are about 700 in number and they have their definite places on the body-surface. Most of the acupuncture points fall in the pathway of the regular channels (or meridians) through which the vital energy chi flows on the surface and inside the body, but many of them are situated beyond the pathway of the channels in other different places in the body. In disease when the balance of yin and yang, which should always be in equilibrium, is disturbed, these tiny spots (acupuncture points) are needled and it is believed that this process brings back the disturbed balance of yin and yang into equilibrium. It is not always that needles are used, but there are other methods of acupuncture used in day-to-day practice as follows:
- With needles
a. By using hand manipulation for stimulation.
b. By using elect rical stimulation.
c. By applying heat to the needles.
By using heat of moxa rolls and moxa powder on acupuncture
- Acupressure Massage on acupuncture points.
How Acupuncture Works
The logical question at this time is: ‘How does acupuncture work? This is not an easy question to be fully answered with the present knowledge about it. After several decades of dedicated research we know very little of how the normal nervous system functions in a healthy, let alone a diseased, body. Serious research on acupuncture commenced only a few years ago, and such a short period has been insufficient to unravel the entire mechanism of the complicated neurophysiological phenomenon which acupuncture evidently is. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that acupuncture works in a great variety of ways in different disorders and its action must therefore be assumed to vary to some extent with each type of pathology. Nevertheless, many aspects of its actions are now being understood in ‘the light of recent research and those are being placed together in an attempt to solve the enigma.
First of all, it is necessary to be clear about what really happens when a very fine needle is inserted into an acupuncture point on the body surface. The effects observed are both subjective and objective. One of the subjective effects may be a slight pain at the point of needling, but with the use of proper techniques by a trained acupuncturist this is usually negligible. Another important subjective effect is appearance of a peculiar sensation which is called dequi in Chinese. There is no exact equivalent for this term in English but it is usually translated as “taking’ Dequi“.is a combination of slight soreness, heaviness, numbness and distention.
Effects of Acupuncture
As regards the objective effects produced by needling, six different effects are recognized.
Analgesic (Pain killing) Effect
This is brought about by lowering of the pain in the different parts of body. This is the physiological basis of acupuncture anesthesia and also explains how acupuncture is able to relieve the pain of arthritis, toothache, headache, backache and other painful disorders. Some acupuncture points are more effective in this respect than others. This is an example of what is called the specificity of acupuncture points.
Some people may even fall sleep during treatment but wake up refreshed . It has been shown that there is a decrease in delta and theta wave activity on the electroencephalogram during acupuncture treatment. These effects are utilized in the acupuncture treatment of insomnia, anxiety states, addiction, epilepsy and behavioral problems.
This means adjustment of the internal environment of the body towards a state of proper balance. Normally homeostatism is maintained by balanced activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and also by the glandular system. In addition there are numerous homeostatic mechanisms in the body for regulating the respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, urinary excretion, metabolic rate, sweating, temperature, etc. Ionic balance of the blood and many other parameters are seriously deranged in many diseases, and in such cases acupuncture has been found very helpful in restoring the original state of equilibrium. Very often the same set of points can be used for treatment for opposite conditions like high and low blood pressure, or diarrhea and constipation. These are examples of the homeostatic or normalizing action of acupuncture.
Under the acupuncture treatment body resistance to a disease is strengthened. This has been shown to be due to an increase in the white corpuscles (leucocytosis), antibodies, gammaglobulins and other biochemical substances which increase the resistive power of the body. In many cases a two-to four-fold increase in antibody titre has been observed, presumably brought about by activation of the reticuloendothelial system. Acupuncture is therefore very useful in controlling a large number of infections.
Effects on Motor Action
This is meant for motor recovery in patients who have been paralyzed due to one cause or another. Even late cases of motor paralysis respond well to acupuncture therapy despite previous failure with other systems of therapy. The explanation which is complex, apparently involves antidromic stimulation of the anterior horn, nerve cells are reactivated through a biofeed mechanism operating through the Renshaw and Cajal cells of the spinal cord or their cranial equivalents.
Acupuncture is quite effective in tonifying the body. The effects which are being achieved by prescribing various vitamins, proteins and anabolic steroids in cases like chronic illness, fatigue and old age can be produced by stimulating acupuncture points.
This has a calming and tranquilizing action apart from mere sedation.
“This is believed to be due to some action on the mid-brain. Measurable effects have also been reported on the metabolic chemistry of the brain tissue. For instance, there is an increase in the dopamine content of the brain after acupuncture. This may account for its effectiveness in certain mental disorders and in parkinsonism in which there is considerable depletion of the dopamine content of the brain.