In the beginning of acupuncture it was found that stimulation of a few specific areas on the human skin was capable of maintaining the equilibrium of the energy flow in the human body. In the stone age stimulation was carried out with sharp pieces of stone, bone and bamboo. This was called as “bians“. With the advancement of knowledge different types of metal needles like gold, silver and brass came to be utilized for the stimulation of acupuncture points. However, ancient methods of acupuncture are still widely applied around the world.
Acupuncture Stimulation Types
According to the traditional, Chinese concept, the acupuncture. points are located on the body surface on the meridian system. When they are stimulated by different methods, they are capable of bringing the equilibrium in the disturbed energy or qi. By adopting different methods of stimulation this energy can be tonified or sedated.
In the olden days it was a practice to heat acupuncture points and the following methods were used for it.
Direct heat: This was being done by putting a hot coin or by scarring the acupuncture point with red hot iron or by putting direct fire on the Ah-shi points.
This technique involved crude methods. In modern society this technique is not being used as this is painful and permanent scar formation also takes place.
Moxibustion: Moxibustion therapy involves treating the disease by heating a point by burning moxa wool to produce the heat on the certain points of the human body.
Cupping therapy: Cupping was known as the “horn method” in ancient times. This means the treatment of the diseases through local congestion or blood stasis by using a small jar or cup in which a vacuum is created by burning a piece of cotton soaked with alcohol kept inside the jar or cup so that the oxygen inside is consumed and the vacuum is created. Nowadays the cup is attached by suction to the skin surface over the selected points.
Acupuncture points can be stimulated by inserting the needle in different ways to get the desired effect. Two kinds of desired effects were achieved by different methods:
- Tonification (bu) or by inforcing energy, and
- Dispersion (xie) or by reducing or sedating energy.
The different types of needle insertions are explained below.
Superficial needling: Superficial needling of about 1/2 t-sun and less than that or subcutaneous needling in the body will tonify the energy or will increase the energy. It is used in chronic cases, polio, paralysis, hemiplegia, paraplegia, etc.
Deep Needling: Putting a deep needle at the point will sedate the energy and hence it is used in acute cases with painful conditions.
Along the direction of energy flow: Every meridian has a particular direction of flow of energy. When from a particular point if we pass a needle along the direction of flow of energy, it will tonify the energy or will increase the energy.
Against the direction of energy flow: If the needle is inserted against the direction of energy flow, it will sedate the energy.
Needling according to respiration: If we put the needle during inspiration it will tonify the energy, if we put the needle during expiration that will sedate the energy.
Slow or fast needling: Putting the needle rapidly and removing it slowly will cause the tonification of energy and putting the needle slowly and removing it rapidly will cause the sedation of energy.
Movements of Needles
Tapping: On the head of the needle with a Finger tip very slow tapping can be done about 20 to 30 times in a minute. This is a mild stimulation.
Up and down movement: Needle is held between the thumb and the index finger and slow up and down movements are carried out without taking out the needle from the skin at that point in the range of 1 cm and 5 to 20 times a minute. This is mild stimulation.
Rotating: The needle is held between the thumb and the index finger and is rotated by the fingers either clock-wise or counterclockwise about 15 to 20 times a minute.
Flicking: The needle is held between the thumb and the index finger and up and down movement is carried out with needle moving in the range of 2 cm and at a very fast rate about 50 to 60 times per minute. This is strong stimulation.
Vibration: The needle is held between the thumb and the index finger and given the vibration sideways and up and down movement about 30 to 40 minutes. This is again a strong stimulation.
Snapping: The needle is held between the thumb and the index finger and then with very fast rotatory movements by the fingers up and down movements are carried out about 40 to 60 times a minute. This is very strong stimulation. Rotatory or pill rolling movement is carried out simultaneously with up and down movement.
Heat Stimulation to the Needle
After the needle is inserted at the point moxa is applied to the head of the needle and ignited or alternatively the needle head is given a direct heat with a fire to the inserted needle for half a minute to 1 minute. This gives both the effects at a time where tonification as well as sedation or dispersion of energy is desired.