Simplifying Acupuncture

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By Elaine E.

Before I begin, I must say I’m not an expert, but I am a traveler and love to experience new cultures and types of alternative medicines. Acupuncture has been foreign to me until recently, but now I think I’d like to try it. I’m simplifying acupuncture, so I can help myself and others better understand this unique practice. I hope you find this article helpful.

What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese, alternative medicine used to ease stress and tension in the body. When you think of acupuncture, what comes to mind? When I first heard of acupuncture, all I could think about was huge, painful needles. Some people might think of acupuncture as a painful practice, but the most known practice involves small, thin needles (Harvard Health Publishing). The needles are placed at “acupoints,” which are specific points in the body where the needle is places.

So, hearing about needles going into the body leads me to one question:

Is acupuncture safe?

The answer is yes and no, depending on the acupuncturist. In China, the FDA supervises acupuncture. They make sure that the needles are sterile, the herbs used are safe, and that you find a credible acupuncturist. If you receive acupuncture, make sure that it is by someone who is well-known, and someone you can trust. To find a credible acupuncturist, check out sites such as NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine).

What are Meridians and Chi?

So, let’s talk a little bit about the history of acupuncture. Acupuncture originated in China around 100 B.C. and involves “qi” and “meridians.” The word “qi” can be seen as “chi” in American culture, and it’s, more or less, used to describe ones life force . It’s important to balance ones chi so as to practice mindfulness. Also, meridians are used as a map for energy flow in the body (Harvard Health Publishing).

So, how does one know where acupoints are placed on the body?
They are placed on the meridians, which are 12 channels running lengthwise through the body. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, meridian, in relation to acupuncture, means “any of the pathways along which the body’s vital energy flows according to the theory behind acupuncture.” So, it’s important to have a trained acupuncturist who can find those meridians on your body.

Chinese-based Acupuncture:

• Thicker needles
• Manipulates the needles
• Created the moxibustion technique

Learning about other cultures is fascinating to me because I get to learn how we are alike and different. I think it’s pretty cool that China has developed many alternative medicine practices to help relieve many ailments in the body. Chinese culture really has the mindfulness aspect figured out.

China is where acupuncture originated, but other countries, including Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, have adopted their own techniques related to acupuncture. Now, we will talk about the techniques used in Chinese-based acupuncture. Chinese acupuncture uses thicker needles than other countries, so if you are scared of needles, it might not be the best option. Chinese acupuncture sometimes involves manipulating and adjusting the needles, as well as, applying heat to the skin using a therapeutic herb. This process is called moxibustion (Harvard Health Publishing).

In modern days, acupuncture is still popular in Chinese culture. To explain further, whole-body treatment involving meridians is popular in modern China (Kobayashi, Uefuji &Yasumo).

Japanese-based Acupuncture:

• Uses thinner needles
• Can use a tube insertion method
• Relies on touch and feelings

Japanese acupuncture uses thinner, finer needles than Chinese acupuncture, so it could be better to start off with the Japanese acupuncture. The needles are placed more on the surface and don’t go in as deep. An acupuncturist named Waichi Sugiyama created a needle insertion method using a tube. This process creates less pain during the insertion of the needle. It is “one of the most characteristic developments of Janpanese acupuncture in Japan” (Kobayashi, Uefuji & Yasumo).
Japanese acupuncture relies more on touch and feelings. In fact, many Japanese acupuncturists are blind, and, even now, it is thought to be a career for the blind (Kobayashi, Uefuji &Yasumo).

So, now that I have shown you a little bit about Chinese acupuncture and Japanese acupuncture, which one sounds best to you? Give it a try, find credible acupuncturists, and see if it benefits you.

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