The Basis of Acupuncture
Traditional acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (chee), which can be loosely translated as energy. Qi flows in meridians (or channels) throughout the entire body and over all of its surface area.
In Chinese medicine, the health of the body as a whole and its relationship with the external environment manifest as the condition of health the person experiences. If the physiology is balanced internally and is in harmony with the environment externally, then Qi flows easily throughout the meridians and is able to nourish the tissues and organs. If one of the channels is blocked, the Qi is disrupted and cannot flow easily and smoothly. And when Qi cannot flow properly the body's innate balance is disrupted and illness results.
Acupuncture points are very particular locations on the meridians where Qi is accessible and concentrated. Acupuncture regulates the flow of Qi. This process brings Qi to areas that are deficient and drains areas that are in excess. Thus, acupuncture helps to bring the body back to homeostasis by rebalancing or regulating Qi. When the body is closer to equilibrium, health is restored and the body’s ability to heal itself is increased.
A Western Medicine Perspective
To the human body, acupuncture needles are a physical stimulus. In Western science, a stimulus is defined as a detectable change in either the external environment or within the body itself. When the body detects change, it produces a response. Although acupuncture is not yet fully understood by Western science, with modern technology scientists can now actually begin to "see" the body's response to acupuncture. For example, by using an MRI, researchers have shown that when an acupuncture needle is inserted at specific acupuncture points on the body, corresponding changes occur in the brain.
Research shows that acupuncture points stimulate the central nervous system to release pain-relieving chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. Acupuncture also stimulates the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which control parts of the nervous and endocrine systems, many of the body's essential hormones, and functions such as sleep, temperature regulation, and appetite. Research suggests that acupuncture may also alter brain chemistry by affecting the release of neurotransmitters, biochemical substances that stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses, and neurohormones, chemical substances that impact the activity of our body's organ systems.
Acupuncture can be seen as a bridge that is able to affect and integrate different systems of the body, such as the nervous, endocrine, pituitary, circulatory, reproductive, and digestive systems. Because of these broad effects, acupuncture can create profound changes in the self-regulating and self-healing systems of the body.
Chinese Food Therapy
The ideas of yin and yang are used in the sphere of food and cooking. Yang foods are believed to increase the body's heat (eg. raise the metabolism), while Yin foods are believed to decrease the body's heat (eg. lower the metabolism).
In Chinese medicine, there are not ‘good’ foods or ‘bad’ foods; there are appropriate foods and inappropriate foods for each individual, just as there are appropriate herbs for each individual depending on what their health needs are. Like herbs, foods have different energetic qualities; they can be warming or cooling for example. In Chinese Medicine, food therapy is simply part of the larger system of medicine which includes acupuncture and herbalism.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal therapy, next to dietary therapy, is perhaps the most widely used Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment modality. TCM relies on herbal therapies both for the treatment of illness and in the optimization of health and prevention of disease.
Herbal medicine uses plants and natural substances for therapy or medicinal purposes. It is the world’s most ancient form of healing. Studies of herbs and their medicinal properties were prominent in the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, Greece, Tibet, Persia and India. In some cultures, herbal knowledge was said to have been handed down from the gods. Much of this knowledge is still used today and has been proven effective in modern clinical testing.
An estimated three-quarters of the world’s population, especially those in developing countries, rely on herbal medicine. Almost a quarter of all modern prescription drugs, including aspirin, are derived from plant sources.
Herbs are highly specific in their actions, and an herbal formula will contain a range of herbs that not only possess different qualities and properties but also target different aspects of the patient’s disharmony. In addition, certain individual herbs address several different functions at the same time. Overall, the herbal practitioner has to weigh up many factors when preparing a formula, but the benefits for patients can be substantial.
Chinese herbs are selected and combined into formulas based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory. The majority of Chinese herbal formulas include four herbs or more. Since each herb has its own relative nature, every item in an herbal prescription affects the body’s balance to some degree.
Craniosacral Therapy started in the osteopathic community in the early 1900s as a way to feel restrictions in the cranial bones and fascia. By freeing the cranial cones and the fascia, the practitioner is able to assist the body in regaining normal function in the nervous, lymph, hormonal, myofascial, and gastrointestinal system. Craniosacral therapy is a whole person therapy focusing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Craniosacral therapy is founded on the belief that the body knows exactly how to heal. The role of the physician is to help you heal yourself and facilitate the healing process. The primary goal in a session is to not only treat your condition, but maximize your health overall.
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on therapy that follows the subtle movement of your fascia or connective tissue. The physician will lightly place (less than a nickel weight of pressure) her hands-on areas of restriction that facilitates the body to gently release fixations. During the session, the person is fully clothed and the therapist evaluates restrictions in movement from different parts of the body. A session usually lasts one hour but that can vary depending on the condition.
Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the skin to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood, energy or other humors to the surface. The suction is created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame. Flames are never used near the skin and are not lit throughout the process of cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups.
Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently moved across the skin - sliding cupping. Massage oils are applied to improve movement of the glass cups along the skin. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage- rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about fifteen minutes while the patient relaxes.
Benefits of cupping include: increased local circulation, improved lymphatic flow, release of scar tissue adhesion, relaxed muscles, release of fascial restrictions, and release of trigger points.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine aims to understand and treat the many ways in which the fundamental balance and harmony between Yin and Yang may be undermined and the ways in which a person's Qi or vitality may be depleted or blocked.
TCM views well-being as a dynamic balance between internal and external forces. Health is seen as the ability of an organism to respond appropriately to a wide variety of challenges in a way that insures maintaining equilibrium and balance. An imbalance may cause a disharmony in the system and, unless corrected, may eventually lead to a disease.
However, the tradition as a whole places great emphasis on lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. Chinese medicine recognizes that health is more than just the absence of disease and it has a unique capacity to maintain and enhance our capacity for well being and happiness.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing by encouraging the body's natural ability to relax and heal, and support the balance of mind, body and spirit. An increasingly popular alternative treatment for infections, stress, and other health problems.
As you breathe in the receptors in your brain respond to the chemicals in the essential oil. Aromatic molecules each convey a chemical message to the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system plays an important role in the thought center of the brain including emotions and memory.
The natural ingredients of the essential oils help relax a busy mind, calm stress, help sleep and reduce pain. When the aroma is smelled, the molecules of the essential oil moves from the nose through the body, bringing healing to the places that need it.