Acupuncture consists of the latin words acus – needle, and pungere – to pierce. It is an ancient Chinese method of healing by means or the needles. The current Chinese term zhenjiu is used in a broader sense, as it denotes acupuncture (zhen-needling) as well as moxibustion (jiu – cauterization). In both cases the stimulation of nerve is brought up either by inserting needle on the spot of the definite points to a certain depth between the joints or into the muscular tissue using different methods of insertion or by cauterization on the spot of the definite points using different methods. This sort of stimulation is transferred into the central nervous system and can evoke either tonification or sedation of the affected nerve.
According to Cheng Dan’an stimulation brought about by acupuncture or moxibustion can evoke the following reactions:
- Tonification (xingfen). When the physiological function is weakened, as in the case of paralysed nerves, immobility of joints, atrophy of lungs, heart insufficiency and dyspepsia even mild stimulation is sufficient to tonify the function; middle stimulation can bring about tonification and restore the function.
- Sedation (yizhe). When the physiological function or some organ is over-active, as in muscular cramps, nervous hypersensibility, pain, secretion, inflammation, swellings, hyperemia etc., long lasting strong stimulation is necessary in order to alleviate the pain, suppress the inflammation and restore the function.
- Reflex (fanshe). It is used in the diseases of organs of five senses, brain and spinal cord. In this case direct stimulation cannot be used, but by stimulation of the contact points (lianxidian) the balance of the disturbed physiological function can be restored. For example the point fengchi G 20 is efficacious for curing the nervous terminations of the four limbs; the point tianzhu B to is suitable for the brain diseases and for diseases of the organs of the five senses, the points feishu B 13 and taiyuan L 9 for the lung diseases.
- Induction (youdao). When a disease is caused by overactive physiological function and it is not possible to affect the respective spot directly, strong stimulation is brought about in more remote places in order to remove congestion or hyperactivity. For example with apoplexy the needle is inserted into the point shixuan EP 11.
What to Do in Case of Shock
Diring insertion some patients may faint. It happens usually when the patients are afraid or are of rather weak nervous constitution or after application of too strong stimulation. Fainting, however, can be avoided. Statistically it has been proved that it occurs only in one percent of the cases.
In older literature the following steps are recommended when the patient faints: the patient is put into a lying position with his hands downwards and given water; in worse cases blood is released on all the tips of the ten fingers (shixuan EP 11) or on the spot of the point renzhong Gv 26; if this does not prove any effect, 3-7 zhuangs of moxa should be burnt on the spot of the point baihui Gv 20.
Patients who are afraid of needling, should lie down before the treatment. Lately many physicians are of the opinion that the treatment is especially efficacious with people prone to shock.
The Forbidden Insertions
Works of ancient Chinese medicine listed a whole group of points where acupuncture was forbidden. Modern textbooks hold different opinions as to the effect of these points. Some points formerly forbidden are now used quite frequently. Some points like hegu Li 4 or sanyinjiao SP 6, where a strong stimulation is brought up, are forbidden during pregnancy. Some points are even considered to cause sterility. For this reason the point shimen Cv 5 was for some time the centre of discussion, but most probably the fear was groundless. Too deep insertions into some points like yunmen L 2, jiuwei Cv 15, quepen S 12, kezhuren G 3 etc., may cause fainting and insertions into the inner organs are forbidden.
On the whole the following rule is valid: today the needle can be inserted wherever there are no arteries, veins and important organs. With pregnant women care must be taken when inserting the needle into the too effective points, which could lead to miscarriage.
Acupuncture should not be applied to people emaciated and weak owing to long lasting diseases, great loss of blood or long lasting fever or people in a state of excessive excitement, drunkenness, exhaustion, hunger, overeating etc.
How Long Does the Treatment Take?
For illnesses beginning with acute pain, such as headache, toothache etc. 1-5 insertions are sufficient. For chronic ailments such as persistent rheumatism of the joints, repeated headaches over many years etc., long term cycles of treatment are necessary. One treatment lasts twelve days. During that time there may be daily insertions for the first six days, and insertions every other day for the next six days. After this the patient must be left alone for one week before the next cycle can be started, usually with insertions every other day. In acute cases where there is a change for the better after the first six days there is no need to continue.
With chronic diseases if there is no change for the better after two treatment it means that acupuncture will not help and there is no sense in continuing. If there is a visible change for the better the treatment can be repeated and can last for 2 – 3 months. If the patient feels a tingling sensation after insertion there is a hope of curing the illness, if there is only a dull pain or no reaction, whichever insertion method is used, the illness will be difficult to cure or cannot be cured by acupuncture at all.
Which Illnesses Can Acupuncture Cure?
Even though Chinese physicians today are aware of the great achievements of acupuncture, they definitely do not regard it as a miraculous medicine that can cure all illnesses.
For some illnesses acupuncture is curative, for others it does not help at all and in other cases it just lessens some of the symptoms.
Li Qianxia in his book Practical Therapy with Acupuncture selected 96 illnesses for which the effects are most evident. Here we cite some a few of them: various types of paralysis and neuralgia , epilepsy, megrim, toothache, inflammation of the tonsils, hyperacidity of the stomach, gastralgia, intestinal catarrh, intestinal cramps, indigestion, inflammation of the bladder, inflammation of the urinary tract, gonorrhea, bronchitis, rheumatic inflammation of the joints, endometritis, menstrual difficulties, influenza, conjunctivitis, gláucoma, catarct, tinnitus, rashes, excessive perspiration etc.