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Acupuncture: Its History and Science Base

Originating in Asia some 2,500 years ago, Acupuncture is a major component of the Traditional Asian Medical System and the most commonly used of medicine in the world. In this system, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: Yin and Yang. Health is achieved by maintaining the body in a "balanced state" and disease is due to an internal imbalance of Yin and Yang. The major cause of imbalance in the body is stress. Stress to the body and mind can lead to such illnesses as allergies, asthma, colds, chest pain/angina, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic fatigue, diabetes, menstrual pain, insomnia, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of QI (vital energy) energy that is in every cell in our bodies along pathways known as meridians. There are hundreds of acupuncture points on the human body that connect with these meridians. During an acupuncture treatment, the Acupuncture practitioner inserts extremely fine, sterilized, one-use only, stainless steel needles into these acupuncture points in various, well documented point combinations. Acupuncture unblocks the flow of QI, reducing stress, bringing the body and its various homeostatic systems (i.e. central nervous system, autonomic / parasympathetic nervous systems etc.) into balance which then allows the body to begin to heal itself.

For a Western Medicine view of how acupuncture works, researchers at the National Institute of Health in the United States have studied at least three possible explanations:

Central Nervous System stimulation
Acupuncture stimulates your central nervous system — your brain and spinal cord — to release neurotransmitters and neuro-hormones that activate your body's natural healing abilities.

Opioid release
During an acupuncture treatment, endorphins that are part of your body's natural pain-control system are released into your central nervous system. This reduces pain.

Body function change
Acupuncture alters how your blood pressure, blood flow and body temperature are regulated as changes occur in the central nervous system. When an MRI image of the brain is taken as an acupuncture needle is placed almost anywhere on the body, the image “lights up” in areas considered to be in control of body functions such as appetite, breathing, body temperature, blood flow and blood pressure. So if for instance a patient is dealing with the health issue of poor appetite, acupuncture can help regulate the appetite to increase it.

Disorders and illnesses treatable with acupuncture

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of 40 common disorders that acupuncture treats effectively. In 1997, research by the NIH (National Institutes of Health, U.S.A.) confirmed this list of conditions. These conditions included: allergies, asthma, colds & flu, chest pain/angina, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic fatigue, diabetes, menstrual pain, sports and traumatic injuries, insomnia, stress relief, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, fears/phobias, PTSD, addictions (alcohol, nicotine, drugs, sugar, caffeine), ADD/ADHD, cancer pain and the effects of cancer-ridding therapies and many others.

PTSD & Acupuncture

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops following exposure to extreme traumatic stress. PTSD often yields flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, and hyper-vigilance experienced for longer than one month, with persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event(s). Yet, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also induces anxiety, depression, reduced libido, and somatic dysfunction including but not limited to pain and gastrointestinal disorders. Accordingly, PTSD and its persistence affects not only individuals but also family and community members and those charged with their welfare and care. It stresses and burdens all.

Acupuncture has continuously treated mental disorders across cultures, time and space. As evidenced by the Han Dynasty in China over 2,000 years ago, the most important Chinese medical text, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, described treatment strategies for psychological symptoms including hallucinations, anxiety, and nightmares. Modern textbooks also provide acupuncture protocols for depression, anxiety, and several other psychiatric disorders. Therefore, acupuncture protocols for PTSD are both logical and based on a long history of clinical use for psychiatric symptoms. Recent western science studies have also substantiated efficacy.




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