ACUPUNCTURE + MOXIBUSTION 针灸
Acupuncture and moxibustion (zhēn jiǔ 针灸) comprise one of the eight branches of Chinese medicine. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine, single-use needles into specific acupuncture points on the body. This regulates the flow of vital life force (qì 氣) and Blood (xuè 血) throughout the acupuncture channels, thereby initiating one's inherent ability to restore balance and alleviate pain. Moxibustion involves burning moxa (mugwort or ài yè 艾叶) on or near an individuals skin to warm the body, invigorate the flow of qì and Blood, and alleviate pain. There is a saying in Chinese medicine: “If there is no free flow, there is pain; if there is free flow, there is no pain.” Therefore, the primary goal of our time together is to assess where and why there is a lack of free flow of qì and Blood, and then to restore it. The acupuncture channels form a complex, interconnected web which integrates the entire body. Because of this interconnectivity, acupuncture needles are often inserted in places away from your chief complaint. For example, headaches may be treated by performing acupuncture on the hands or feet, or digestive problems may be treated with needles around the knees or elbows. A well-balanced acupuncture treatment treats you systemically, therefore you may notice an improvement of your chief complaint along with better digestion, sleep, mental clarity, emotional balance, deeper breathing, and a general sense of wellbeing.
Contemporary research indicates that acupuncture modulates the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. It affects several neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, such as serotonin which helps with depression, anxiety, and addictions. It also affects oxytocin which is involved in regulating the parasympathetic nervous system, our 'rest and digest' operating mode. This is important in the treatment of stress-related illnesses because modern society is often running the sympathetic nervous systems ‘fight or flight’ operating mode. Switching us into a parasympathetic state helps to drop muscle tension, slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve digestion, moderate breathing, and balance reproductive organ function. Acupuncture also increases norepinephrine which relieves pain and suppresses nervous tissue inflammation. The insertion of an acupuncture needle activates a release of endorphins which are natural pain-killers. It increases blood circulation and dilates blood vessels, thereby delivering oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, hormones and immune factors to imbalanced areas of the body. It also increases white blood cell count and antibody levels. Additionally, the insertion of an acupuncture needle creates a micro-trauma which activates the body’s innate ability to heal this micro-trauma, and this process benefits any lingering tissue damage around this micro-trauma.
Acupuncture treatments often incorporate ancillary therapies such as cupping, scraping, massage, and energy work, all of which are explained below.
Cupping (bá guàn 拔罐) involves creating a partial vacuum within a cup which is adhered to the skin as a kind of reverse massage. This relieves muscular tension, releases fascial adhesions, and increases blood flow to the tissues. The partial vacuum draws stagnated blood and toxins away from nearby tissues and organs to the surface for elimination, thereby allowing fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients into the tissues. Cupping leaves darkened circles which disappear within a few days to a couple of weeks.
Scraping (guā shā 刮痧) is the practice of rubbing a smooth-edged tool across lubricated skin to relieve muscular tension and fascial adhesions. Guā refers to the scraping action, and shā refers to the characteristic local darkening or redness of the skin that occurs. Often used to treat muscular tension, guā shā is also used to treat colds and flus, headaches, and support some chronic illnesses. It increases micro-circulation, suppresses pain, reduces inflammation systemically, and promotes lymphatic drainage.
Massage (tuī ná 推拿) has been used in China for thousands of years to heal illnesses and maintain health. Techniques used are specific to one's concern, such as rubbing, grasping, pressing, rolling, some gentle pounding, and acupressure. These techniques are employed to warm the body, promote the circulation of qì and Blood to relieve pain, and improve the functioning of the internal organs. It can be used for muscle tension, the common cold, and disorders of the internal organs.
ENERGY WORK 氣功
Energy work (qìgōng 氣功) involves physical postures, movements, meditations, and breathing exercises to regulate qì flow to relieve tension held in the body, and to promote overall wellbeing. When qì is used as medicine, this is known as medical qìgōng. It can be used to harmonize the flow of qì, such as clearing areas of stagnation and supplementing areas of deficiency, to assist the body’s innate healing capacities. This may be incorporated into an acupuncture treatment and/or prescribed for home practice.