Acupuncture in Dallas: a modern way of looking at things
The clients at my Dallas acupuncture clinic always ask me this question: “So how does acupuncture work?”
It is a great question because acupuncture seems to address so many different types of conditions. Anything from pain management, fertility, digestive problems, allergies, respiratory illnesses, etc is, in many cases, effectively managed with Oriental Medicine.
What are the mechanisms behind the effect?
In Oriental Medicine, we use a completely different language to describe disfunction in the body. The body is thought of as an ever changing circulation of Qi, Blood, and Fluids which is constantly producing and circulating heat throughout the system. The organs and their related meridians, or energy pathways, will fall into a state of imbalance which we describe as excess or deficient. This organ/meridian imbalance can lead to a multitude of pathological factors which become observable. These factors include the accumulation of heat, phlegm, blood, or fluids. This state of accumulation would be classified as an excess. A state of defciency may involve blood, fluids, qi, or cold.
Using symptoms, pulse/tongue/abdomen diagnosis, and body constitution we can ascertain the location of the pathological factors and provide a directed treatment to adjust the body towards balance.
So this is how we view things purely from an Oriental perspective, but where does science fit into this picture?
I am only in my 9th year of practice so I have much to learn, but I have seen some things in the clinic that get my attention. So again, how does acupuncture work? When I am asked this I always feel compelled to attempt to bridge the gap between Oriental Medicine concepts and Western science.
I believe that we will never be able to pin down exactly how acupuncture works from a scientific perspective. I believe this because it has become clear to me that it works very differently in each individual, but it even works differently on the same person from treatment to treatment, even if the acupuncture treatment is exactly the same as the previous one.
I do, however, have a few hunches that I want to share.
There is a definite nervous system response with acupuncture that causes the body to move into a parasympathetic dominant response, or relaxation. Many people report that they enter a very deep rest, often noting that it feels deeper and more rejuvenating than sleep.
I have always felt that our bodies are supremely self intellegent and it is this intellegence that is allowed to come forward when we enter this state of rest during acupuncture. This, I believe is why there are countless styles of acupuncture out there and they all work well. Even “dummy acupuncture” used in double blind studies, which involves inserting needles very superficially into the skin where there isn’t an acupuncture point, is effective to some degree.
The counter point to this is that the body will enter a much deeper state if the acupuncture treatment is spot on, meaning that the pattern of imbalance is identified, the appropriate acupoints are chosen, and the point location and needling methods are precise.
It is said in the classical acupuncture texts that a beginner will cure 6 out of 10 patients, an expert will cure 7 out of 10, and the master will cure 9 out of 10. I believe this to be true. Acupuncture generally works well for the majority of the population even in the hands of a beginner. The great challenge of all practitioners is to continue to sharpen our observational skills and to keep studying the classical texts. This will ultimately lead to much more consistent results in the clinic.