Logo Description | Seeds of Light | Resource Links | About Dr. Liberatore | Contact | Home
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a language of body energetics which has dialects. There is the total body acupuncture language, and then the microsystem dialects of the ear, hand, scalp, abdomen and foot. The entire body can be accessed through a microsystem. By stimulating certain points I am talking to the nervous system, encouraging more balance, more flow, less resistance, and overall improved function. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture describes acupuncture as a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve function. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
A widely accepted modern scientific explanation is that stimulating acupuncture points causes the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain which can alter the experience of pain, or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system. This internal regulating system is the body’s innate healing capacity, which is why acupuncture can promote physical and emotional well-being. For instance, acupuncture can help reset the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
At the April 2005 AAMA yearly symposium on acupuncture, Dr. Ji-Sheng Han, one of the most respected researchers in the world, gave a presentation about which neuropeptides were released with specific electrical stimulation frequencies used in electroacupuncture. He stated that acupuncture strengthens the body’s homeostatic mechanisms and increases the pain threshold. His research has led to an understanding of why there are non-responders to acupuncture. A small number of people produce a neurochemical that appears to block the effects of the neuropeptides released with acupuncture.
The nervous system is known to be plastic in the sense that it can remodel. That is why we can change habitual patterns, even patterns of chronic muscle tension. Acupuncture is adjunctive therapy in that it assists in the process of change and recovery. Obviously a trauma would introduce a change in a system that would be more amenable to recovery than a degenerative process that has been going on for years. The former could respond quicker, the latter more slowly and possibly not completely. Yet, there are few therapies that lead to greater well-being despite the aging processes continuing. For more comprehensive information on acupuncture including a more complete list of the conditions it can treat, please check the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture’s website: www.medicalacupuncture.org.
Linda Rapson, MD, a Canadian medical acupuncturist, shared a lot about her 30 years of experience in acupuncture at the April 2005 AAMA yearly symposium. She was adamant about treating Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) with acupuncture, and gave the treatment protocol for RSD which I will be happy to share with any acupuncturist or interested physician.
You certainly don’t have to believe in acupuncture for it to work. It has amazing success in animals. I tried it on a 7 year old dog we recently acquired who had an arthritic shoulder. She developed blood in her urine after getting aspirin, so I did one acupuncture treatment. She actually had a worse limp for an hour or so after the acupuncture, but then the limp completely resolved, and has not recurred. That treatment took place 5 months ago. My explanation is that animals don’t have the higher cortical pathways which might block some of the effectiveness of acupuncture. Humans are more complex, and can affect their body chemistry with imagery and also by plowing through painful message the body is giving. But you don’t have to believe in acupuncture in order for it to work. There are many examples of skeptics being quite surprised by the results.
Acupuncture isn’t likely to do what a surgeon can do if there is bone impinging on a nerve or a fracture that is misaligned. If the body’s healing processes can take care of the process, then acupuncture can assist and likely speed this process. There is no way to say with exact accuracy how or if a given individual will respond to acupuncture. There are individuals who don’t respond. But more often, there are impatient individuals who want only the immediate and easy fix. These individuals are likely to stop after only a few treatments and then say acupuncture didn’t work for them. A fair trial of acupuncture is considered 10 treatment sessions, but if there is truly no response after 6 treatments, then there isn’t likely to be a response.
Regular acupuncture is a path to increase the body’s margins for resisting imbalance. Life is always a pull between balance and imbalance. With good margins, one is less likely to go too far off balance. Not everyone will recognize benefits from acupuncture, because we are all unique with our own states of awareness and expressions of energy states. You may be surprised at just how deeply relaxed you can get during an acupuncture session. There is enormous benefit due to the depth of relaxation obtained.
THEORIES ABOUT ACUPUNCTURE
Understanding how acupuncture works requires accepting the Chinese understanding of body energetics that is as yet uncharted by Western science. I was taught in my training at Bastyr University that Qi Gong Masters contributed to the understanding of energetic meridians, which are like pathways in the body, and helped define points along these meridians that influence various body energetics. This understanding has undergone refinement for thousands of years. Although there are conditions of overall energy lack, a far more common problem is energy blockage. Energy must flow, and when it doesn’t flow, there is stagnation. When there is stagnation there is generally pain.
Ken Wilber has been described as “the most cogent and penetrating voice in the recent emergence of a uniquely American wisdom” by Shambala Publications. One of the many things Ken Wilber discusses on his 10 CD set entitled Kosmic Consciousness is the chakra energy centers. Here’s what he says as it pertains to acupuncture (Disc 6):
Most traditions maintain that there are four to seven major chakras which are energy centers and there are literally hundreds to thousands of minor chakra and subtle energy centers that they circulate. Chakras are subtle energy centers located in the human body (listen to the CD program for a description of each chakra). Chakras have correlates in the gross human body. There are subtle body energy centers located in these areas. Acupuncture manipulates subtle energy centers. “Acupuncture, is very effective, as most people understand; it works, but it doesn’t follow any of the gross nerves or muscles.” The pathways that the energy follows don’t follow the gross anatomy of nerves and muscles precisely. There are these subtle energy centers in the body and the chakras are major vortices “There are parts of the chakras that are ever present, but may not be fully functioning.” Aspects of chakras are stage-like and unfold in a stage-like fashion. Each chakra has three energy systems running through them: gross, subtle and causal.
It doesn’t require an understanding or belief in any of these theories for acupuncture to work. But for me, this affords an awe of the complexity of the human being and an awareness that there is more to us than what we can physically see and touch. Ken Wilber gives a brilliant map to demonstrate that ‘I’, ‘We’ and ‘It’ are all separate irreducible realms that correlate to beauty, goodness and truth which Plato spoke of as irreducible. Science works well in the realm of ‘It’ since such things have measurable qualities. A scientist errs when he or she wants to make everything an ‘It’, or deny the validity of what can’t be measured like an ‘It’ can. How does one measure or give a physical description of beauty or goodness? Yes, we can agree that there are words on this page. That is an ‘It’ and as such has truth in the realm of science. The words can be measured. But their meaning and impact are more elusive and as such can be debated. The ‘I’ and ‘We’ give meaning to these words. What is in the realm of ‘I’ and ‘We’ eludes reduction to ‘It.’ The experience of acupuncture lies within the realm of ‘I’ and ‘We’ and therein lies the difficulty of quantifying how an individual is effected by acupuncture. For a more complete discussion of these principles, please listen to Ken Wilber’s CD referenced above.
Dr. Weil discusses in a recent article in Utne some fundamental flaws in Western Medicine. He points out that medical doctors are the priests and shamans of our society. Yet when all a medical doctor believes in is matter, then the role of acting as the intermediary between spirit and matter cannot be realized. The human being has a natural ability to heal. It is as yet a mystery. But there are ways to strengthen the body’s immunity and increase its energy. Chinese medicine made this a focus, whereas Western medicine sought to fight off invaders and has little to contribute to understanding energy enhancing modalities.
I appreciate forms of medicine that have evolved with a cosmology. Traditional Chinese medicine has a cosmology. In Chinese philosophy man is between Heaven (spirit) and Earth. We are each intermediaries of this interaction.
- Marcia A. Liberatore MD
Dr. Andrew Weil What Doctors Should Know, Utne, January-February 2005, no. 127, ppg 91-94. (Adopted from an essay in Ecological Medicine: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves (A Bioneers Book) ed. Kenny Ausubel, 2004.
Logo Description | Seeds of Light | Resource Links | About Dr. Liberatore | Contact | Home
Copyright 2005 / All Rights Reserved / Marcia Liberatore, M.D. , Corvallis, Oregon
Website by Logion Web Design