Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history of development, dating back as far as 2,500 years ago. TCM includes Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, and Chinese massage, and is designed to help patients achieve and maintain health. It is grounded in the Daoist belief that we live in a universe in which everything is interconnected, and the body is a microcosm of the universe. Thus the mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic system.
Many TCM concepts have no counterpart in Western medicine, e.g., qi, a vital force that controls the workings of the mind and body. Qi flows through the body via pathways, called meridians or channels, and through collaterals, which are the smaller streams of Qi that branch off the main channels. Along the meridians are acupuncture points. TCM names the points based on the channel on which the point lies and its distance along the channel. In Acupuncture therapy, by inserting needles into specific points, the acupuncturist manipulates the patient’s Qi to achieve balance. Another difference with Western medicine is that TCM treats patterns of disharmony that can include many symptoms and conditions. For example, a patient will come for a specific condition such as low back pain and find that when their low back pain is better, their chronic sore throat and frequent urination are also improved, often without even telling the practitioner about these symptoms. This is a result of treating their overall pattern.
Patients often ask “how does acupuncture work?” Even though there are not enough studies to uncover all of the mechanisms of action of acupuncture, there are studies that have discovered the following five mechanisms: 1) Beta-endorphin is released in pain patients receiving acupuncture whereas a control group had no increased numbers of this neuromodulator; 2) Acupuncture stimulates the limbic system which is responsible for how we perceive and respond to pain; 3) a neuropeptide called calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) is released at the needle insertion site, helping to speed up the healing process; 4) Acupuncture helps with myofascial trigger point release; 5) Acupuncture stimulates alpha delta fibers which have been shown to decrease the activity in the dorsal horn, and thus reducing pain perception.
In late 1970s, the World Health Organization recognized the ability of Acupuncture to treat a variety of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions such as neck and low back pain, arthritis pain, neuralgia; insomnia; dizziness; emotional issues such as stress and anxiety; addictions to alcohol and nicotine; indigestion.
In 1997, a consensus statement released by the National Institute of Health found acupuncture useful for addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis pain, and asthma.
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