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The Yin and Yang of Acupunture

by Audrey Thomasson

The ancient Chinese medicine of acupuncture is, as they say, “as old as the hills.” Yet for Westerners, the practice of having needles poked into the body has become a popular new alternative in treating anything from pain to eliminating wrinkles on the neck and face.

That’s right, acupuncture is a less expensive and safer alternative to cosmetic surgery and potentially dangerous cosmetic procedures such as botox. It is devoid of the trauma, recovery time, or side effects — and creates an overall sense of well being.

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Dr. Jeems Love describes acupuncture needles as “thin as a hair.” In a session with his son, Corbin, he focuses needle placement on the back of the neck and hands to treat old sports injuries. Corbin nearly fell asleep during the 20 minutes the needles remained in place. The slight reddening around each needle is a good thing, according to Dr. Love.

“We call it ‘new’ over here. It’s crazy,” said Dr. Jeems Love, a chiropractor who also practices medical acupuncture in Kilmarnock at Northern Neck Chiropractic Acupuncture. “How did the Chinese know about electromagnetic flow 4,000 years ago?”

How it Works
In a nutshell, acupuncture is a non-invasive treatment that enhances immunity and promotes natural healing. It follows the theory that the human body has a number of acupuncture points connected via pathways, or “meridians,” which are related to each organ in the body. These pathways create an energy flow called Qi (pronounced “chee”) through the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruption of the energy flow by such things as stress, poor diet, or lack of exercise can cause disease, pain and a variety of other ailments.

Once the imbalances of Qi are detected, sterile, hair-thin needles are placed in specific points to open those meridians, unblocking the obstruction and improving the flow and balance of Qi to nourish cells, organs, glands, tissues and muscles.

Studies suggest acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals which when stimulated, may start the flow of pain-killing biochemicals (endorphins) or release immune system cells and alter brain chemistry in a positive way. Biochemical changes stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well being to energize and relieve pain.

Safe and Painless
The procedure is safe and painless. Acupuncturists are certified and licensed. Needles are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Patients report different feelings… but most feel minimal discomfort as the needle is inserted, according to a report from the University of Chicago Medical Center. Some people report feeling energized by the treatment while others say they feel relaxed.

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A few of the health issues acupuncture can effectively treat:
  • Addictions
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Bronchitus
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Colitis
  • Common cold
  • Constipation
  • Dental pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Digestive trouble
  • Dizziness
  • Eye problems
  • Facial palsy
  • Fatigue
  • Fertility
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Hiccups
  • Incontinence
  • Irritable bowel
  • Low back pain
  • Menopause
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • PMS
  • Pneumonia
  • Rhinitis
  • Sciatica
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Sinusitis
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stress
  • Tennis elbow
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting

“Most people fall asleep. It’s very sedative, relaxing,” noted Dr. Love.

Because improper placement of the needles can cause soreness and pain during treatment, the report stresses the importance of seeking treatment from a qualified acupuncturist.

Yin and Yang
“What is Qi? I don’t know, I don’t have to know, I don’t care,” said Dr. Steven Skinner, a veterinarian who integrates acupuncture in treating animals at Hartfield Animal Hospital. “If my patient has stagnant Qi and I can get it flowing—I don’t care what it is.”

According to Chinese medicine, Qi is the vital energy of life that flows around and through people via the meridian pathways. It functions on the premise that all of creation has a duo-energy balance known as yin and yang.

For example, consider night (yin) and day (yang) as two parts of the same whole—one precedes or follows the other. Together, they are part of a continuous cycle creating yin/yang energy. Within the 12 meridians of the body, they work in yin/yang pairs to stimulate specific acu-points supporting physical, emotional and mental well-being.

“Yin is the fluid balance in the body. Yang is the energetic warming aspect,” explained Edgar Chase, who is licensed in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). With a degree in philosophy and a masters in Oriental Medicine, Chase also offers herbal therapy at his practice at Northern Neck Chiropractic Acupuncture.

Contrast with Western Medicine
Western medical doctors follow a standard perspective: What’s the diagnosis? Here’s the treatment.

“Classically, Western trained doctors will give medications — which sometimes works,” said Dr. Skinner. “There are some things that Western medicine is just not good at, but can be treated with acupuncture… like chronic, ongoing disease.”

Western medicine treats the symptoms; acupuncture treats the cause, explained Chase.

As an example, he said a patient who suffers indigestion, also known as GERD or acid reflux, might be treated by a physician using medicines that control acid.

In contrast, “We treat the liver because it causes the stomach to produce acid.”

Dr. Love noted acupuncture is preferable to chiropractic medicine for elderly patients whose bones are too brittle for manipulation.

Other forms used to stimulate Qi are heat, pressure (acupressure), friction, suction and impulses of electromagnetic energy. Dr. Love treats children as young as middle school age using laser acupuncture if they have a fear of needles.

Chase uses a roller which he runs along the child’s meridians.

Acupuncture is based on the Chinese theory of preventive medicine, said Chase. Thousands of years ago, people paid the village doctor a monthly fee. If a villager got sick, he couldn’t pay. So the doctor had a vested interest in keeping them healthy,

“A superior physician prevents disease. An average one treats it,” Chase said.

While acupuncture has evolved into many different styles, there are two basic schools of acupuncture: Medical acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Medical Acupuncture
Dr. Love, like others in the medical field, uses acupuncture mostly to treat and manage pain. 

It is recognized by many doctors and hospitals, including the World Health Organization, in the treatment of many conditions (see sidebar on page 5).

Virginia was the last state to accept it, Dr. Love said, and not until 1995. But when his son suffered a sports injury, Dr. Love was shocked to find it being used in the emergency room at Riverside Tappahannock Hospital.

Surveys show some 80% of all doctor visits pertain to chronic pain—arthritis, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, indigestion, joint, shoulder, foot and back pain, to name just a few. Regardless of the cause, life with pain takes a physical, emotional and financial toll.

While medication and physical therapy can be beneficial, a recent survey of over 45,000 people by Consumer Reports reveals three-quarters of us are turning to alternative medicines like acupuncture for the treatment of pain and a whole lot more.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM extends beyond acupuncture for pain and includes herbal therapy. Many offer cosmetic treatments (facial rejuvenation acupuncture-FRA) to reduce the signs of aging.

While they are usually not physicians, TCM practitioners have extensive training in physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences as well as in Chinese medicine, during a full-time course lasting a minimum of three to four years.

Like medical doctors, practitioners develop a diagnosis on a patient based on an analysis of cardiovascular, reproductive health, diet, family history as well as a physical exam. Additionally, they note life influences to find common denominators to discern the root pattern of disharmony, Chase explained.

After 18 years of practicing in New Mexico, Chase moved his practice to Kilmarnock in November.

The concept that acupuncture draws Qi to the needles and creates energy flow goes a step further in an acupuncture facelift. “It tightens the skin around the face and improves energy flow throughout the body,” Chase said.

New Mexico cosmetic patient Nancy Ava Miller, 65, began seeing results after her first session with Chase. Over the course of some 20 sessions she saw continued improvement before settling into routine maintenance of one to two sessions a month.

“I was amazed that the flab under my chin disappeared, the puffiness around the eyes disappeared as well,” she said, also noting it was painless. Her friends thought she looked “more relaxed, not tired. It looks natural. I’m very satisfied.”

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Acupuncture can improve the quality of life of our pets as well. Dr. Steven Skinner places needles in acupuncture points that relieve arthritis pain in his 12-year old Labrador, Hank. The treatment helps Hank enjoy a daily two-mile walk.

Medical Veterinary Acupuncture
Dr. Skinner became interested in acupuncture about 15 years ago after becoming frustrated over cases in which traditional medicine was not working on animals.

“I was blown away by the course work” and the results on a number of chronic cases, he said. He noted several of his own cases in which acupuncture worked over standard medicine, including healing a lame dog.

“Two treatments cured him and he never limped again,” said Dr. Skinner.

He admits some ailments respond, while he’s had less success on others. “I can usually tell if it’s going to work after two sessions. I mostly use it in an acute sense. It works wonderfully for back problems, including slipped discs, and also for arthritis in elbows, hips, knees and backs.”

However, he noted for most acupuncture, the animal needs an intact, good-functioning nervous system to have success “since it stimulates the nervous system and increases blood flow.”

“I’ve gotten smarter through the years and include nutritional management for patients, Omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine and drugs from time to time. As my patients get older, I’m finding I’m not treating as much arthritis.”

posted 02.23.2012

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