STAYING IN BALANCE WITH ACUPUNCTURE
By Sally Abrams
Printed in Government West Magazine, July/August 1998
Many years ago in China, the story goes, you paid your health practitioner only when you were well. If you got sick, the practitioner had failed to do his job and treatment was free. Yes, acupuncture could help heal the person once (s)he fell ill, but the ultimate goal was to keep the person healthy.
In Chinese medicine, while some disease is caused by external factors, the primary cause of disease is our emotions. Western medicine has come into agreement with one simple word – stress. You are more likely to contract a major illness, such as cancer, during times of high stress, whether the stress is from a “good” event such as marriage or the birth of a child, or a “bad” event such as being fired or the death of a loved one.
The acupuncturist’s goal is to keep you in balance. By definition being “in balance” means one is better able to cope with stress. Think about riding a horse. If you are out of balance, you are more likely to fall off once the horse starts to move. Being in balance means you can stay on the horse. The same is true in life. When you’re in balance, you can more easily take in stride whatever opportunities or setbacks life gives you.
The acupuncturist looks at the body as a unit. You are one person –not just an arm, a heart, etc. If there is a problem in one part, it will be reflected elsewhere. Once can’t just treat the arm only, for to do so will perpetuate the imbalance. The underlying cause has to be addressed and the whole of you has to be treated.
But how does one determine where the imbalance is? Western medicine has a variety of
tests to find out – blood work, x-rays, MRIs, etc. Chinese medicine has different methods. In
the United States, in addition to talking to the patient, the most commonly used methods are by
looking at the tongue, and by “reading” the pulses at the wrist. We know everyone’s eyes are
different, the length of our legs, the shape of our body. Everyone’s tongue is different and
changeable. By looking at the shape, color and coating of the tongue, the acupuncturist can tell
where the imbalance is. Also, each organ has a different pulse at the wrist and by feeling the
quality of each pulse, more information is gained.
One other important concept in Chinese medicine is meridians – these are the body’s highways. There is no exact counterpart to them in Western medicine. While the goal is balance, the way to achieve it is by making sure there is enough, but not too much, blood and energy in all parts of the body and that the blood and energy are flowing smoothly. Picture an accident on the freeway. Before the site of the accident, there is a traffic jam. After the accident, there are no cars. Chinese medicine seeks to make sure that there are no obstructions, that there is free flow throughout the body.
So, when would you go to see an acupuncturist? The National Institute of Health on Nov. 5,
1997, wrote that acupuncture may be helpful with conditions that, “include, but are not limited
to addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia
(general muscle pain), low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma”. In my own practice,
some of the conditions I most commonly treat are musculoskeletal pain, allergies and menopausal
symptoms. In addition, people whose immune systems are not working quite right, whether it be
that they are frequently getting sick, that they have an auto-immune disease such as Lupus or
an immune deficiency syndrome such as AIDS, come for symptomatic relief. Also, because
acupuncturists are primary care providers in California, clients come when they have acute
infections, aren’t sleeping well, aren’t having regular bowel movements, are tired or just aren’t
handling stress well.
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