by Kate Monko
Before my firsthand experience, the one thing I knew about acupuncture was that it involved copious amounts of needles. For the health problem that I have been facing, I decided to trek down the Eastern medicine path. Sure, simply taking a pill could be a facile remedy to the issue I was facing, but since Chinese medicine was a feasible option, I took the road less traveled.
Originating over 3,000 years ago in China, acupuncture has permeated across the globe, and it is commonly practiced throughout Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Since the 1970s, it has gained popularity within the United States and other parts of the Western world.
In a nutshell, acupuncture is based on a theory stating that energy, known as qi “chee”, runs throughout channels, called meridians, in the the human body. A key principle in traditional Chinese medicine is the fact that wellness and illness both stem from an imbalance of the two forces, “yin” and “yang.” More specifically, yin refers to the feminine channel of life: nourishing, lower, cool temperature, deficient, inside, receptive, protective, soft, and yielding. On the other side of the scale, yang stands for the masculine counterpart: hard, dominant, energetic, upper, hot temperature, excessive, outside, and creative. The goal of acupuncture is to rekindle the balance of qi flow, improve the body’s functions, and promote the natural self-healing process by stimulating anatomic sites, otherwise known as acupuncture points or acupoints. Inserting fine needles between 32 and 38 gauge into specific acupoints is one of the first steps towards achieving harmony and balance. There are as many as 2,000 possible points on the body ranging from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.
Before any needling takes place, an acupuncturist will ask detailed questions about the patient’s health history. Additionally, he or she will examine the patient’s tongue’s shape, color, and coating, feel the pulse, and conduct further physical examination based on individual health needs. Commonly, acupuncturists supplement this treatment with additional stimulation techniques such as manual massage, heat therapy, cupping, dietary guidelines, consumption of herbs in the form of tea, and the application of topical herbal medicines.
As I embark on my acupuncture journey, I am instructed to focus on other physical and mental points to supplement my treatment. For example, my acupuncturist suggests to do yoga, keep my feet warm, decrease my consumption of yellow vegetables and carrots, and to include wheatgrass, chlorella, or spirulina into my diet. She noted that for the time being, I should refrain from eating too many raw fruits and vegetables, and if I do eat vegetables, I should steam them slightly. One last interesting point she suggests is strive to eat warm food and especially begin my first meal of the day with something hot as opposed to cold fruit and greek yogurt, a typical breakfast of mine. On top of this, I am prescribed pungent herb granules to drink 2-3 times throughout the day as yet an additional supplement to hopefully treat my condition.
In a sense, acupuncture treatment feels like a "yoga-esque" experience as soothing music, burning candles, and essential oil diffusers accompany the treatment table. I walk out every time feeling relaxed as if I attended an actual yoga class. Being a month into my treatment, I cannot conclude quite yet that this Eastern medicine road has healed my ailment. It will be a process that does not resolve overnight or even over the course of a few weeks. This form of treatment may take months or not even solve the problem at all. But until then, I will continue with the needles.