Acupuncture
The Needles And Their Use

The principle technique, but not necessarily the sole method, of acupuncture therapy is inserting needles at the various points located on the meridians. In the most primitive days of acupuncture treatment, experts used several things like fish bones, bamboo shard and even pointed stones as needles. Later, they were replaced by actual needles made from iron as well as copper. Currently, most of the needles used by acupuncturists are made of stainless steel, silver or gold. The shapes as well as the size of acupuncture needles differ from one country to another, and at times even from one region to another. Nonetheless, the shape and size of these needles more or less adhere to some standards.

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In fact, a number of early Chinese experts of acupuncture believed that specific colors or metals of the needles produced particular qualities. For instance, it was believed that using silver (white) needles helped in diffusing too much energy in the meridians, while gold (yellow) needles were thought to stimulate or tone up exhausted or drained out energy.

While selecting the needles, an acupuncturist takes several things into consideration, including the metal, form, the length, and diameter of the needles, in addition to the treatment process that needs to be employed. However, irrespective of the sort of needle that is selected, the acupuncturist is actually confronted with a fundamental alternative in therapy - whether to stimulate or diffuse the energy flowing in a meridian. As the modus operandi will differ, it will also influence the preference of needles, however, the objective will continue to be either toning up or dispersing the energy; sometimes it may require doing both.

While undertaking acupuncture treatment with the ordinary sort of needles, an acupuncturist has to follow certain common rules. These general rules are discussed briefly below.

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TO STIMULATE:

In order to stimulate or tone up a meridian, the acupuncturist first requires warming the needle. In earlier days, the acupuncturist would warm a needle by holding it inside his/ her mouth for many minutes, but now this process of warming needles is not approved any more. After the needle has been warmed, the acupuncture point that needs to be treated should be massaged and then a superficial puncture is made before inserting the needle at the point.

Next, the needle is slowly inserted into the point, in phases, and should also be withdrawn slowly. The other points on the meridian are also punctured superficially in the manner in which the energy is flowing through the meridian. It is important to insert the needle at the points while the patient is exhaling and withdraw it when he/ she breathes in. Ideally, the needle ought to be kept in the place for anything between three and ten minutes.

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TO DISPERSE:

Here are a few guidelines regarding the usage of the acupuncture needles while dispersing excess energy in a meridian.

Although you need to massage the meridian that needs treatment, never massage the acupuncture points. To disperse excessive energy in a meridian, introduce the needle at the point comparatively deeper and you need to insert as well as withdraw the needle somewhat speedily. In addition, you need to make punctures at the points on the meridian in a reverse order - against the direction in which energy is flowing in the particular meridian. Make the punctures while the patient is breathing in and withdraw when he/ she breathes out.

Allow the needle to stay in the place just for some seconds and ensure that the acupuncture point bleeds very faintly following the withdrawal of the needle (such type of bleeding is called micro-bleeding). It is worth mentioning here that the Japanese needles are extremely delicate and are actually slithered by means of a metallic tube when they are introduced in the acupuncture points with a view to check them from bending. On the contrary, the Chinese method involves introducing the needles with no use of such guide tubes.

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When the needles are introduced into the points by an expert and experienced acupuncturist, the patient does not experience the slightest of pain even when the largest needles are used. At the most, the patient may occasionally experience a trivial uneasiness when the needle is introduced, but there never ought to be any real pain. Generally, during their studying years, acupuncture students extensively practice inserting the needles on them with a view to achieve perfection in their method.

REACTIVE POINTS AND INTRA-CUTANEOUS NEEDLES

As the name hints, reactive points are actually very sensitive points located in tender areas. There is no doubt that making punctures at these points was the most basic techniques of acupuncture and doing so may prove to be amazingly effectual when a patient is experiencing pain, in most cases providing instant relief. In this case, the patient shows the area where he/ she is experiencing maximum pain and the acupuncturist surveys the place for some time to locate the most receptive point in the area. Subsequently, a puncture is made at the point with a view to disperse the excessive energy flow in the meridian.

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Japanese acupuncturists employ a variation of this method using very small intra-cutaneous needles that may be introduced at the points and left at the site of insertion for an extended period. In this case, the acupuncturist asks the patient to show the area where he/ she is experiencing the maximum pain and it is marked. Subsequently, the acupuncturist inserts the intra-cutaneous needle at the point only piercing the top layer of the skin and uses an adhesive tape to hold the needle in place. Thereafter, the patient indicates the place which is second most aching, and the acupuncturist repeats the method. This procedure may continue as frequently as may be required. Once the needles are inserted, they remain in place till the subsequent treatment.

The acupuncture technique mentioned above is also used to heal localized pain. It is always advisable that the acupuncturist should look for the most receptive or reactive points on the margins of the painful area for inserting the intra-cutaneous needles and keep them in place while the expert is handling pain that extends over a considerable area or when pain occurs together with inflammation. Subsequently, the whole area is pricked lightly, but rapidly without piercing the skin in that particular area.

MICRO-PUNCTURE

It is interesting to note that during the period preceding contemporary Western medicine, diagnosis of diseases included brutal means like employing leeches to make the patients bleed profusely draining them of substantial amounts of blood. On the contrary, the Chinese medical practitioners employed an extremely gentle form of treatment that involved very slight bleeding limited to specified norms.

The term 'micro-puncture' itself hints at drawing a very small quantity of blood, which is never in excess of just some drops - possibly not a drop more than what is pulled out during any common blood examination. In most instances, simply withdrawing a single drop of blood from the precise acupuncture point provides almost instant as well as amazing results. For instance, when removing a single drop of blood from the end of the finger of the meridian associated with the small intestine will provide immediate relief in specific instances of pain caused by a stiff shoulder. A number of kinds of headaches like a headache caused by a hangover are receptive to a similar method when it is applied to the large intestine meridian's finger terminal.

Auxiliary techniques: moxibustion and massage

MOXIBUSTION

Moxibustion, which means the burning of moxa (small cones of wormwood) over the acupuncture points, is extremely popular among the Japanese in the form of a supplementary or even alternative for treatment using needles, as using moxa has several advantages. Moxa is inexpensive, very effectual in the cool, damp climatic conditions like in Japan and one can administered it by him/ herself. Besides, compared to introducing acupuncture needles to the points on the meridians, applying moxa is extremely easy. This procedure involves placing the wormwood cone on a selected acupuncture point and igniting it, generally using a burning incense stick. In fact, moxa is found in three main varieties, large, medium and minute, each having a specific application. Moxas that are comparatively large are about a medium-sized cherry, while small moxas are similar to the dimension of a grain. The minute moxas is approximately as big as the ball of a pen having a ballpoint lead.

Generally, the large moxas are applied to arouse energy; sometimes they are also used for dispersing excessive energy from the meridians. The burning moxas are taken away when the patient complains that the sensation caused by the heat is causing distress. During the same treatment session, moxas can be applied a number of times, even on the same acupuncture point.

On the other hand, the small moxas are generally allowed to burn completely on the skin. This process is extremely excruciating and often results in the formation of blisters. The process involving the small moxas may be employed either for toning up energy or dispersing it in the meridians. This procedure too may be applied several times during a single treatment session.

Tiny or minute moxa, frequently applied in a sequence of 100 or even more, is generally employed in exceptional conditions. Like the medium moxas, this version of moxa is also allowed to completely burn on the acupuncture points on the skin. When minute moxas are applied appropriately (provided the diagnosis as well as treatment selected is accurate), the burning will, in fact, generate an enjoyable feeling. If the patient undergoing moxibustion using minute moxas indicates any pain or uneasiness, it should be considered that the treatment has been most effective and the session should be concluded. The patient may be given an additional session of treatment with minute moxas, but, generally, this is rarely required.

In China as well as in Japan, moxa is regularly applied using a needle. This procedure involves placing the ignited moxa at the tip of the needle, which is placed on the acupuncture point, and the heat is transmitted to the point by means of the needle. This process also results in an extremely pleasant sensation. Most often, this technique is employed to provide relief from pain and is always effectual in alleviating muscle pain, in addition to pain related to the internal organs.

MASSAGE

By itself, massage, especially the form practiced in the Orient, is a healing course of action, but we are bringing up the topic here since a number of massage treatments are also employed in acupuncture, as a segment of diagnostic palpation (analyzing a medical condition by touch or feeling) and is regularly employed for a very short while prior to and following an acupuncture session. The techniques employed by Oriental form of massage seem to have some features that are comparable to the Western processes. However, these resemblances are more in the form, instead of the objective or result.

The Western form of massage can be differentiated by common centripetal friction (inwardly developing friction that is aimed at augmenting the blood circulation). On the other hand, the forms of massage practiced by the Chinese as well as Japanese are employed in acupuncture to invigorate the points or the meridians as a whole by applying elbow pressure, digital pressure, scratching, stamping and others. In addition, this massage system also aims at mobilizing the spinal column as well as all the other joints. These methods are especially employed while treating children, elderly people and those who are exceedingly incapacitated.

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