Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Cupping
Acupuncture is a healing art and is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Documents describing the practice date back to the first century BCE, while some believe archaeological evidence points to a much earlier origin; possibly as early as 8,000 years ago.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the philosophy that the body has natural energy flowing through it. This energy may be called “qi” (pronounced “chee”), blood, or electrical energy from the nervous system. “Qi” is said to flow through the body’s energy pathways, known as meridians. Meridians match certain organs or group of organs. Within the Meridian system, there are over a thousand acupoints, located just under the skin, which can be stimulated to enhance the flow of Qi.
Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine holds that disease is caused by an imbalance of this energy’s flow through the meridians. But, illnesses and injuries can create obstructions in the flow which causes painful sensations or loss of function in various body parts. As a result, you feel ill, mentally and physically.
From this perspective, an acupuncturist’s job is to remove blockages to make qi or blood circulate better, which is said to restore a healthy balance to the body.
Very fine sterilised disposable needles are inserted into trigger point (acupoints) distributed along the 14 major meridian networks throughout the body. The needles may be thrust as far as the joints and muscle ligaments of the body to reach these acupoints. The needles are then left for a while (varying from 10-60 minutes) so that they may full stimulate the body system, encouraging the body to regain balance.
Acupuncture may benefit a wide range of disorders including the following
- Painful injuries and musculo-skeletal disorders including sports injuries, back pain, sciatica, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, osteo-arthritis, sprains and injuries to soft tissue and their after effects etc.
- Neurological disorders including headaches and migraines, tinnitus, after effects of stroke, facial paralysis (bells palsy)
- Menstrual, gynaecological and obstetric disorders including premenstrual syndrome (PMT), painful periods, morning sickness, malposition of the foetus, delayed labour, insufficiency of breast milk
- Male and female infertility
- Anxiety states, panic, depression and insomnia
- Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, haemorrhoids and obesity
- Urinary tract diseases such as recurrent cystitis and urethritis
- Circulatory diseases such as Raynauds disease, intermittent claudication and recurrent cramping
- Addiction disorders including tobacco, drug and alcohol addiction
On the other hand, one of the earliest documentations of Cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, which was written by a Taoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong and which dates all the way back to 300 AD. Traditionally, bamboo and plant stems were used; nowadays, practitioners work with glass cups of various sizes.
Cupping, the inverse of massage, uses suction to pull skin, tissue, and muscles upward. After a consultation and diagnosis, glass cups are warmed with a burning taper to create a vacuum. Each cup is placed on a selected area, pulling the skin upwards and drawing out toxins stimulating the area being treated by increasing blood circulation. Cupping therapy can be used to treat sprains, soft -tissue injuries, muscular pain and to help relieve fluid from the lungs in chronic bronchitis. Often, this sensation is relaxing and soothing. Depending on your comfort and your practitioner’s assessment of the problem, cups may be moved around or left in place for up to 20 minutes. They may remain on your body briefly or for longer amounts of time. When removed, the redness, contour and darkness of the mark left is examined; the round red marks will remain for 3 to 4 days to a couple of weeks, though the process itself is not painful. Once the marks have cleared, the procedure can be repeated until the condition or ailment is resolved.
Typically, Cupping is used for the treatment of ailments as diverse as influenza, asthma, abdominal pain, menstrual problems, and muscular and musculoskeletal disorders.
Used either separately or in conjunction with acupuncture, Moxibustion again focuses on the acupoints in the body. In moxibustion, a medicinal stick of herbs formed into a 'Moxastick' is used above or on the skin at the relevant acupoints, to warm energy point of the body in order to warm the blood, enhance circulation and improve the flow of Qi through the body's meridians . When used in conjunction with acupuncture, the herb is burned at the point of entry into the skin.
Moxa increases endurance, digestive power, and stimulates the immune system. Since moxa increases the amount of red blood cells circulating in the body, it increases the amount of oxygen carrying haemoglobin and is capable of speeding up healing. Maximum Oxygen Uptake prevents and improves recovery time from diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Maximum Oxygen Uptake also decreases the cancer rate. Thus, we may assume that the modern idea of maintaining health by increasing Maximum Oxygen Uptake is based on the same mechanism as our traditional wisdom for attaining longevity.