English Writing 112
30 November 2014
Acupuncture has been both culturally and historically a part of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years. To understand what acupuncture is, we simply separate the word, acupuncture. The prefix acuate, means both “sharp” and “needle, while the word puncture, means “to make a small hole.” From the roots of the word, we have a sense that acupuncture is the practice of puncturing the body with needles. In China, we callthe practice 针灸(zhen jiu) which is made up of two characters zhen and jiu. 针(zhen) means “needles” which refers to acupuncture; 灸(jiu) means “slow heating” which refers to moxibustion, a technique of using burning of mugwort over acupuncture points (Mark Crislip, Moxibustion, sciencebasedmedicine.org). Apparently, there are two techniques involved in the practice of acupuncture as we can see from the one compound Chinese word (Firebrace 102).
I believe in the benefits of traditional Chinese concepts and theories of medicine, like acupuncture. These traditional concepts represent the wisdom of Chinese values, in a holistic form of thought. Having personally received acupuncture also reminds me to trace back the history of the practice in order to learn from the ancients who first used acupuncture and the other forms of traditional Chinese medicine. The experience serves as a starting point and has sent me on a journey of pursuing an understanding of Chinese traditional medicine. In addition, I would like to explore the concepts of traditional Chinese medicine further. Perhaps, I may even be able to spread the knowledge I gain to make more people aware of the healthful benefits of traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture treatments.
However, the procedure of today’s acupuncture is easier since it doesn’t include the application of heat through moxibustion. The treatment of acupuncture itself is very simple; but it is not just a system of healing, it is also the expression of thousands of years of Chinese culture. Chinese philosophy emphasizes on a framework of functional interrelationships between the acupuncture channels and organs and how they are connected. This philosophy is called holism, which is the core of most of ancient Chinese philosophy. The principle of acupuncture is to view our body as an interconnected system instead of seeing our vital organs separately or just treating the symptoms (Bai, Baron 3).
I still remember the first time I discovered that acupuncture was available on campus. Earlier this semester when I was walking through the campus center, I was caught off guard by the sight of oriental acupuncture charts and a body sculpture displayed on a table for the University Health Services. It was like bumping into an old friend whom I hadn’t met in a long time. I was surprised, because I thought the treatment would not be accepted or common in places other than China. I also didn’t realize acupuncture had been such a universally applicable treatment far beyond my homeland.
Based on my own knowledge, acupuncture has been original to China for a long time and integrates traditional Chinese medicine concepts. I am not quite familiar with the actual practice of acupuncture since I have never tried it in China. However, a friend of mine back in China had acupuncture treatment for weight loss. She went to the hospital regularly for a month and the acupuncture treatment worked very well on her. She had told me that getting acupuncture helped adjust her metabolism and endocrine system, and thus achieved weight loss.
Following my interests of traditional Chinese medicine, I started a conversation with the University Health Services providers who sat at the table at campus center concourse. I have learned from them that our school not only provides acupuncture, but also provides cupping therapy. Cupping therapy is another ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine which cups are placed on the skin to create suction thus mobilizing energy to promote the healing of a broad range of medical ailments. I had cupping therapy and I believe it was helpful in improving my overall, long term health. I received the cupping therapy at my grandpa’s home when I was living in China.
My grandpa served as a doctor in the army during the 1947 Chinese Liberation War. He was in charge of taking care of wounded soldiers by using simple, traditional methods due to the lack of the modern technology that is used today. Moreover, my grandparents apply ancient Chinese natural practices to support each other in their daily lives. Nowadays, they both are in good health and rarely go to see modern doctors. I am impressed by their persistent practice of traditional Chinese medicine, and they have sparked my interests to learn more about it. Surprisingly, I also learned from the University Health Services Providers that acupuncture becoming more and more popular in the United States, which is far beyond what I was expecting.
I was so excited for having the opportunity to receive this traditional Chinese medicine on our campus. I wanted to get the acupuncture treatment because I was feeling stressed out and I wanted to improve my overall energy function. As I went downstairs to the treatment on the day of my appointment, I felt a mix of fear and nervousness to try the procedure. Honestly, it was the image of myself lying on the bed with needles on my skin that made me feel the most anxious.
However, I felt a sense of welcoming when I arrived at the room in the University Health Services basement. The acupuncture treatment room was at the end of a hallway. The door was left half open. The room was a quiet area with bright light and warm colors surrounding me. To my left, a line of scenery pictures hung on the wall as if I was walking into an art gallery; to my right, a line of red chairs was sitting against the wall quietly. The whole context of the room helped calm me down a little. A bed was right in front of me with a soft, green curled shape and a pattern sheet covering it. Everything was so neat and peacefully.
As I walked through the door and sat down by the desk, the doctor began asking questions of my general health condition while a dark of cloud of anxiety ballooned into existence above my head. I felt scared about getting acupuncture. Then the doctor asked me to take off my glasses and socks, and directed me to stand in front of the bed for a check-up. He was checking the flow of energy inside my body, from top of my head to my arms. The check up took a few minutes and then I laid on the bed with rolled up sleeves.
Facing up toward the ceiling I could see a string of colorful butterflies hanging over my head. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. The treatment room was comfortably warm with soft light which helped to ease my tension. The cloud of anxiety began to dissipate as I began to grow more comfortable in the environment. Before applying the practice, the doctor touched my arms, legs and toes to feel for heat, cold, and energy flow. I took another deep breath as the doctor pulled out of the acupuncture needles and said he was going to put one in my right leg. At the same time, a voice was echoing in the back of my skull: “It will just be like a mosquito bite and takes only a second.” Initially, I felt a tiny bit of pain when the first needle penetrated my skin, but it went away as soon as the doctor turned to another spot on my right arm. He explained that our body is like a network of channels and energy is flowing in all these different channels within the body. The doctor continued to explain, saying that energy can help be restored by stimulating certain points. Acupuncture is the stimulant which helps to re-direct and normalize the flow of energy in our body.
The doctor put one last needle on top my head, which he explained will help to draw the energy up since it is the highest point of my whole body. The needles were left in place for about twenty minutes while the doctor placed heat above my feet and covered me in a white sheet to stay warm. I felt a nice and pleasant calm while my mind was floating in a dream-like state. I felt like I could fall asleep at any time with the drizzling dreamy thoughts hovering over my head.
I felt good and energized after getting the acupuncture treatment. Moreover, I gained some valuable traditional Chinese medicine concepts that I can apply toward my future. The experience also sparks my interests to learn more about acupuncture, particularly since I actually benefited from it. Based on my research, traditionally, there are 365 points on the body, and most of which have a specific energetic function. Acupuncture targets specific anatomical locations within the body. Acupuncture treatment focuses on the points where the flow within the channels in our bodies can be adjusted, in order to restore harmony (Firebrace 109). The Chinese culturally view the mind and body as an organic system. According to Acupuncture Cure of Many Disease, “To the Chinese, a human being was a living unity, a field for the action and interaction of the invisible forces of life. The harmony of these vital powers within him was revealed by the health of the whole body…So the aim of the Chinese doctor was to correct the imbalance of the vital forces in the body” (Mann 3). Thus, balancing a status of harmony is valued highly among the Chinese.
My experience with acupuncture treatment was not scary as I thought it would be. The reality is, I have never felt more comfortable and so relaxed. The experience also gave me an opportunity to ask questions and pursue my interests in traditional Chinese medicine. Therefore, I recognize college is an experience to keep an open-mind and take chances. We will never know the answers to our questions until we try!
Bai, Xinghua, and R. B. Baron. Acupuncture: Visible Holism: An Original Interpretation of Acupuncture from Root to Tip. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001. Print.
Firebrace, Peter. Acupuncture The Illustrated Guide – Restoring the Body’s Natural Healing Energy (New Ways to Health). First ed. New York: Hamlyn, 1988. Print. Three.
Mann, Felix. Acupuncture: Cure of Many Diseases. Second ed. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1992. Print.
Crislip, Mark. “Moxibustion « Science-Based Medicine.” Moxibustion « Science-Based Medicine. Science-based Medicine, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/moxibustion/.