Friday, April 29, 2011

Five Element Acupuncture Theory and Clinical Applications

Five element theory is one of the major systems of thought within Chinese medicine. From a historical perspective it is an important underpinning of medical theory and serves as one of the major diagnostic and treatment protocols. In modern clinical practice the five element theory is used in varying degrees depending on the practitioner and style of acupuncture that they practice.
For practitioners or Traditional Chinese Medicine, the theory may be used to help form a diagnosis when there is conflicting signs and symptoms. Additionally, elements of the theory are useful for assisting patients with nutritional balancing and/or working through emotional issues. The theory is used extensively by Japanese acupuncturists within the five phase treatment protocols and by Classical five element practitioners, such as those who follow the teachings of the late J.R. Worsley. The information below discusses the Five Element theory and clinical applications in detail.

Primary Correspondences Within Five Element Theory

The Five Element theory is based on the observation of the natural cycles and interrelationships in both our environment and within ourselves. The foundation of the theory rests in the correspondences of each element to a variety of phenomena. The most common correspondences are listed in the chart below:
 
FIRE
EARTH
METAL
WATER
WOOD
Yin Organs Heart &
Pericardium
Spleen Lungs Kidneys Liver
Yang Organs Small Intestine &
Triple Heater
Stomach Large Intestine Urinary Bladder Gall Bladder
Sense Organs Tongue Mouth Nose Ears Eyes
Tissues Vessels Muscles Skin Bone Tendons
Tastes Bitter Sweet Pungent Salty Sour
Colors red yellow white blue/black green
Sounds Laughing Singing Crying Groaning Shouting
Odor scorched fragrant rotten putrid rancid
Emotions Joy Worry/Pensiveness Grief/Sadness Fear Anger
Seasons Summer Late Summer Autumn Winter Spring
Environment Heat Dampness Dryness Cold Wind
Developmental Stages Growth Transformation Harvest Storage Birth
Direction south center west north east
Body Types pointed features
small hands
quick energetic
large features
strong legs
calm generous
triangular features
strong voice
meticulous, strong willed
round features
strong digestion
loyal, enjoy movement
tall slender
strong bones and joints
hard workers

Five Element Cyles, Relationships and Interactions

Within five element theory there are four main relationships or ways in which the elements interact. The first of these is the generating (sheng, mother-child) cycle. This cycle describes the ways in which each element, serving as a mother, promotes the growth and development of the following child element.
Examples of this cycle are the Wood element providing the generative force for Fire, Fire providing the generative force for Earth, etc. This relationship provides the foundation for understanding five element theory and, consequently, where imbalances may arise within the cycle. If Earth, for example, is weakened from a poor diet and overwork you will see that more nourishment is requested from the Fire element to nourish Earth. Additionally, if Earth is weakened the Metal element may also be effected.
From a clinical perspective you may see people develop digestive issues from irregular eating, excessive worry and overwork which leads to a proliferation of dampness which then effects the Metal element. Within this case you may see a combination of bloating, gas and poor energy with the development of Metal (Lung) symptoms such as sinusitis or phlegm-type asthma.
five element cycle chart
The controlling (ke, grandparent-grandchild) cycle provides for a check and balance system among all of the elements. Within this cycle Earth, for example, provides a control for Water and is controlled by Wood. An example of this relationship within the body is in cases of anxiety (Fire) which are related to LV Qi Stagnation (Wood) where, over time, you begin to see more Kidney (Water) related signs as the Water element attempts to control the overactive Fire.
five element cycle chart
The overacting cycle (cheng) is an imbalance within the controlling cycle where the grandmother element provides too much control over the grandchild and weakens the element. Within nature you may see Water putting out Fire, Earth soaking up Water and so on.
A clinical example of this relationship would be Liver (Wood) overacting on the Spleen (Earth). In this case you have an overactive Wood element overcontrolling Earth leading to distruptions in the digestive system.
five element cycle chart
The insulting cycle (wu) is also an imbalance within the controlling cycle where the grandchild insults or returns the controlling force generated by the grandmother. Using examples from nature you can see Fire burning up Water and Water washing away Earth and so on.
Clinically you may see this in cases where people have long-term psychological problems (Fire) which eventually effect the Kidneys (Water) as seen in the development of more Yin (Water) deficiency signs.
five element cycle chart

Five Element Pathology and Clinical Applications

As described in the introduction there are a variety of ways in which the theory is used clinically. Our Japanese section describes the five phase treatments in detail and our classical five element (worsley style) page describes the ways in which a pure five element practitioner would utilize the theory.
This section describes the basic ways in which a practitioner of traditional chinese medicine applies the theory in a clinical setting. The Five Shu (transporting) Points, listed below, represent the relationship of the theory to individual acupuncture points. Our understanding of these points is based largely on the information within the Nan-Ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues.
Five Shu Points
Yin Meridians
Jing-well
(Wood)
Ying-spring
(Fire)
Shu-stream
(Earth)
Jing-river
(Metal)
He-Sea
(Water)
LU LU 11 LU 10 LU 9 LU 8 LU 5
PC PC 9 PC 8 PC 7 PC 5 PC 3
HT HT 9 HT 8 HT 7 HT 4 HT 3
SP SP 1 SP 2 SP 3 SP 5 SP 9
LV LV 1 LV 2 LV 3 LV 4 LV 8
KD KD 1 KD 2 KD 3 KD 7 KD 10
Yang Meridians
Jing-well
(Metal)
Ying-spring
(Water)
Shu-stream
(Wood)
Jing-river
(Fire)
He-Sea
(Earth)
LI LI 1 LI 2 LI 3 LI 5 LI 11
TH TH 1 TH 2 TH 3 TH 6 TH 10
SI SI 1 SI 2 SI 3 SI 5 SI 8
ST ST 45 ST 44 ST 43 ST 41 ST 36
GB GB 44 GB 43 GB 41 GB 38 GB 34
UB UB 67 UB 66 UB 65 UB 60 UB 40
The major point categories (i.e. jing well, etc.) described above are discussed in more detail here. For the purposes of this discussion an extract from the chart above showing only the Mother and Child points provides a good starting point to understand the application of the theory to acupuncture.
The Mother and Child points for each meridian are derived from the chart above using the following logic. According to the generating cycle the mother of Earth is Fire and the child of Earth is Metal. Using this information for the Yin Earth Meridian (Spleen) the mother point is the Fire point on the Spleen meridian SP 2 and the child point is the Metal point on the Spleen meridian SP 5.
Mother & Child Five Element Points
 
Mother
Child
Lung (Metal) LU 9 LU 5
Large Intestine (Metal) LI 11 LI 2
Stomach (Earth) ST 41 ST 45
Spleen (Earth) SP 2 SP 5
Heart (Fire) HT 9 HT 7
Small Intestine (Fire) SI 3 SI 8
Urinary Bladder (Water) UB 67 UB 65
Kidney (Water) KD 7 KD 1
Pericardium (Fire) PC 9 PC 7
Triple Heater (Fire) TH 3 TH 10
Gall Bladder (Wood) GB 43 GB 38
Liver (Wood) LV 8 LV 2
A clinical example of this theory would be dispersing the child point of the Wood meridian (Liver) - LV 2 - in the case of LV Fire Rising where a patient is experiencing LV signs such as anger and irritability along with HT related signs such as disturbed sleep and agitation.
Another example would be tonifying the mother point of the Earth meridian (Spleen) - SP 2 - in the case of SP Qi Deficiency where a patient is experiencing poor appetite and low energy.
The example above brings up an interesting point from the perspective of a TCM practitioner. While the five element theory is a useful tool in many cases, there are times where the theory indicates a point which clinical experience has proven to be less effective than another point. In the case above, SP 2 is indicated by the theory whereas SP 3 is more commonly used for this condition. Some of the points which have varying degrees of correspondence with the theory are:
  • HT 9 & PC 9 - are most often used to clear heat.
  • SI 3 & SI 8 - reduce heat, pain and stagnation but provide no tonifying effect.
  • LI 11 - is typically dispersed to clear heat.
  • TH 3 - has no tonification effects.
  • ST 41 - is typically used to disperse fever a/or reduce abdominal distention, although it can be as a local point in a tonifying manner to increase energy flow to the foot.
  • SP 2 - is not the most tonifying point on the SP meridian - SP 3 is a better choice.
  • UB 67 - dispersive point for acute conditions.
  • GB 43 & GB 38 - are both used to clear heat.
For further study from a Japanese perspective you should consult our five phase treatments page. For Worsley style information, see our Classical Five Element (worsley) style section. And, for more information regarding pure five element acupuncture you should consult our resources page.

Acupuncture for Dogs Gaining Acceptance



Introduction

In October 1985, North Carolina veterinarian William Martin signed up for a class offered by IVAS, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. It consisted of a four-day course once a month for four months and a certification test at the end. The first part of the course covered the Chinese history and theory of acupuncture, including yin and yang, the different meridians and alarm points. He explains: "This did not relate at all to veterinary medicine that I had learned in the Western world." It was so foreign, in fact, that while traveling home after that first session, Martin decided he would drop out of the course. Upon his return, he learned that his 5-year-old Miniature Dachshund had been paralyzed for five days with an intervertebral disc problem. His associate had tried the typical Western treatments, but the dog's condition had not improved. "I immediately thought I would really test the acupuncture stuff, so I called one of the teachers that I had met at the school," Martin relates. "Over the telephone we did some hands-on diagnostics. He told me where and how to insert regular hypodermic needles in acupuncture points". Within four hours, the Dachshund was standing. Martin calls it his first miracle of acupuncture. "I immediately decided to continue with the course," he says. Martin's story is just one in a substantial collection of anecdotes attesting to acupuncture's effectiveness and leading to the growing popularity of this ancient practice in the Western world.
In the following we will consider the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), how and why many veterinarians now are using acupuncture, the illnesses commonly treated with the technique and the competing scientific theories that attempt to explain it.

An Ancient Art

In the narrowest sense, acupuncture is the application of small-gauge needles to various points on the body for the purpose of eliciting physiological responses in the treatment of almost any disease or condition, and it seems especially useful for relieving pain. In a broader sense, acupuncture is an ancient procedure used in TCM for the treatment of whole-body conditions.
No one really knows when or where it started, but it has ancient roots. A primitive acupuncture-like therapy was practiced in India some 7000 years ago, and Stone Age humans used fishbone needles in China 5000 years ago.(1) A large body of written information about the practice has survived the ages and grown with time (2).
One of the earliest records of veterinary acupuncture was some 3000 years ago in India for the treatment of elephants; however, the father of veterinary acupuncture generally is considered to be Shun Yang (480 BC) from China. The earliest American medical journal reference the authors could find to acupuncture's use in human medicine was in 1836; however, European writers of the late 1600s had published on the subject earlier (3,4). Interestingly, Sir William Osler, who taught at Harvard and Yale and who gave the world its current residency system of medical education, wrote of acupuncture in 1892 (5). The procedure did not make it into the New England Journal of Medicine until 1926, but these references were positive, indicating that acupuncture could be an appropriate and useful medical technique.
The procedure had been used for a variety of illnesses, but it began to fall into obscurity in the 1940s in the United States as people turned to newly emerging, potent, increasingly ailment-specific antibiotics to treat their health problems.
In 1973, The American Medical Association Council of Scientific Affairs declared acupuncture an experimental medical procedure. The increased interest was due in no small part to Richard Nixon's efforts to improve relations with China, where acupuncture was and still is a common practice. In fact, James Reston, a member of Nixon's press corps in China, had surgery using acupuncture as an anesthesia, which later was widely reported in the press. By 1983, the American Osteopathic Association endorsed the use of acupuncture as a part of medical practice.
Although acupuncture terminology still is largely based on philosophy, it has become apparent that the scientific method has crept into the practice with the result that the Western veterinary and medical establishments are less able to discount acupuncture as a pastime of shamans.
Along with acupuncture's increased use in human medicine, veterinary acupuncture has moved closer to mainstream practices. It also might be said that the mainstream has moved closer to acupuncture, given that chapters on acupuncture now are standard in many major veterinary texts. In addition, acupuncture has become a big business worldwide. Today nearly 3 million veterinary and medical practitioners, assistants and pharmacists are trained in acupuncture. Of this number it is estimated that 150,000 are veterinarians and 700,000 are paraveterinary assistants.
The IVAS has become the primary professional society for veterinary acupuncturists in the United States, complete with a newsletter, a journal and a World Wide Web site. http://www.ivas.org

An Eastern Perspective

To understand the basics of acupuncture it is important to comprehend the tradition out of which it developed. In TCM, animals and humans are viewed as tiny parts of an infinite universe subject to laws that govern all living and nonliving things. The fundamental concept is that an animal or person who follows these general laws of nature will reap the benefits of good health.
Acupuncture is not a stand-alone procedure in this framework; rather, it is a part of a much larger medical system encompassing acupuncture, moxibustion (the burning of moxa, a soft downy material, on the skin in the treatment of various disorders), massage, breathing exercises, nutrition, herbal medicine and even philosophy of life (6).
The goal of TCM is to diagnose imbalances in the life force (Qi), determine their causes (etiology of the disease) and subsequently remove those causes from the patient's environment (treatment). TCM views disease as an imbalance between two polarities of Qi, yin (-) and yang (+). Within this conceptual framework, acupuncture is used to "communicate" with body organs and tissues through special channels or meridians. (There is no known physiological equivalent to these energy pathways.) Health and healing in this context is the integration and restoration of balance or harmony of Qi. This view has been validated most recently by the discovery of the relationship between brain chemistry and the immune system. Some critics assert that Western medicine has a mechanistic view of health, reducing disease and illness to specific cellular and molecular systems. Outstanding medical advances have been made using the western viewpoint, but, according to the Eastern tradition, the sum of the whole body still is greater than its parts (6).
The effectiveness of many traditional acupuncture points has been determined experimentally. Some 670 of them have survived the test of time. In her book, Between Heaven and Earth, Harriet Beinfield proposed an analogy: "comparing an acupuncturist with a Western veterinary or medical practitioner is similar to comparing a gardener and a mechanic" (7) The gardener considers the totality of his or her plants' environment (sunlight, density of planting, types and amounts of fertiliser, temperature, water, etc.), whereas the mechanic searches to replace or repair a dysfunctional component.

Theories In Practice

To illustrate the differences between the Eastern and Western philosophies as they relate to veterinary medicine, let us follow a hypothetical canine patient while she is being examined by a Western-trained clinician and compare this to the procedures used by a practitioner of TCM. An owner makes an appointment because her previously housetrained female dog recently has started having "accidents" in the house, and she wants to rule out a medical basis for the problem before she addresses it as a behavioral issue. Both practitioners will be presented with the same symptoms, but their methods of diagnostics will be completely different.
At the traditional vet's office, the dog is placed on the examining table, and the vet asks questions about the frequency and quantity of urination. While the owner is talking, the vet takes the dog's temperature and then begins to perform a physical exam that includes listening to the heart and bowel sounds and palpating the abdomen to check for any masses. The vet suggests several lab tests to rule out a urinary tract infection and other more serious diseases such as diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. The total focus of the appointment is to address the clinical symptoms. In contrast, the vet trained in TCM asks questions about the dog's behavior and previous history, which may be similar to the questions that the traditional vet asks, such as: "Does the dog drink small or large amounts of water at one time?" "When did the behavior start to occur?" and "How often does it happen?"
The practitioner then goes on to ask what may seem to be unrelated questions. Does it happen more frequently at a particular time of the day? Does your pet choose to sleep in the sun, or does she seek out a cool, shady spot? Does she like to lie on a soft surface, or does she prefer to sleep on a firm supportive surface?
By now the owner may become impatient with answering detailed questions that do not appear to have anything to do with the problem. But to a practitioner of TCM, these questions are all valid because the patient is an individual made up of physical, mental and emotional components. Questions are asked about the dog's environment, her diet and favorite foods, stressors and behavioral tendencies in an attempt to consider the "whole," just as the gardener considers the totality of his or her environment.
While the owner is relating this information, the TCM practitioner observes the animal's behavior in the exam room, checking her tongue, looking at the dog's body shape and examining her skin and coat. The next part of the exam includes listening to the chest with a stethoscope and taking note of the breathing sounds and the character of her bark.
Just like the Western clinician, the TCM practitioner then palpates the abdomen and limbs. In addition he or she will check the dog's pulse (which provides information about organ systems and their locations on energy pathways) and also will assess specific areas along the back, sides and abdomen. In this tradition these diagnostic points correspond to specific internal organs.
Finally, the TCM practitioner smells for specific odors emanating from the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, which all play a part in the diagnostic process.

The Acupuncture Procedure

The lab tests suggested by the traditional Western vet rule out the serious diseases associated with urinary incontinence, and the diagnosis indicates oestrogen-responsive atrophy of the muscle of the bladder wall. The allopathic vet probably will prescribe dosages of DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic oestrogen, to maintain bladder tone. Although DES is indicated for the treatment of this kind of incontinence, it has many possible side effects, including skin and liver problems and mammary tumours.
The difference between the allopathic system of treatment and the system of TCM boils down to this: In Western medicine, the same disease or condition normally is treated the same way in all patients; in TCM, the same condition may and most probably will be treated differently in different patients because the underlying causes may differ.
In TCM, frequent urination or incontinence usually stems from a weakness in the kidney yang, which can cause an overall deficiency in the Qi. Incontinence also is a function of the Qi associated with the spleen, because it is believed the spleen keeps organs functioning properly and can be stimulated to treat herniations, prolapses, etc.
Treatment most likely would consist of using needles to elicit a physiological response by stimulating specific anatomic loci, in this case, along the bladder, kidney and spleen meridians. The size of the animal and the location of the points being treated determine the length of the needles used. A short needle, about 0.5 inch, is used in points located over bony areas such as the head or face. The most common size used is about 1 inch long. For larger dogs or for deeper penetration, there are longer needles available (1.5-2.0 inches). The needles are solid and very flexible, and presterilised disposable ones are an option.
In the hands of a properly trained clinician, the animal does not appear to have any discomfort at all. Inserting the needles to the proper depth and angle, manipulating them during the treatment and removing them all are techniques that can be achieved only through training and extensive practice. This is why it is so important to consult a properly certified veterinary acupuncturist.
In the general treatment of ailments, it may take four to eight sessions to know if acupuncture therapy will be effective, although a response could be seen even after the first treatment, and improvements often are noticed after the third. Treatments may last from 10 seconds to 30 minutes and may be recommended once or twice weekly. The long-term goal is always to fix the number of treatments to the minimum required for effectiveness. This may be every six months for arthritis or could be as often as every two months for other conditions. Both frequency and duration of treatment depend on the animal and the ailment.

What Can be Treated?

In addition to incontinence, acupuncture, in conjunction with TCM or the body of Western medicine, may be considered supportive or adjunct therapy for a vast array of other conditions. Notice of the procedure's versatility was boosted with tests of its effectiveness in humans. The University of California, Los Angeles, conducted the Acupuncture Research Project from 1973 to 1980. When the study began it was viewed as little more than a curiosity-until the findings started trickling in.
At the outset, medical opposition was high and resolute, especially from orthopedic surgeons. Public acceptance was more immediate than acceptance by the medical community. Satisfied patients referred friends, and eventually the waiting list was six weeks for an appointment. The UCLA Acupuncture Research Project found various forms of acupuncture were effective for pain relief for various orthopedic, obstetric and surgical procedures; treatment of chronic pain; sensorineural hearing loss; compulsive disorders such as obesity and tobacco and drug addiction; and bronchial asthma.
In other studies conducted on both humans and dogs, acupuncture was found to be beneficial in cases where analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications had been ineffective or had demonstrated side effects and in cases where surgery was not recommended. For example, many practitioners are pleased with the results of acupuncture in treating arthritis in both humans and canines. One study found that acupuncture enhanced the efficacy of antibiotic treatment for canine otitis crises (8).
Favorable acupuncture results have been reported in the treatment of many other canine conditions, including the following: cardiovascular disorders (9), chronic respiratory conditions (10), dermatological disorders (11), gastrointestinal disorders (12), gynecological disorders (13), immune-mediated disorders (14), male reproductive disorders (15), musculoskeletal disorders (16), neurological disorders (17), reproductive disorders (18), thoracolumbar and cervical disc disease (19, 20). Deciding if your dog should be treated with acupuncture therapy often depends on the dog itself and the condition afflicting it. "My attitude is that with each and every animal with each and every condition, you look at what the best comprehensive integrative approach is and develop a therapeutic plan for that animal," explains Allen Schoen, DVM, co-editor of "Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine: Principles and Practice" (Mosby 1998). "Sometimes acupuncture is used as a last resort; at other times it may be chosen as the first approach [for example] if surgery would have potential complications, and only if acupuncture didn't work would you consider surgery."
According to Schoen, before you decide on any treatment approach, it is important to get a good diagnosis and then look at all the options, including acupuncture and those offered by conventional medicine. He suggests obtaining a traditional veterinarian's opinion and diagnosis before deciding if acupuncture should complement the treatment of veterinary disorders.
Schoen explains there are some situations in which acupuncture may not be effective or should not be used. For example, extremely anxious pets sometimes can be so excitable that the release of their own adrenaline counteracts acupuncture's benefits. Owners also should be aware of specific medical complications. "[Acupuncture] normally does not interfere with other conventional approaches," he explains, "but certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can decrease the effectiveness of acupuncture. [In addition,] you want to be exceedingly careful in using acupuncture with cancer because selecting the wrong points can actually accelerate the cancer growth."
Because of this, in Schoen's opinion, only someone who is trained in both veterinary medicine and veterinary acupuncture should treat your pet if you are considering acupuncture as an alternative therapy.

How Does it Work?

Now that we've explored the philosophy behind acupuncture and some of those theories in practice, you may be wondering about the science behind the technique and if there is any clinical evidence of efficacy that will withstand modern Western scrutiny. The answer is a qualified "yes." Some modern practitioners feel that at its most basic level, acupuncture is applied neurophysiology. We may one day be able to explain acupuncture in those terms. Today, Western science still has a poor understanding of its mechanisms. However, the body of anecdotal evidence supporting its effectiveness is overwhelming. One only has to watch surgery under acupuncture anesthesia to comprehend that something significant and unfamiliar to the Western way of thinking is going on. The World Health Organization concluded in 1979 that "Acupuncture is clearly not a panacea for all ills but sheer weight of evidence demands that acupuncture must be taken seriously as a clinical procedure of considerable value."
Acupuncture has had field tests, too. Some 4000 years of application on a sizeable segment of the world's population makes acupuncture arguably the most widely practiced and thoroughly tested medical technique in history (21).
In 1998 the American Veterinary Medical Association took this position in its "Guidelines for Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine" approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association: "Veterinary acupuncture and acutherapy are considered an integral part of veterinary medicine. These techniques should be regarded as surgical and/or medical procedures under state veterinary practice acts. It is recommended that educational programs be undertaken by veterinarians before they are considered competent to practice veterinary acupuncture."
Besides acupuncture courses that currently are available, there also are some popular textbooks including Veterinary Acupuncture by Alan Klide and Shiu Kung (22). A more recent book is Veterinary Acupuncture: Ancient Art of Modern Medicine (23). For a more general, TCM text suitable for the layperson, we suggest Four Paws, Five Directions by Cheryl Schwartz (24).

Scientific Explanations

To understand how the theories of acupuncture translate to pain relief, it is necessary to know a little about how pain is transmitted and experienced by the body. Pain is a double-edged sword. On one hand it protects us from damage by warning us of harmful situations, but in chronic conditions it is as debilitating as the disease process itself. Abnormal chronic pain states are thought to result from damage within the pain pathway itself, either in the peripheral nerves or the central nervous system.
The normal protective pain mechanism, which warns of impending or actual damage, is activated by mechanical, heat or other noxious stimuli impinging on pain receptors that then transmit the pain impulse to the CNS through afferent nerve fibers. Unlike other sensory input, pain recognition is subjective, and previous experiences can influence one's perception of it. This is true of dogs also; some breeds generally are more stoic than others. Pain perception also is a function of sex as females have shown a much higher pain threshold.
How is this possible? The body has its own pain-suppression mechanisms. This built-in analgesic system depends on the presence of endogenous opiates, which include endorphins. Most Western theories suggest acupuncture either instigates the production of these opiates or blocks pain transmission. Not unexpectedly, when East meets West and when philosophy meets science, confusion undoubtedly will occur. Similarly, when old meets new, questions of quackery from both sides will arise. Even in light of this, some Western theories have sought to explain the reported pain-relief benefits of acupuncture. One of those is the gate or inhibition theory, which proposes that pain is blocked by stimulating sensory neurones that travel faster than those that transmit pain (25).
Several types of nerve fibers are involved in pain transmission. As mentioned before, there are three types of pain receptors. Stimuli received from the mechanical and thermal pain receptors are transmitted over large myelinated A-delta fibers at a speed close to 30 meters per second. Impulses received by the other type of receptors travel much more slowly on the C fibers at the rate of 12 meters per second. A-alpha fibers, which are necessary for the proper perception of where we are in three-dimensional space, i.e., where our feet are located, are found in muscles and joints. Alpha-beta neurones are involved in feeling light touch and the bending of hairs. A-alpha and A-beta fibers transmit nerve impulses many times faster than A-delta or C fibers. AP stimulation may induce non-painful sensory information that travels along A-beta fibers. When the information reaches something called the inhibitory interneurones, it shuts a nerve transmission "gate" that blocks the conduction of the slower travelling A-delta and C fibres.
The gate theory may account for some part of the mechanism of acupuncture analgesia, but it does not explain the delayed effects of treatment or the results of cross-circulation studies (studies in which the blood circulation of two animals were connected, and the procedure performed on one produced results in both). These factors are much better explained by the competing humoral theory, which states that acupuncture instigates the release of endogenous (developed from within) opiates that produce a self-induced analgesia (26). In other words, acupuncture may work by stimulating specific afferent nerves, which in turn activate a spinal cord center, a mid-brain center and the hypothalamus/anterior pituitary unit. All three of these have been shown to block pain transmission by means of endorphins and/or other analgesic neurotransmitters. Some believe that acupuncture's pain relief derives from a combination of the neurological and humoral explanations (27).
Another theory suggests acupuncture may have localized vasodilatation effects, which would explain the procedure's benefits specific to musculoskeletal disorders. Dilated blood vessels are better able to eliminate pain-producing substances such as bradykinin (a substance released from blood plasma by some snake venoms and certain other enzymes that lowers blood pressure and triggers pain), prostaglandins and other inflammatory products.
Another explanation is the autonomic theory, which maintains that internal organs can be stimulated by external acupuncture points that selectively excite parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves regulating the autonomic nervous system (28).
The bioelectric theory tops off this confusing mix of theories. It suggests acupuncture meridians are like direct current pathways and acupuncture points function as amplifiers. What these theories have in common is the stimulation of acupuncture points via insertion of small needles, application of pressure, cupping (suction) and application of heat through moxibustion (which can be used to raise the temperature of the needles), or infrared, laser or electrical stimulation.

Interpreting Scientific Studies

Although acupuncture's successes have been tested in practice throughout history and have attracted a following of practitioners and patients, rigorous scientific acupuncture trials have yielded mixed results. Unfortunately, there is no tight control of patient suitability/responsiveness or practitioner expertise, and even studies with statistical analyses may be flawed because of inappropriately small or non-random samples. One well-known text used to teach biostatistics to medical and veterinary students maintains that in general, major errors are made in the statistical treatment of data in at least 50 percent of all the papers submitted for peer review in journals (29). Significant efforts have been made to improve the validity of statistical inferences drawn in journal articles.
Flaws in the statistical treatment of experimental data especially are damaging in clinical studies. Veterinarians and physicians consider their treatment options (including acupuncture) based on the outcomes of clinical trials. If erroneous conclusions are drawn from experimental data, patients may be exposed to unnecessary risks, discomfort and expense. Worst of all, more efficacious treatment may be delayed or not even attempted. It is therefore important to read the claims made about acupuncture with a discerning eye. This is not to say the use of statistics is an invalid and unrecognized strategy, but be aware that errors can be made in both the experimental design and in the conclusions drawn, so what you read always must be questioned with those caveats in mind.
Some detractors absolutely are convinced that acupuncture is little more than "nonsense with needles" and hope it will pass from the contemporary scene and fall into disuse like other obsolete treatments such as purging, leeching and bleeding (30). A lack of evidence, however, is not proof that a treatment is not effective. In the words of a colleague, "If there are no benefits derived from the process, acupuncture would have to be categorized as one of the longest playing scams in the history of mankind (31)".
We have barely scratched the surface of this complex and controversial subject. However, we hope you take away from this article the following:
1) Acupuncture can be a beneficial adjunct therapy, but it has its own set of dangers, not the least of which is the possibility of a lack of diagnosis or misdiagnosis of problems that routinely would be identified in Western veterinary medicine;
2) Anecdotally, acupuncture works, so if you do choose to take your dog to a veterinary acupuncturist, take it to someone who is having success in treating similar problems;
3) if Western medicine has failed your dog, there is little to lose in trying acupuncture. But do not expect it to be the miracle cure; it is not a panacea. In the hands of some practitioners, however, it has produced successes that are hard to explain using the principles of our current scientific and medical knowledge.
John Cargill, Retired Officer of Marines, statistician and science writer, grew up with Airedale Terriers and American Foxhounds but lives on a boat in Florida with his 5-year-old Akita, Ch. Kimdamar's Jumbalaya Jazz (call name "JJ").
Susan Thorpe-Vargas has a doctorate in immunology and has an extensive chemistry and lab background. She has been involved in numerous Environmental Protection Agency cleanup sites. Susan also raises and shows Samoyeds.

Veterinary Acupuncture


For centuries the healing art of acupuncture has been practiced on animals. The origin of acupuncture dates back to ancient China. The Chinese regularly practiced acupuncture on horses then gradually tried it on other farm animals and finally dogs, cats and birds. This form of healing work is based around bio-energy or Qi (See Shiatsu for a more detailed explanation of Qi). Acupuncture serves to unblock Qi energy and in so doing boosts the immune system which aids in self-healing. Acupuncture causes the body to release endorphins and hormones while at the same time decreasing inflammation both internally and externally.
The Chinese discovered that animals have similar meridians and reflex-points to humans. These meridians are the fields in which Qi energy flows. The meridians are connected with internal organs, muscular and joint structures, and the nervous system. Acupuncture points, which lie on the meridians, are areas of the skin at which the flow of Qi can be affected. When an animal is unhealthy, there is an imbalance or interference with Qi flow. The acupuncturist manipulates the animal’s Qi by stimulating specific acupuncture points, which alleviates the blockage or imbalance.
Not until Oswald Kothbauer in Austria and Erwin Westermayer in Germany began experimenting with treatment of cattle and horses did acupuncture begin to be recognized in the west as a legitimate healing modality.
In order for your veterinarian to diagnose your pet it’s important for them to have a thorough understanding of the body’s meridians and the relationship of those meridians to the corresponding condition or illness.
Here is a list of areas that respond favorably to acupuncture.
MUSCULO-SKELETAL
This is the area most commonly treated with acupuncture in western medical practice. Quite a few veterinarians limit themselves to the treatment of arthritic disorders or muscular injuries, ignoring the many other conditions and illnesses which can benefit from acupuncture.
GYNECOLOGICAL
All female reproductive conditions are acknowledged to respond to acupuncture treatment including anestrus, metritis, dystocia, retained placenta, agalactia, mastitis and mesalliance.
MALE REPRODUCTIVE
Impotence, orchitis, epididymitis, and libido can be successfully treated.
HORMONAL
Almost all of the hormonal systems can be affected, including all of the pituitary functions, thyroid and parathyroid functions, and adrenal functions. It is also possible to normalize blood sugar levels.
NEUROLOGICAL/PSYCHOLOGICAL
Anxiety, epilepsy and behavioral disorders have all responded well to acupuncture treatments.
DERMATOLOGICAL
The skin can tell us if our pet is getting proper nutrition and how well they’re disposing of waste through the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. If an acupuncturist can keep these organs and systems in good condition, this will be reflected in the skin.
PERFORMANCE
Acupuncture is being used to indirectly influence the performance of a dog or horse. It’s best not to use acupuncture 48 to 60 hours before a race due to the sedating effect. After 48 hours or so there is an increase in vigor, vitality, and a general feeling of well-being.
Some veterinarians are now practicing acupuncture with Helium-Neon lasers instead of needles. This is said to avoid the slight discomfort to the animal that can be caused by the insertion of needles. In addition, the operator does not have to learn needle insertion techniques necessary to perform acupuncture. This form of treatment is safe to tissue and cannot introduce infection.
Electro-acupuncture is used to help in some specific procedures. It’s used as an alternative when needles or lasers do not seem to be working.
Another variation on acupuncture is called aquapuncture, which is the injection of a liquid into the main acupuncture points. Some veterinarians have found that the effect lasts longer then the insertion of needles. The liquids used in this technique are usually homeopathic in nature. This modality takes less time to perform then acupuncture.
It is always good to keep in mind that there are still a variety of conditions and illnesses that must be treated with drugs and/or surgery. The use of acupuncture in conjunction with drugs and/or surgery can immeasurably improve your companion animal’s chances for a rapid and complete recovery.

Auricular acupressure to quit smoking

Smoking represents one of the greatest current risks to public health. Among the several therapies for quit smoking (addiction treatment programs) advertised is common to find acupuncture. In particular, auricular acupuncture.
The auricular acupuncture can be done with needles, electrical stimulation or by placing small bead – can be seeds – into specific acupuncture points located on the ear. A pilot study entitled “Acupressure for smoking cessation – a pilot study”[i] intended to study the effectiveness of pressure on auricular acupuncture points in patients treated to quit smoking.
All patients were subjected to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and psychological group therapy.

The scientific study was a randomized and controlled pilot study and was conducted in a group program of six weeks and was aimed at studying the viability of auricular acupressure as an adjunct method to quit smoking.
The study created three groups: group A with two auricular acupressure beads, Group B with one auricular acupressure bead and group C with no additional therapy. Participants were told to push the ball whenever they feel the desire to smoke. The beads were placed in one ear and used during four weeks and replaced where necessary.

It was noted that patients pressed the ball in very early days and then failed to stimulate as the days passed. The study encountered several problems such as lack of data on the consumption of NRT. However the data on withdrawal symptoms were almost complete.
The data relating to withdrawal symptoms were not statistically significant in any group at any week of study. The authors concluded that any benefits obtained with auricular acupressure to quit smoking are hardly detectable by methods used in this study.

NADA and ACACD ear acupuncture on addictions

What is NADA?
NADA stands for National American Detoxification Association (NADA)[i] [ii].
What is the NADA acupuncture protocol?
The NADA acupuncture protocol is a protocol of auricular acupuncture to treat addiction. It is a fixed ear acupuncture protocol that does not involve diagnosis and usually are not changed.
Which are the points that constitute the NADA protocol?
This acupuncture protocol consists of auricular acupuncture points: LUNG 2, SHENMEN, POINT AUTONOMIC, LIVER, KIDNEY.

Who may use the NADA protocol?
According to Chad Dupuis of Yin Yang House, by its fixed nature there are many places that allow the administration of treatment for non-acupuncturists personal.
What is ACACD?
ACACD means American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders.
Wich acupuncture protocol they use in the treatment of addictions?
The ACACD uses the following protocol of auricular acupuncture: POINT ZERO, SHENMEN, POINT AUTONOMY, KIDNEY, BRAIN, LYMPHATIC SYSTEM.
 
These treatments have scientific support?
No. There is not any valid study proving the efficacy of acupuncture to treat addiction and much less on fixed acupuncture protocols of auricular acupuncture.
Interestingly each time a scientific study concludes by ineffectiveness of acupuncture in treating addiction, the study ends up being discredited by acupuncturists, because they are using fixed acupuncture protocols. The same acupuncturists that defend the validity of fixed acupuncture protocols of NADA or ACACD to treat addiction.
These treatments are based on TCM (Tradicional Chinese Medicine)?
According to the NADA site yes[iii]. They say specifically that:
“While adapted to Western attitudes and conditions, the NADA method derives directly from the Chinese medicine theory of detoxification”[iv]
Very unlikely this will be true for the simple fact that any analysis of TCM is based on reading the clinical signs and symptoms of the patient for diagnosis (based on disease and clinical patterns) followed by therapeutic principles.
As mentioned by Chad Dupuis:
“The detoxification protocols, in contrast with much of Chinese medicine, involve no diagnosis and are usually not modified in any way”[v].
TCM is not based on fixed acupuncture protocols and does not prescribe therapies without a proper diagnosis and terapeutical principles.

Press acupuncture points to treat alcoholism 2

In the foot there are two acupuncture points that lie on the dorsal surface. I mention the acupuncture points LV3/taichong and ST44/Neiting.
Acupuncture point ST44/Neiting is at the distal (anterior) part of the metatarsal-phalangeal articulation, between the 2nd and 3rd toes.
Acupuncture point LV3/taichong lies in the proximal (posterior) part of the inter-osseous space between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal.

The complete protocol still had three more points. Two points in the upper limb (PC6/Neiguan and HT7/shenmen) and a point in the abdomen (CV12/Zhongwan). The abdominal acupuncture point is the easiest to find of all the three.
The acupuncture point CV12/Zhongwan is in Sagittal Midline (LMS) in the abdomen midway between the navel and the base of the xiphoid process. It´s easy to find.
To mark the acupuncture points that are in the forearm (PC6/Neiguan and HT7/Shenmen) is already necessary to enter into account with anatomical landmarks and measurements to cun for PC6/Neiguan and anatomical landmarks for HT7/Shenmen.
To find the acupuncture point PC6/Neiguan we must enter into consideration with the cun division that is doen in the forearm. It’s easy. From the elbow flexion line to wrist flexion line are 12 cun. PC6 point is 2 cun superior to the flexion line of wrist. However this is not enough. The pericardium channel passes between two tendons in the lower forearm. I speak of tendons of flexor carpi radialis and long flexor. Finding them is easy: just find the wrist flexion.

Putting these two information we have that PC6/Neiguan acupuncture point is 2 cun superior to the wrist flexion crease between the tendons of flexor carpi radialis and flexor long.
Finally we have the acupuncture point HT7/Shenmen. This point is at the level of the wrist flexion crease so it is not necessary to invoke cun measurement system. On the radial side (outside) of the pisiform bone in the transverse wrist crease in the angle between the pisiform bone and the tendon of flexor carpi ulnar is where we find this last point of advice about protocols for acupuncture to treat alcoholism (alcohol treatment, alcoholism acupuncture) used by Ganglin Yin and Liu Zhenghua in their book Advanced Modern Chinese Acupuncture Therapy.

Press acupuncture points to treat alcoholism 1

The acupuncture protocol for the treatment of alcoholism presented in this article was authored by ganglin Yin and Liu Zhenghua and was published in their book Advanced Modern Chinese Acupuncture Therapy. Another article had referred to the protocol of acupuncture. This article serves to indicate the location of the points mentioned.
The acupuncture protocol referred to by the authors of this book was:
SP6/Sanyinjiao
SP9/Yinlingquan
ST40/fenglong
ST44/Neiting
LV3/Tiachong
PC6/Neiguan
1CV2/Zhongwan
HT7/Shenmen

In this protocol we found five acupuncture points located in the lower limbs (SP6/sanyinjiao, SP9/yinlingquan, ST40/fenglong, ST44/neiting and LV3/taichong), 2 acupuncture points in the upper limb (PC6/neiguan and HT7/shenmen) and a point in the abdomen (CV12/zhongwan).

Of points located in the lower limb, three are located in the leg (SP6/sanyianjiao, SP9/yinlinquan and ST40/fenglong) and two are located in the foot (LV3/taichong and ST44/neiting).
To find two acupuncture points on the leg (SP6/sanyinjiao and SP9/yinlingquan) we have to get in line with two anatomical landmarks (prominence of the inner ankle and lower edge of medial tibial plate) and the cun measurement system . The distance between these two anatomical landmarks is 13 cun.
Now finding the two acupuncture points is easy. SP9/yinlingquan point is at the lower edge of the medial/internal tibial condyle at the level of the anterior tibial prominence.
The point SP6/sanyinjiao is 3 cun superior to the internal malleolus proeminence, one finger behind the inner edge of the tibia bone. Besides the normal divisions, cun measurements can also be made by using a person´s hand. The distance of four fingers together makes about 3 cun.
Then you have another point in the leg, I speak from the point of acupuncture ST40/fenglong. Unlike the two previous points, this is in the antero-external face of the leg and not in its inner edge. So you must give attention to other anatomical landmarks. In this case, the most important anatomical landmarks are: the knee joint line and the prominence of the external malleolus.
The distance between these two anatomical landmarks is 16 cun and acupuncture point ST40E//fenglong is 8 cun below the acupoint ST35 (which is approximately the level of the knee joint line). That is midway between the knee joint line and the external malleolus and two fingers lateral the iliac crest we find the point ST40/fenglong.

Auriculotherapy in the treatment of cocaine addiction

Auriculotherapy is highly recommended, in the realms of non-conventional medicine in treating addictions. However as mentioned in other articles, there are no studies that actually prove their effectiveness.
Arthur Margollin, et ally, conducted an investigation to study the true efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of cocaine dependence/addiction. To do this they created a randomized controlled study over 3 years (November 1996 to April 1999).
In the study, with more than 600 patients, were created three groups: one group with auriculotherapy (ear acupuncture), a sham acupuncture group and a control group (relaxation control condition).

Assessments were made during treatment, 3 months and 6 months after treatment for cocain addiction to observe the presence of cocaine in urine. Patients retention in treatment was also used to evaluate efficacy of auriculotherapy and sham acupuncture on cocaine addiction treatment.
The results demonstrated no statistically significant differences between any of the three groups. The study’s conclusion:
“Within the context of this clinical study, acupuncture was not more effective than a needle insertion or relaxation control in Reducing cocaine use. Our study does not support the use of acupuncture as a stand-alone treatment for cocaine addiction or in contexts in Which Patients receive only minimal concurrent psychosocial treatment.Research needed to examine Will Be acupuncture’s Contribution to addiction treatment in an When Provided ancillary role.

Acupuncture Treats Retinitis Pigmentosa


Mounting evidence suggests that acupuncture is an effective treatment for retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative eye disorder that may to lead to blindness. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion concludes that acupuncture treatment protects the optic nerve from damage caused by intraocular pressure by alleviating stresses on retinal and optic nerve axonal ultrastructures.1 The Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine published that the use of Chinese medicine improved retinal cone activity for patients with retinitis pigmentosa, even in cases of advanced retinal degeneration. Using electroretinograms for the investigation, the study also concludes that, “TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) treatment could also enhance the bioactivity of (the) nerve network and therefore have a definite significance in retarding the progression of disease and keeping the central vision.”2 In another study, injections of She Xiang into acupuncture points UB18 and UB23 helped patients with retinitis pigmentosa. The study concludes that injection of She Xiang into Ganshu (UB18) and Shenshu (UB23) “can improve effectively the function and metabolism of optic cells, promote blood circulation of the retina, enhance the visual acuity, and protect the central vision for the patient of retinitis pigmentosa.”3 Yet another study of retinitis pigmentosa patients receiving acupuncture (ranging from ages 7 – 75 years) showed significant improvement and a halting of deterioration of the visual field.4

Macular Degeneration

Points of the Eye

Below are shown some of the points near the eye that are treated with the microcurrent stimulation.

There is no pain with the treatment. The total treatment time is about 5 minutes. Treatment should be done two or three times each day. The device treats all these points automatically for the patient, with different frequencies for prescribed time periods.

The Acupuncture Weight Loss Solution

I am going to tell you a secret. All diets will work if they lower your caloric intake and you STICK TO IT! It’s pure physics: Our weight is determined by the amount of energy that we take in, and the amount of energy we expend.

So why is obesity now a national epidemic?

The problem is that it is against our nature to limit calories. We instinctively eat more than we need to. This is a “gift” passed down from our hunter-gatherer ancestors from a time when there wasn't a drive-thru window on every corner.  We also tend to eat in excess due to our modern lifestyles, chronic stress, and other psychological “triggers”.

Going to Extremes

People will go to drastic measures to lose weight. Fad diets ask you to eat an unnatural and unhealthy diet, such as a meal plan of cabbage soup or pineapples or rice or no-carbs,  They may work in the short term because of the low caloric intake, but there is absolutely no way you can keep it up. Your body and mind will rebel and take revenge for putting it on such a restrictive regime, rather than providing whole foods and a “whole diet” with proper nutrients. Instinctively, your body will crave foods and gorge, filling up, terrified of and preparing for the next starvation, packing on fat for stored energy.

Eating an unnatural and highly restrictive diet can cause yo-yo dieting and drastic ups and downs in body weight. Improper diet practices can also cause malnutrition, organ damage, slow metabolic rate and imbalances within the body.

Wouldn’t it be great to decrease the amount of food that you take in, and increase the amount of energy you expend? It’s entirely possible, thanks to acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture and TCM address both the physiological and psychological aspects of weight loss. A comprehensive therapy for weight issues rooted in TCM promotes better digestion, smooths emotions, reduces appetite, improves metabolism, and eliminates food cravings.

Weight loss according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to TCM, the root of excess weight is an imbalance within the body caused by malfunctioning of the spleen and liver organ systems.

In five-element theory, the spleen is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system, ensuring that the food we eat is transformed into Qi — the vital substance of life. Disharmony of the spleen will have symptoms such as fatigue, slow metabolism, water retention, loose stool, and feeling of heaviness.

The liver’s job is to keep the flow of your body’s Qi and blood (as well as your emotions) running smoothly. Our modern, fast-paced lifestyle and chronic stress can negatively impact the liver’s ability to function properly and smoothly, which, in turn, can cause the spleen and the whole digestive system to function poorly and decrease your metabolism. Liver disharmony can also cause some of the “triggers” that lead to cravings and compulsive eating.

Backed by Research

A growing body of research supports the use of acupuncture and Asian medicine in weight loss:

  • A 2003 study published in The Journal of Medical Acupuncture found that participants receiving acupuncture lost more than three times more weight than the control group.
  • In a study conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia in 1998, 95 percent of the participants receiving electro-stimulation on acupuncture points reported appetite suppression. The results showed that the acupuncture group was more likely to experience a reduced appetite and to lose weight than the control group.

The Acupuncture Weight Loss Treatment

From a TCM perspective, the acupuncture points, foods and herbs that are chosen to assist with weight loss directly influence the Qi of the spleen and liver systems to treat the root imbalances that are causing the weight gain.

From a Western perspective, acupuncture and TCM have been shown to have an effect on the function of the nervous system, endocrine system, digestive system, food cravings, and metabolism. All of which can help to energize the body, maximize the absorption of nutrients, regulate elimination, control overeating, suppress the appetite, and reduce anxiety.

Acupuncture Points for Weight Loss

The beauty of acupuncture is that each treatment is catered to the needs of the individual patient. Acupuncture points on the body will be chosen for overall well being with the objective of increasing circulation of the blood and Qi (stimulating the metabolism) and calming the nervous system.

In addition to treating the root of the imbalance within the body, different acupuncture points may be chosen for each treatment as different symptoms arise. For instance, if you are experiencing a desire to overeat related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) one week, then that can be addressed at that week’s appointment.

Generally treatments are scheduled once or twice a week for 8 to 12 weeks or until the goal weight has been reached. The treatments include a combination of auricular (ear) and body acupuncture, ear tacks or pellets to leave on in-between treatments, herbs and supplements, abdominal massage, breathing exercises, and food and lifestyle recommendations.

Ear Points

Acupuncture points on the ears have been found to be particularly effective for weight loss. The human ear has been described as a micro-system of the body in an inverted fetal position; it contains points relating to all major organs and body parts.

Auricular points for weight loss are stimulated with small tacks during treatment. Then seed-sized beads or magnets are taped to the points to enhance the effectiveness of the points at home. The beads will generally stay in place for 3 days to a week and can be gently massaged for 10-second intervals if cravings occur.

Here are some of the most commonly used auricular points:

  • Shenmen: Important point for calming the mind and reducing stress
  • Small Intestine: Reinforces spleen, promotes digestion.
  • Mouth: Calming point used for smoking, over eating and hyperactive talking.
  • Hunger Point: Used to relieve hunger and control compulsive eating
  • Endocrine point: Moves liver Qi and aids in the function of the metabolism

A Total Health Program


Most patients report a marked decline in appetite and cravings with acupuncture alone but herbs, healing foods, and exercises can definitely enhance the efficacy of the treatments.

Herbs and Healing Foods: The herbs and foods that are chosen during a weight loss treatment are for promoting healthy digestion, energizing the body, augmenting Qi, and improve elimination of water, toxins, and waste products. Foods that are bitter, sour and acrid to taste are especially good for weight loss, while sweet, salty and greasy foods should be reduced.

Abdominal massage/exercise: Points on the abdomen improve digestion, absorption of food and peristalsis of the intestines. The abdominal points can be stimulated with massage or by belly breathing, where the abdomen is consciously moving in and out with each breath. Deep breathing with visualization can also strengthen will power and be used as a tool to curb hunger and cravings.

Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are powerful tools for healthy weight loss, by itself or as a supportive treatment in conjunction with other weight management programs.

In the struggle to eat less and expend more energy, you may find that acupuncture is just what was needed to overcome cravings, boost energy, enhance your metabolism, and increase your willpower to succeed!

Acupuncture for Weight Loss

How to Lose the Weight and Keep It Off with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. 
Weight loss comes under the topic of "Weight Control", because we are concerned with the loss and MAINTENANCE of loss of weight. This is a multi-faceted problem, and a good program involves diet, exercise and stress reduction techniques. Chinese acupressure and digestive aid exercises are also useful tools in the battle with weight loss.

Acupuncture is an ADJUNCT therapy. It is not a panacea or a wonder cure in the treatment of weight control. But, acupuncture is effective in making it easier to lose and maintain that loss if the patient is willing to change their lifestyle. The exact mechanism by which acupuncture works is unknown but we know that acupuncture needles inserted into specific points on the body and in the ear release endorphins which have a calming and relaxing effect that makes it easier to deal with stress, frustration and anxiety that can trigger overeating and bingeing on fattening foods. Also endorphins affect the digestive and hormonal systems so acupuncture can help rebalance the organ systems that are running too fast- or in this case too slow—i.e., the metabolism and the will power. The Acupuncture Treatment
In order for the acupuncturist to choose the correct points for you, you must first come in for a consultation to discuss your particular pattern of overeating, and let the practitioner know in your intake form if there are any real digestive difficulties. Then the acupuncturist would check your pulse to discern the general state of your energy and measure the health of your stomach energy in particular, and then they would look at your tongue to check for cracks, peeling or puffiness on the stomach area, or a suspicious yellow or thick white coating that might indicate troublesome heat or coldness in the stomach and would provide some clues as to why the person was gaining weight.
The Acupuncture Points
Then, armed with this information, the acupuncturist would devise a treatment protocol using a combination of ear and body points. Although the Chinese developed the system of auricular (ear) acupuncture a long time ago, as one of the various Microsystems of the body containing all the points relating to the major organs and body parts, a Frenchman by the name of Nogier, discovered many more acupuncture points on the ear that pertain to Western medicine such as points called "Adrenal", "Pituitary", "FSH", "Ovary", "Thyroid", etc.

Many of the points from both ear acupuncture systems that are important for weight loss treatments are:
  • Mouth - for the impulsive eater who may also smoke a lot and talk a lot
  • Stomach - for the person who eats even after they're full or who's constantly nibbling
  • Hungry - for general appetite control
  • Lung - for food addicts, and people who love chocolate, sweets
  • Shenmen - a calming point, for the psychology overlay for anxiety, anger, frustration, insecurity
  • Endocrine - for water retention that's responsible for some of the weight gain
  • Adrenal and Ovary - if weight gain is due to menopause or P.M.S.
  • Spleen - for sugar imbalances and hormonal disturbances
  • Kidney - for water retention, and nervous system and hormonal imbalances
  • Thyroid - for slow metabolism
The practitioner chooses two or more of these points for each treatment depending upon the patient's problem and personality profile regarding overeating.
Next, body points would be selected.
During the first few treatments, most likely the "Four Gate" points (LI 4, Liver3) would be used to circulate the energy throughout the body and calm the nervous system. Ren 12, the front collecting point of the stomach energy would be chosen for many treatments, as would Stomach 36, three inches distal to the eye of the knee that tonifies the energy and helps circulate oxygen and blood of the whole body and of the stomach in particular. Then, based on the diagnosis, the practitioner may add Stomach, 40, the master point for mucous, or Kidney 7 or 10 for edema or water retention.
The acupuncturist may use electro stimulation on some of these acupuncture points to increase the endorphin release and stimulate the metabolism. The needles would be kept in place for around thirty to forty-five minutes depending on how much support was needed for the patient, and after the needles are removed, ear tacs with adhesive on them are often placed in the same spots on the ear to continue the stimulation between treatments. The way it works is this: when the patient feels an urge to eat, s/he applies mild pressure to the point or rubs it back and forth for about 20 seconds. This type of acupressure stimulates the point, causes a mild endorphin release, relaxes the patient and helps them to regain their willpower or resolve about resisting the temptation to eat. The patient removes the tacs at home after three days and throws them away or takes them out sooner if there is any irritation or discomfort. It is a good idea to also remove oneself from the location, person or food that triggers the resistance to the diet or contributes to the breakdown of willpower. For example, one might want to stay away from the kitchen and refrigerator between meals.
Read about people who lose weight with acupuncture and Chinese medicine
The Treatment Plan
The number of acupuncture treatments necessary depends on the patient's goals for losing weight, the speed at which they want to lose, and their commitment to keeping the weight off. If the overeating is severe, a treatment every day for the first five days is appropriate and can then taper off the second week to every other day and the third week to every three days. For the average patient who wants to lose between five to ten pounds, one treatment every three days or twice a week until they reach their goal is appropriate, and then a booster treatment once every two weeks is optimal. After a few booster treatments, the patient and practitioner will mutually decide when to terminate frequent treatments and then can aim to meet approximately four times a year at the change of seasons when energy levels are unstable and tonification and harmonizing of one's system is appropriate for everyone.
Nutritional Counseling and Lifestyle Changes
As was mentioned earlier, a good weight loss program includes nutritional counseling and exercise as well as a commitment to make permanent lifestyle changes. The acupuncturist can help with nutritional counseling and can discuss a diet regimen that the patient can live with and maintain for the long term. A diet that is high in fiber and low in fat, with moderate amounts of low-density carbohydrates and low-fat protein is usually the best choice to adopt. With this type of a diet program, the patient can avoid the pit-falls of yo-yo dieting or the tendency to lose weight and then regain it.

Other important tools that can aid in weight loss are stress reduction techniques and a moderate exercise regimen. The acupuncturist can suggest various stress reduction methods that may include breathing exercises, Tai Chi, yoga, meditation or biofeedback. And since the goal of a weight program is not only weight loss but the maintenance of that loss, an exercise program that the patient likes is the best one to choose. The patient could try starting a program that includes brisk walking three times a week for forty minutes. After a few weeks when stamina is increased, they could try walking five times a week. After that more aerobic exercise can be added such as the treadmill, stair climber or aerobics classes, cycling or whatever from of rigorous exercise the person enjoys and can maintain for the long term. It is a good idea to use free weights beginning with three pound weights and practicing just two to three sets of arm curls three times a week. Moderate weight training builds lean body mass and helps to reduce body fat as well as strengthen and build bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Chinese Herbal Medicine and Supplements
Next a good individualized nutritional supplement program is important because everyone has a different metabolism and different needs for nutrients. It will include vitamins, minerals, herbs antioxidants, phytochemicals and nutraceuticals. These will support the diet program and balance the blood sugar to help give the body the strength, energy and defense it needs to maintain the healthy life style that s/he has begun.
Many diet and appetite suppression products are available on the market and surprisingly there is a very effective and safe ancient Chinese herbaL formula for digestion that comes in a pleasant tasting chewable wafer form called BAO HE WAN. The ingredients are:
  • Shan Zha (Fructus Crataegi) --promotes digestion of meat and fats; dissolves food accumulation
  • Shen Qu (Medicated Leaven) -- digests alcohol, rice and vinegar and dissolves food accumulation
  • Lai Fu Zi (Semen Raphani) -- digests starch (wheat and breads)
  • Ban Xia (Pinellia), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), and Fu Ling (Poria Cocos), -- resolve dampness and food accumulations
  • Lian Qiao (Fructus Forsythiae) -- clears stomach heat that may result from accumulated food that dries up the digestive liquids
When this famous herbal formula is drunk as a tea, other herbs may be added if there is gas or abdominal distension such as cardamon or magnolia bark. Or if constipation is a problem a gentle laxative like Semen Pruni or Huo Ma Ren may be used. However an important concept of Chinese medicine is to diagnose properly and treat the patient with the correct herbs so as not to consume body fluids or disturb electrolyte balance. Food accumulation may be due to stomach deficiency so the practitioner may add other herbs such as Codonopsis to tonify the stomach energy so the food could descend properly through the digestive tract.
Breathing and Abdominal Excercises
While the patient is undergoing the behavior modification program and is successfully losing weight, it is a good idea to incorporate a set of deep breathing and abdominal exercises that utilize the acupuncture meridians or energy lines on the body to stimulate relaxation and digestion. If we practice deep abdominal breathing while lying down for a few minutes in the morning before we arise, we will not only take in more oxygen but will stimulate the stomach, spleen, kidney ,and reproductive energy lines that are all located on the center of the torso . Digestion will be improved and all those organs will function more effectively. We will also start the day with more energy and clarity.

Another method of stimulating these same organs in the stomach region is the abdominal finger pressure massage that follows the direction of the large intestines. This massage may also be performed in bed in the morning and evening and will gently stimulate all the points on the central torso and will not only encourage proper digestion but will foster homeostasis or the harmonious balancing of the hormone and endocrine systems of the body.
Pressure Points
Last but not least, three pressure points on the body may be stimulated daily for two minutes each that will promote the general health as well as aid digestion, elimination and relaxation. These points are: Large Intestines 4 (HEGU); Pericardium 6 (Neiguan); and Stomach 36 (Zusanli). The points should be pressed with strong continuous pressure for approximately two minutes each and may be said to comprise a self-healing treatment.
While no guarantee may be given for acupuncture treatments for weight loss, the self-motivated patient who will take the time to practice most of the things outlined here will most likely be pleased with the results that she finds within a reasonable amount of time.