Acupuncture is only a tool. The person wielding the tool is responsible for what it can do. They might have any number of models and strategies in mind. They may be more or less aware of their technique and the range of possibilities at any given point where a needle is inserted, or of how their own mechanics and attention affect the outcome.
Acupuncture’s special ability is to stimulate the body to do what it naturally does. If it relieves pain, it is in exactly the ways that your body naturally relieves pain, but not just by regulating neurotransmitters. If the fascia is needled, the fascia responds; likewise for muscles and tendons, which can be felt to move during treatment. The response of the vascular system is immediate, precise, and clearly palpable.
Every cubic centimeter of the body is densely perfused with interconnected networks of tissue. These are the fabled acupuncture channels. Tracts of fascia, latitudinal and longitudinal blood vessels, nerve pathways and dermatomes. The ancient founders of acupuncture medicine studied these structures closely and methodically.
What makes those researchers of the classical period radical today is not any romantic idea of the body; it is just that they thought it – the actual flesh and blood human body – was intelligent, capable of healing, and inseparable from its environment. That is the practical perspective which gave rise to an amazing form of medicine. It would be tragic to take acupuncture, a tool, and leave the perspective that has given it power and purpose for so long.
You can learn about the scientific evidence for acupuncture here.
There are wide variations among acupuncturists in style, ability, training, and experience. At Blue House Acupuncture, many traditions and methods are represented. Below is a breakdown of two general categories of acupuncture methodologies used here, and a third style that is unique unto itself.
Relying heavily on palpating and pressing the channels, your body’s natural healing responses are stimulated with the finest needles. For example, upper respiratory issues are often reflected in tightness or roughness of the forearm near the elbow along the Large Intestine channel. Warming and needling the points here will often lead to immediately opening the sinuses. If the pulse is still slack, bumps may be found along the shin on the Stomach channel; a few needles give the heart strength, which in turn makes the pulse easier to interpret.
If the treatment is for pain in the neck, soreness can often be found at the palpable points of C1, just behind the ear. A couple of hair thin needles in the back of the hand sends a ripple of energy into the spine, and the vertebra can be felt sliding into place. Similar techniques exist for the sacro-iliac and other joints.
Channel therapy is excellent for relieving tension, improving circulation, supporting immunity, and adjusting musculo-skeletal structures. It is a great place to start for new patients with complex chronic conditions, because the process yields so much information. In this practice, channel therapy is mostly derived from Japanese acupuncture, but not exclusively.
This category is comprised of multiple schools of practice including Tung style acupuncture and the Balance Method, but the one primarily used here is little known in the west, called Yuan Qi acupuncture. The models of Yuan Qi acupuncture look vaguely like dermatome maps, but they are based on the Five Element theory of Chinese medicine. Skipping the boring details, the benefit is precise, reliable pain control. The needling is slightly more intense than in channel therapy, but it is easily tolerated by virtually everyone. If you live with pain, you are going to love this.
Named for a 15th century Korean Buddhist monk, Sa’am is remarkably powerful. Conditions that would otherwise require a dozen or more treatments, or that might be untreatable, often resolve in only a few visits.
Sa’am employs pattern diagnosis, meaning that your body type, personality, and other signs and symptoms determine the appropriate treatment as much as the primary symptom. Based on the pattern, a set of four points (and sometimes eight) are selected and needled in a precise way.
The key to a successful Sa’am treatment is clinical feedback. Unlike other kinds of acupuncture that are more regulatory in nature, a Sa’am treatment is either right or wrong. If it’s right, the patient appears relaxed and peaceful; if it’s wrong, and the patient becomes agitated or uncomfortable, the needles are removed and a counterbalancing set of four points are needled on the opposite side of the body. This clinical feedback is like a safety mechanism. A wrong treatment can be as beneficial as a right one, though, because it yields concrete clinical information and the remedy is certain. It’s just part of the process.
Because of these dynamics, it is essential that Sa’am is performed correctly. Here are some things you should know before agreeing to have Sa’am acupuncture:
The needling technique is very strong, even on sensitive points, to ensure reliable clinical feedback. You can do it. The key is to relax.
If a second set of needles is indicated, you should not refuse them, or serious side-effects could occur.
Sa’am is like a medication: in the unlikely event that side-effects occur after leaving the clinic, contact your practitioner immediately.