A simple, easy to understand explanation of acupuncture.
John A. Amaro L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.(NCCAOM), DC
In the September 2006 issue of “Acupuncture Today” my article “What does it take to succeed in an Acupuncture practice”? created a huge response from readers wanting to know more. If you did not see the article go to www.AcupunctureToday.com and see previous articles under “columnists” and my name.
I found it quite interesting that of all of the e-mails I received with requests for further assistance, the one particular item I heard more often than any other was the lack of confidence in explaining what acupuncture is and how it works. As one reader put it, “finding myself sometimes tongue tied when I’m asked to describe how acupuncture works. I sometimes hear myself and I sound like I’m spouting mumbo jumbo.”
Bear in mind our typical patient is a contemporary Western patient who has typically grown up under the guidance and care of allopathic physicians, have received the myriad of vaccinations, takes or has taken a variety of prescription and over the counter medications and has developed or is now developing an interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Acupuncture and TCM are totally new to them and even though they have heard positive remarks as to its clinical success and they see it as the possibility of redemption of their problem, it remains controversial and if anything just “weird”. Even though they do not question their medical practitioner how a specific medication works physiologically and pharmacologically, this is not the case with acupuncture, almost everyone wants to know how it works.
What is acupuncture and how does it work are two of the paramount questions people have. Of course the other most significant questions are: Can you help me?, How long will it take? and How much will it cost?
Since every case is different as to cost and length of treatment and the possibility of helping them varies to the extent of the condition, the only thing that may be answered generically is “What is acupuncture”?
As every practitioner knows or should know, there is not one specific style of acupuncture in practice worldwide today. In fact there are numerous styles of acupuncture just as there are martial art styles depending on the nation who is practicing it. Therefore to try to establish one common definition of acupuncture to reflect every style of acupuncture throughout dozens of Asian, Mid East and European nations would be almost an impossibility creating disagreement amongst the equally diverse practitioners of the various styles.
However practitioners, who find themselves in an uncomfortable position trying to explain acupuncture to a typical patient on a typical weekday in their own practice behind closed doors, are not concerned with establishing an international definition of acupuncture and how it works which would be adopted by every nation and practitioner utilizing acupuncture. They only want to explain simply and easily to their own patient.
It is imperative when a practitioner explains anything to a patient they do it in a style which is extremely simple. The rule is can the patient now go home and explain with accuracy that same identical concept to a member of their family or
friend so they may also understand the explanation. To do so is one of the most significant referral pearls you will come across. If the patient leaves the office confused, overwhelmed and made to feel they do not know what they are getting themselves into, it is human nature to flee while they have a chance. Therefore, one of the other most commonly heard remarks to my September “Acupuncture Today” article was, “I have a number of patients who discontinue treatment prematurely”. Well, it’s probably no wonder! They cannot relate to the value of the service due to their not understanding what is to transpire. This is usually associated with inadequate explanation.
Most American patients who encounter for the first time the 12 pulses of the wrist are often in disbelief as to this concept. If the pulses do in fact exist how come my medical doctor doesn’t know about this? Science and medical school would surely have discovered the six pulses in each wrist. Is it only acupuncturists who know about this? Why? The patient has already become academically challenged.
Which is why when I am verifying and formulating treatment protocol and diagnosis through pulse diagnosis I always like to do it in harmony with Electro Meridian Imaging (EMI). This of course is electronic evaluation of the Yuan points for the primary meridians and evaluation of the Jing Well points for the musculo-tendino meridians.
This allows evaluation of the patient through TCM concepts while at the same time the patient feels comfortable knowing high technology scientific evaluation of the meridian system is being used. You will find the average patient can relate much more to modern instrumentation than they can with ancient principles.
Remember, our patients are contemporary Western medically indoctrinated individuals. Its OK to utilize ancient principles, however, to include contemporary applications along with your learned procedures, will only make the patient feel more comfortable in addition to providing the practitioner with a considerable amount of information which they would not have had otherwise. The patient is enthralled and enthusiastic as the Electro Meridian Imaging has explained their condition in graphic, contemporary explanations which they can easily relate to. Referrals are high as it is common for a patient to want their family and friends to also experience the EMI.
So what about the acupuncture meridians themselves? Bear in mind the patient has never heard of such an unusual concept. They are basically knowledgeable about nerves, blood vessels, muscles, etc, which one can visualize and actually demonstrate hard evidence of their existence. Suddenly we are presenting people with a concept of the invisible meridians which carry invisible Qi energy. The patient is saying if this were the case, why wouldn’t my medical doctor know about this. He/She knows about everything else. Science has seen the nucleus of the cell and beyond, why would they not know of the meridian system if it exists. The patient has never encountered anything which seems so mystical regarding the human body, suddenly they are being asked to accept with blind faith a concept which goes beyond their general understanding of anatomy and physiology.
When I explain the meridian system of the body, first off I show them a graphic of a meridian for example the Hand Shao Yang (Gallbladder) meridian. I explain to them that even though the ancients recognized and discovered the
meridian system thousands of years ago, science today is recognizing the electro magnetic potential of the body which is what the meridian system is based on. Today we have electrical muscle exams (EMG’s), magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) and other tests which are based on the body’s basic biomagnetic system. Science and the medical profession has accepted the existence of the meridian system as an integral part of human functioning as it controls and coordinates the electro magnetic system of the body which may control all other systems of the body.
I continue to explain, the meridian system is very similar to radio in that radio waves likewise cannot be seen by the human eye but we all understand that they do in fact exist. Meridian acupuncture compares to radio in that if a city has 12 radio stations, much like our 12 meridians, it is imperative that each specific station broadcast at its individual frequency. In other words if a station is operating at 94.5 on the dial it comes in loud and clear, however if it comes in at 94.4 or 94.6 the radio broadcast is only static. There is nothing wrong with the radio only the fine tuning is out of adjustment. A simple adjustment to the radio will bring it into full normalcy.
This is what Electro Meridian Imaging measures which is the body’s electro magnetic resistance at key acupoints. This will determine if a meridian is within or outside the accepted boundaries of the body by either being too high, too low, extremely split from left to right or ideally, within normal limits. The patient is able to see the graphic interpretation on either the computer screen or on the printed graph if one is conducting the exam manually.
Acupuncture deals with homeostasis which is the body’s ability to maintain balance. It is the patient who is out of balance electromagnetically who becomes ill and expresses specific symptoms. This explanation is simple to describe, simple for the patient to understand and best of all simple to remember for the patient to be able to explain to friends and family.
This explanation does not in any way offset any TCM findings which may be at the root of the issue. However, it allows the patient to have a much better understanding of electro magnetic balance and what may occur when each meridian becomes challenged. When the patient leaves with a diagnosis of Damp Heat in the Gallbladder and Phlegm misting the Heart, it is extremely difficult for the patient to relay this information to others as they most likely do not understand it themselves.
In the practice of Meridian style of acupuncture you will find it to be easy to apply, simple to understand, complementary to TCM or other styles you may practice as well as easily acceptable to the patient. Referrals are extremely high in this type of acupuncture as the patient understands what is wrong, and what it takes to correct it.
Try to adopt this explanation to acupuncture in addition or replacement of how you currently explain acupuncture. I think you will find it will make practice much easier, referrals will be at an all time high, you will have more contented patients and you will be happier as a result of less stress on you.
John A. Amaro L.Ac.,