If you’re squeamish about needles or believe only in allopathic medicine’s power, you might conclude acupuncture’s a load of quackery. But ask those who’ve seen and experienced its benefits, and they’ll confirm it works.
Acupuncture’s an ancient form and branch of traditional Chinese medicine where needles are inserted into specific points along the body’s meridians (or energy paths/channels.) It claims to treat illness by addressing physical, mental and emotional imbalances.
Many U.S. medical schools now teach acupuncture and hospitals, including Kansas University Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Although it’s grown in popularity in the West over the past 60 years, and the U.S. government allocated over $1 million to study its effectiveness in the ’90s, there isn’t one western scientific theory to fully explain all acupuncture’s effects.
How does it work?
Adherents believe the body’s a complex energetic (electrical) circuit that’s divided into two main systems — yin and yang, composed of 14 main meridians each connected to different body parts. It’s been described as a web-like interconnecting matrix with at least 2,000 acupuncture points. Like all electrical circuits, they must be maintained in good working order for effective functioning. If the body’s circuit breaks at any point, imbalance and illness develops. The insertion of needles along specific meridian-line points helps remove obstructions and restores and re-balances the energy systems.
Some U.S. studies indicate acupuncture regulates the nervous system and releases pain-killing biochemicals (endorphins) at specific body sites. Other studies, using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), suggest acupuncture alters brain chemistry by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones that affect parts of the central nervous system related to involuntary body functions (such as immune system reactions, blood flow, blood pressure and body temperature.)
What does the acupuncturist do?
On an initial visit you’ll give a full health history and a description of your lifestyle, habits and health challenges. The acupuncturist, using light finger touches, will “listen” to your pulses and give feedback about your energy levels, state of your organs, your temperament, sleep patterns and even your world outlook. Based on this information, solid, hair-thin metallic needles will be inserted into your body’s meridian points depending on the condition being treated. Most people report feeling no (or minimal) pain as needles are inserted.
In the East, acupuncture is the first treatment given; it’s often been a last-resort-treatment in the West. In recent years, however, more people, including medical professionals, consider it first, based on studies that indicate patients receiving acupuncture recover faster, spend less time in hospital and use fewer pharmaceutical drugs. Demand for acupuncturists in the West is increasing, and many state insurance companies accept doctors of Oriental medicine as primary-care physicians.
Dr. Jeanne Drisko, Riordan professor of orthomolecular medicine and medical director of KU’s Integrative Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Therapies Programs, believes in acupuncture’s benefits. She recently appointed Stephanie McGuirk, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, to her staff.
“We’re thrilled to have Stephanie working on our team because we’re now able to offer acupuncture and are better-equipped to help our patients, especially those with chronic conditions,” says Drisko.
You don’t need to travel to Kansas City to experience acupuncture. Treatments are available in Lawrence from a variety of practitioners like physician Jeff Nichols, a KU Med graduate, and chiropractor Bob Christenson.
“When I attended medical school in the ’70s, acupuncture was frowned upon by the medical profession,” Nichols says. “I was interested in people who weren’t helped by conventional medicine and fell through the cracks.”
After graduation, he studied the human potential movement in California because it dealt with the whole person, not just the body.
Nichols started a holistic practice in Topeka in 1978 and a complementary medicine practice at 1023 Ky. in 2002.
“I’m able to offer people the best of both worlds and provide the treatment that works best for them,” he says. “Acupuncture is particularly beneficial for pain and doesn’t have side effects associated with strong painkillers.”
Bob Christensen, 1311 Wakarusa Drive, offers a variety of healing modalities, including acupuncture when requested or when chiropractic solutions and adjunctive therapies aren’t enough.
“Acupuncture has many benefits,” he says. “Treatments can be mundane or profound. I feel the greatest benefit is the support of emotional changes associated with the evolution of consciousness.”
Is it safe?
Acupuncture’s considered a safe, effective holistic natural therapy in the hands of qualified, experienced practitioners; it has no side effects.
$50-80 for 45-60 minute sessions.