Saturday’s front-page feature told an unusual story. Call it acupuncture 911: Boy in respiratory distress at soccer practice, face blue. Soccer coach Rho Zaragoza, owner of Ancient Lake Acupuncture in Hayden, to the rescue. A brief application of needles and the face is back to healthy pink; breathing restored. By the time EMS gets there minutes later, everything is fine.
Who knew those hyper-thin (sterilized) needles could save a life?
Acupuncture’s popularity is rising, with some insurance companies offering coverage and more traditional physicians recommending it to complement a treatment plan. The theory is sound and I can attest that it’s not as scary as “needles” imply.
I hate needles as much as the next guy, but once applied I can’t even tell they’re there. Some needles I never feel at all; others simply prick a little at the beginning, maybe a dull ache for a minute or two, then I just get sleepy.
Like meditation, acupuncture is all about increasing flow and restoring rhythms — such as the respiratory system of that young boy. Think of that flow like blood pressure, sending more oxygen and other good stuff to the brain and body. With ancient Chinese acupuncture, the flow is one of energy (or “chi”); in Western medicine, this is known as an “action potential.”
The physical energy our bodies use to function is undisputed fact. For example, each heartbeat is electrically stimulated. Electrical signals run throughout the body, allowing your brain to read this column. Electricity equals energy.
Think of your body like an energy highway system: When highways get clogged, traffic builds up; jams and crashes occur. Things get painful, diseased, out of sync, messed up, especially over time. Acupuncture targets those clogged routes (“meridians”) and gets things flowing again — that’s when symptoms ebb and disappear. Each pressure point on the body corresponds with what’s “down the highway;” a spot on the arm may link to the stomach, the hand to the head, and so on.
According to research compiled by the Universities of California and Miami, hundreds of clinical studies have shown acupuncture successfully treats both acute and chronic conditions ranging from musculoskeletal problems, such as back and neck pain, to high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, nausea, headaches, menopause, infertility and insomnia. Acupuncture can also alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy, and aid post-operative and palliative care, especially by reducing pain.
Acupuncture addresses pain directly and focuses on long-term change, not the temporary cover-up a painkiller provides.
As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, note that acupuncture has also made strides treating anxiety and depression, in part by stimulating production of neurotransmitters. Even when that’s not the intent, a lovely side effect of acupuncture is its mental element: it’s relaxing, untying the knots that stress develops.
“It’s about small shifts, developing a sense of pace in life, instead of rushing to the stop sign,” Rho told me. He sees acupuncture as part of a life picture, helping people slow down to make that shift, restore our natural rhythms.
“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure.” — Lao-Tzu
Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.