I’ve been performing acupuncture on patients for more than a decade. As a diplomate, or specialist, in chiropractic acupuncture, I have seen amazing changes in patients, including almost instantaneous improvements in digestion, hormone balance and pain relief.
The most common question I get about acupuncture is, “How does it work?” I usually try to dodge the question by replying, “It works great!” The truth is, while I know how to do acupuncture, explaining how it works can be difficult. It uses a type of healing that we Westerners are not very familiar with: the concept of chi, or life energy. When my teacher Dr. Zev Myerowitz tells me that there is invisible energy coursing through special meridians, it is often interrupted in sick and injured patients, and it can be restored by stimulating certain points, I believe him. He has history on his side, and when I treat my patients according to the principles he taught me, they get better. But it has taken awhile for me to really “get” the idea, and it is often very foreign to patients.
I have been a doctor of chiropractic for 30 years, and from the beginning chiropractic made sense. You align the spine and it works better, with less pain, sciatica, headache, etc. It also helps that I had a very positive experience at 16 years old with relief of back and leg pain through chiropractic care. If the spine is aligned, there is less stress on the organs, and patients find they breathe easier, digest better, have stronger immunity, etc. Simple enough. Even easier to understand is the idea that if I can get a patient to improve their diet, even to just stop eating “junk food,” their health can only become better. They lose weight, sleep well, skin looks better and more.
When I put a needle in an acupuncture point in the foot — which, according to ancient principles is supposed to treat a muscle in the groin — and the chronic spasm in that muscle relaxes instantly, after proving resistant to chiropractic care, deep tissue treatment and stretching, I recognize there is something going on that defies easy explanation. I have seen similar, sometimes instant results with abdominal pain, headache, even sinus congestion. I have to believe there is a flow of energy from the point in the foot to the muscle in the groin, that this energy flow is very fast, and piercing the point restored it. Quite similar to electricity, really.
Score another point for Dr. Zev and the chi theory.
Patents often ask if there are drugs or chemicals on the needles that explain the results we get. Of course the answer is no as the needle is like the key that starts your car in the morning. It doesn’t directly cause the electricity to go to the spark plugs and the gas to flow to the cylinders, but it does start a process that’s all in place and ready to go. Our bodies are able to heal almost anything. Chronic problems often are caused not by a disease or injury that overwhelms the body, but rather by a blockage of the healing mechanism itself. Acupuncture “jumpstarts” this healing mechanism, which, once unleashed, can make amazing changes in the body, sometimes instantly.
Our bodies want to heal. Our healing mechanisms are still there, they’re just blocked due to problems in the energy or chi flow through our bodies. Like any treatment, acupuncture does not cure everyone or everything, but for some patients, resolving their problems is as simple as finding the problem points, stimulating them and allowing the body to do its work.
Whether you choose to believe in chi energy or not, the evidence is overwhelming that it works.
Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town.