Even after 15 years of practicing chiropractic acupuncture, I am still amazed by the results I get. To this day, it challenges my ideas of health and healing.
I was raised, like most everybody else, on the idea that diseases are to be attacked, usually by drugs or surgery. The more serious the disease, the more aggressive the attack should be. If you follow this thinking, minimally aggressive treatment, such as acupuncture, should be helpful only for very minor problems, and most of its effects would be “in the patient’s head.”
But that hasn’t been my experience. I have seen acupuncture help patients with serious problems, including those who were resistant to drugs and surgery: problems ranging from disabling headaches, digestive problems, back pain and sciatica, anxiety and depression — a whole range of conditions. While acupuncture is not the first choice for medical emergencies, it is a very effective and safe treatment for many conditions.
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, the basic concepts are foreign to those of us raised with medical care.
Acupuncture uses a type of healing that we Westerners are not very familiar with: the concept of chi, or life energy. Instead of seeing a disease as an entity that needs to be attacked, acupuncturists see it as an imbalance or blockage of this energy flow. The energy flow then can be restored by treating special points in the body. When the energy flow is restored, the body can finally complete the healing process.
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, which had been resistant to chiropractic care, deep tissue treatment and stretching, relaxes instantly, 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 the chi theory.
Patients often ask if there are drugs or chemicals on the needles that explain the results we get. Of course, the answer is no. 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 is in place and ready to go. Our bodies are able to heal almost anything. Acupuncture “jumpstarts” this healing mechanism, which, once it is unleashed, can make amazing changes in the body, sometimes instantly.
Our bodies want to heal, and our healing mechanisms are still there; they are just blocked. 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 does work.
Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, chiropractic acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town. He can be reached at email@example.com.