By Pamela Bys 
RN, BSN, Licensed Acupuncturist, M.Ac, Diplomat Acupuncturist (NCCAOM)

Acupuncture is one on the oldest forms of health care today.  It is over 3,000 years old.  One of the first documented books on Chinese medicine and acupuncture is called the Yellow Emperors Classic of internal medicine written in about 200BC. Acupuncture became nationally introduced to America in 1972 through the media, when one of the presidential reporters James Reston, who was covering President Nixon’s travels in China, became ill. He was treated with Acupuncture and it helped him with postoperative pain.  When he returned to U.S. he wrote about the mysterious medicine he received in China. After that schools of Acupuncture and Oriental medicine started popping up like flowers!

Acupuncture has been around so long and is gaining acceptance in the western world. Its validity as reliable healthcare treatment is becoming more accepted because of research done related to a medical model. It is difficult to study Acupuncture in that form because it is based on Eastern medicine philosophy and follows a different model of medicine – it is the study of energy of the body mind and spirit.

Acupuncture works by balancing the body’s Chi energy in order to restore the body mind and spirit to its natural state. This is done by inserting needles into acupuncture points and using moxibustion (burning moxa, a dried herb, on the points) to access the chi energy.

Chi energy is your life force; it is the energy that makes you who you are.  Chi controls the work of the organs and the body’s functions. 

When your energy is out of balance you can become ill.  When the body, mind and spirit are in balance, it is very difficult for you to become ill. By accessing the acupuncture points with needles and using moxibustion, we can move the energy along the meridians or pathways to correct the energy imbalances so the body mind and spirit can start to heal.

What are meridians? Meridians are the pathways of energy. They are like rivers in the body, rivers of energy that never cease flowing. There are 12 main meridians that bring energy or chi to organs and functions in the body.  These 12 meridians in the body are the heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium, circulation, gall bladder, liver, lung, colon, stomach, and spleen.

Acupuncture affects the Chi energy as it continually flows from one organ to another in a set route. This energy must rise and fall in a natural state like the breath.  The balance of energy is a cycle much like life and death or like the breath.  There is continual movement between fullness and emptiness – and it must follow that pattern or it becomes imbalanced or one becomes ill.

Imbalanced energy may be too full or depleted or become blocked like a dam.  By needling specific acupuncture points located along the meridians, an Acupuncturist can directly affect the energy of individual so the body mind and spirit can start to heal, much like a lock system in a river.  We can increase or decrease the flow of energy to wherever we see the need. This is done through an Oriental medical diagnosis. We are looking for the energetic imbalance that gives rise to the patient’s symptoms and western diagnosis.

Acupuncture treats so many people for so many things.  The NIH has funded acupuncture research and showed results in some of the following: headache/migraines, addictions, menstrual cramps, post operative dental pain, post operative and post chemotherapy nausea and vomiting, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, osteoarthritis, and pain relief. Acupuncture also serves as an effective complement to standard care (NIH Consensus statement on Acupuncture-NCCAM Web site).

I have had great success at many of these same things and I have also seen great success with spinal/back pain, insomnia, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, ankle and foot pain, bursitis, thyroid issues, palpitations, allergies, menopausal symptoms, and immune system improvement over time. I have treated people age 3 months to 92 years and seen acupuncture rid people of the common illnesses that plague them year after year.

The needles are probably the scariest part for people. To reassure you, they are now considered in the medical device category, much like surgical instruments. All Acupuncture needles are FDA approved and packaged sterile for individual use.  The needles are very thin like the thinness of your hair.  Sensation of the needling varies depending on the location but the best way to describe it is like a baby tooth getting pulled out- an ache then it feels so good after.

In each state the scope of acupuncture may be regulated. The regulation is important to provide confidence and consistency of the standard qualifications in the Acupuncture profession.  In Utah, an Acupuncturist must be licensed by the state. There are a few exceptions to the rules: MD’s and Chiropractors are not licensed as acupuncturist but may engage in the practice subject to circumstances and limitations.  A Licensed Acupuncturist often is educated with a minimum of a master’s degree training, which is about 3,000 hours of training, and some even have the title of Doctor of Oriental Med. Licensed acupuncturists in Utah and NH must pass a National Exam called the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exam(NCCAOM).  This exam is a base of knowledge that acupuncturists should have to practice acupuncture safely and intelligently.
Each licensed acupuncturist must pass the CNT exam, which is a certification on the use of sterile needles and blood borne diseases.

When looking for an Acupuncturist it is important to ask where they trained, their credentials to practice acupuncture, and if they are nationally certified and licensed as an acupuncturist in this state. Read more about how to select an acupuncturist.

Acupuncture is practiced throughout the world, in US, UK, Europe, Japan, and all over Asia.  Many of the hospitals in China incorporate Acupuncture into the treatment plan for the patient. We are starting to follow suit here in the U.S.