Acupuncture is a 2,500 year old medical procedure which augments each individual’s capacity to move toward greater health and vitality. Practitioners work with the body’s innate self-assembling tendencies to optimize structural balance—’self-assembly’ refers to the coordinated set of processes by which a body organizes itself.
An example of this is biotensegrity: biological systems like our bodies balance elastic and rigid elements to evenly distribute mechanical forces in a manner strikingly similar to advanced architecture. When this structural balance is well-maintained, mechanical efficiency is preserved, minimizing wear and tear on the joints, removing impediments to communication between tissues, and providing the appropriate space for internal organs to perform their physiological functions.
Acupuncture provides a method for engaging the body’s self-assembly mechanisms for internal self-regulation.
Key to the body’s ability to regulate is the ability to sense where each separate part of the body is located in space and how these orientations are shifting from moment to moment.
Our bodies receive this type of spatial information through our proprioceptive and kinesthetic sense organs. These organs densely populate both the subcutaneous and musculotendinous structures of our bodies (Proske and Gandevia)–the “soft tissue” that, in association with our hard skeleton, supports and mechanically links all parts of our bodies (Panjabi).
Acupuncture needles allow a therapist direct access to these critical regions/zones for internal self-regulation.Acupuncture needles stimulate focused changes in local soft tissue tension by triggering a targeted defensive inflammatory response. This localized response in turn engages the gamma motor system, initiating a global structural reorientation involving focal tonal adjustments at geodetically associated structural points.
Therapeutic medical effects of a completed course of acupuncture treatments may fix the problem for good.
The resulting process is not unlike that of learning any new physical skill, like learning how to serve a tennis ball, or learning a new way to serve after having played for many years. Your body is required to abandon certain patterns of muscle activation associated with old activities or with old ways of doing the same activity (for example, strongly engaging muscles of the posterior shoulder from the start of the stroke, limiting follow-through and making the action clumsy and choppy) and (re-)establish new patterns (like smoothly ramping up posterior shoulder muscle activation through the stroke to create a strong, well-executed serve while protecting the integrity of the shoulder joint).
The reflexive relaxation response at sites stimulated during the acupuncture treatment helps to break up old patterns. Once the central nervous system works out the new motor pattern, it must be reinforced through repetition, just as the old pattern tends to require repeated deactivation. This is why many conditions will require a series of treatments at carefully chosen, progressively increasing intervals until robust changes are worked into the patient’s neuromusculoskeletal system, yet the therapeutic effects of a completed course of treatment may endure indefinitely, either with or without an occasional ‘booster’ sequence depending on the patient’s unique motor challenges or aptitudes.
Acupuncture Education and Resources
Acupuncture is the most common practice of the Asian medicines and arguably the most well received in a relatively short period of time in North America. Brought into this area with the Asian immigrants in the 1800’s the awareness of acupuncture increased in the early 1970’s largely as a result of Richard Nixon’s travel to China. In the early 1980’s the first three institutes of acupuncture and Asian medicine began instruction in North America. These schools were private institutions granting degrees in acupuncture. Over the 80’s and into the 90’s more schools came into being along with a Masters in Acupuncture. This was followed more recently by a Doctoral Degree.
These programs are overseen by The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). The practitioners are Board Certified in their specialty by the national Certification Commissione of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and are given the designation of Dipl.Ac.(NCCA) for acupuncture, Dipl.CH(NCCA) for Chinese herbal medicine. A listing of these National and Washington State agencies are listed with their contact information below.
- ACAOM – Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, www.ACAOM.org
- CCAOM – Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, www.CCAOM.org
- FAOMRA – Federation of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Regulatory Agencies, www.FAOMRA.org
- NCCAOM – National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, www.NCCAOM.org
- WEAMA –Washington East Asian Medicine Association, www.WEAMA.info
- AAAOM – American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, www.AAAOMonline.org
Panjabi, Manohar. “The Stabilizing System of the Spine. Part I. Function, Dysfunction, Adaptation, and Enhancement.” Journal of Spinal Disorders 5.4 (1992): 383-389.
Proske, Uwe, and Simon Gandevia. “Topical Review; The Kinaesthetic Senses.” Journal of Physiology 587.17 (2009): 4139-4146.