In 1997, the National Institute of Health conducted a Consensus of Acupuncture, and the findings were encouraging for the realm of alternative medicine.
‘There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine,’ stated the Consensus.
This recent acknowledgement of traditional Chinese medicine comes quite late. Acupuncture, in particular, has been practiced for more than 3000 years.
The facts are promising, also. Statistics show that in the treatment of insomnia, for example, acupuncture has yielded a total effective rate of 90.44 per cent. For depression, all subjects tested improved to a greater extent than those who did not receive alternative treatments.
Violetta Karanek is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, and she practices acupuncture at Cayman Clinic.
‘Traditional Chinese practitioners of acupuncture use needles, cups and moxabustion in their treatments,’ said Ms Karanek. She also uses all three forms of treatment in her practice.
The overwhelming amount of knowledge to be learned in the field of traditional medicine is inspiring for alternative practitioners. ‘As a practitioner you have to learn different techniques constantly,’ stated Ms Karanek. ‘But I call it my Mary Poppins bag – the more I learn, the more I have to give to my patients.’
Most people are surprised to learn that there is more to acupuncture than just inserting needles into different areas of your body to encourage the flow of Qi (chi) and help to heal injuries or emotional and physical problems.
Acupuncture also involves cupping, which is a therapy designed to stimulate the flow of blood and Qi within the superficial muscle layers. It is used for sore muscles, tension, neck pain and the common cold. In this therapy, small plastic cups are placed over specific areas on your body. A vacuum is created under the cup using suction, and are often either moved over the affected area or left in place.
Cupping often leaves red marks, which are no cause for alarm, and should quickly disappear.
Moxabustion is also a key part of the acupuncture process. It is often used in treating sleep disorders. The herb mugwort is burned on the handle of the needle, above the skin, and warms acupuncture points or areas so that it quickens the healing process.
A form of moxabustion, called ‘scarring moxa’ has also been done traditionally, but is now usually only practiced in China. It involves burning the moxa cones directly on the patient’s skin until a blister forms.
‘I once was treating AIDS patients, and they would specifically ask for me to do scarring moxa,’ said Ms Karanek. ‘They had so many scars on their body already from the AIDS and they loved the energy lift that the moxa gave them.’
Perhaps aspects of acupuncture sound scary, but actually the whole process is quite relaxing, and Ms Karanek does all she can to ensure that you are calm. Tui Na, a special form of massage that opens up the muscles to receive the needles more easily, can also be done if you are very tense.
An important aspect of the practice of alternative medicine is the way in which the practitioner approaches the patient. ‘We have a very long intake form, which many people have commented on in the past,’ said Ms Karanek.
‘This is because we treat you holistically – as a whole person. We look at your whole life. Sometimes there may be an emotional cause that triggers a physical response.’
Safety is also carefully observed in Ms Karanek’s practice. ‘It is now the law to use disposable needles, and we use only disposable needles,’ she explained. ‘This is mainly because of the hepatitis virus – the AIDS virus dies when exposed to oxygen, but the hepatitis virus doesn’t, and so we’re extra careful with the needles.’
The Chinese consider the ear to be a microcosm of the body, and so points are often placed on the ear, where they remain for one week, usually. These points are placed on areas of the ear that correspond to the areas of the body that the acupuncturist worked on in your session.
In acupuncture, the body is divided into meridians. These are best thought of as rivers, Ms Karanek explained. A block in the river means that you have pain. If Qi flows freely, then it nourishes everything. If there is a blockage in this Qi, then something is affecting your body.
That is when acupuncture can be used as a treatment.
‘Your body is the most sophisticated computer,’ said Ms Karanek. ‘It gives you constant little signs which we often don’t notice or ignore. Then it will eventually ‘crash’ on you, and you will feel pain.’
The holistic approach to a person’s lifestyle affects diet also. ‘In Chinese medicine, there are five colours that correspond to the five different areas of your body,’ said Ms Karanek. ‘Wood is green, fire is red, earth or spleen is yellow, metal is white and water is blue or black. When the Chinese approach a balanced meal, they ensure that all the colours are there.’
Diet and health
It is this connection between a person’s diet and their health that causes traditional practitioners to strongly encourage the message that all of us have heard before: we must eat breakfast. ‘When you don’t eat breakfast, you don’t feed the spleen meridian,’ explained Ms Karanek. ‘This is the meridian that fuels your mind. If you’re a student or work a job where you use your mind a lot, it is important to feed that meridian.’
Many patients tell Ms Karanek that they don’t like to eat cereal in the morning. ‘I would love to find out when it was that cereal became breakfast,’ said Ms Karanek with a smile. ‘You don’t have to eat cereal for breakfast.’
In fact, your spleen prefers yellow foods from the earth, such as yellow fruits or root vegetables.
‘For most people food is a comfort,’ said Ms Karanek. ‘If we go to a strange place, food will always be what is familiar.’ Ms Karanek recommends travelling with something that reminds you of home that isn’t food-related, such as a pillow or photograph.
This all-natural, drug-free approach to health can at worst do no harm. Everyone should investigate their lifestyle habits and diets to see if they could make any improvements.
If you are interested in receiving acupuncture, call Violetta Karanek at Cayman Clinic at 949-7400 or 949-4234.