Patricia Leat L.Ac.Dipl. Ac., Dipl. Herb.
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Acupuncture has been used for centuries in China to treat many problems. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems.


Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at specified points shown as effective in the treatment of specific health problems. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of two thousand years. Recently, electromagnetic research has confirmed their locations. The depth of the needle's insertion depends upon the nature of the problem; the location of the points selected; the patient's size, age and constitution; and upon the acupuncturist's style or school. Usually, needles are inserted from 1/4 to 1 inch in depth. In Chinese, acupuncture is bu tong - painless.

If your practitioner has obtained the correct stimulus of the needle, the patient should feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected meridian - or energy pathway. Some Western cultures may categorize these sensations as types of pain. In any case, if you experience any discomfort, it is usually mild. The best practice among acupuncturists in America today is to use sterilized, individually packaged, disposable needles. Needles should not be saved and reused for later treatments. This eliminates the possibility of transmitting a communicable disease by a contaminated needle. back to categories

Therapeutic Value

The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others. The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians. The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being. Patients often experience the most dramatic results in the first treatment. Some patients experience and immediate total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms. This relief may last or some pain may return. In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief only to notice the pain diminish over the next couple of days. Generally, the patient should expect to feel better.


Acupuncture is over 5000 years old and was not just practiced in China. The Egyptians talked about vessels that resembled the 12 meridians in 1550 B.C. in their medical treatises called the Papyrus Ebera. The South African Bantu tribesman scratched parts of their bodies to cure disease. The Arabs cauterized their ears with hot metal probes.The Eskimos used sharp stones for simple acupuncture. Brazilian cannibals shot tiny arrows with blow pipes to diseased parts of their bodies to cure disease. Primitive sharp stones and bamboo were later replaced by fish bones, bamboo clips and later various shapes of needles made of metal. Today very fine hair thin needles are used. With advanced technology and precision instruments, these needles are placed at specific points of the body with little or no discomfort. The first book of acupuncture was the NEI CHING SU WEN written about 200 B.C. It had two parts: the SU WEN AND LING SHU. Therapies described Chinese medical thinking. It was geared to restore disturbed balances and harmonies of the body. SHI CHI, 100 b.c., was written about a doctor Pien Chiieh who lived around 500 b.c. In it, the doctor describes pulse diagnosis. "Nei Ching," 300 B.C., is a classic called "The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine'. It was a collection of books on medicine and medical writings. In it, the emperor talks with Ch'i Poa, a court doctor, about the relationship between man and nature, the elements, causes and cures for disease, the importance of yin-yang balance, acupuncture and moxibustion (the burning of wool at the tip of a needle to increase the heat effect to the injured part of the body). Also during the third century b.c., two famous medical books were written by Chang Chi: Various Kinds Of Fevers (SHANG HAN LUN) and a short version of the "Golden Shrine"(Chin Kui Yao Liieh). Around 700 A.D. the first medical school was set up in Salermo and some 300 doctors were instructed in acupuncture and massage. Acupuncture flourished in China until 1932 when Chang Khi Chek took power in China. He brought western medicine to China and acupuncture was banned in the cities. When Mao Tse Tung took over in 1945 and Chang escaped to the island of Formosa (now Taiwan), the doors to China were closed to the west and acupuncture again was restored as the method of healing in a country devoid of antibiotics and western medical thinking. . In 1972 America's doors to China were opened. A New York Times journalist, James Reston, was in China at the time and had an emergency appendectomy with acupuncture used as the anesthetic. This brought great noteriety to acupuncture and renewed interest in this form of treatment. Seeing brain surgery performed with acupuncture drew big headlines. Europe was introduced to acupuncture from French Indochina ( now Vietnam). The French sparked interest with the works of Dr. Nogier who from 1951 to 1996 produced a great deal of research on ear acupuncture which today is used as the basis of treatment for addictions and compliments oriental body acupuncture. This pioneer died in 1996 and his works are now being published for the first time in English. In America, there are about 8000 acupuncturists, 16 acupuncture schools, and 2 medical schools teaching acupuncture. UCLA medical school has been teaching acupuncture to physicians under the leadership of Dr.Joseph Helms. In 18 states, only doctors can perform acupuncture. Border states like Florida, California, and New York allow non physicians to perform acupuncture. All require licensing. The American Academy Of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA), based in California, has a membership of nearly1000 physician members from the entire country. All physicians who are members must have been previously accredited by formal training and certification. About 25% of these physicians work in pain centers around America. In Europe, oriental medical research is very active and quite advanced. Spain has an acupuncture school called Golden Clover. Germany, Austria and Italy all have very strong and active acupuncture centers. England has no organized acupuncture medical activity but there is a British Medical Acupuncture Society which is quite active. France pioneered ear acupuncture through its famous center in Lyons under the leadership of the late Dr. Nogier. In the United States more and more practitioners are now developing knowledge and new skills in acupuncture. Many are incorporating all the modalities from the various countries, using hand, ear, Chinese, Japanese and scalp acupuncture along with Russian reflexology and adapting these techniques to the modern times with use of modern technology to produce what is now called American Acupuncture. In 1996 in America, needles were removed from the "investigative" category to "accepted medical instruments". Being investigative, allowed insurance companies to deny payment for medical acupuncture treatment. There is a bill before congress with 12 sponsors to allow Medicare to pay for acupuncture treatments. The National Institute of Health for the first time has formed a department of Alternative Health care to provide needed research funding in alternative avenues of medical care. There is also a California Legislative update - April 1998 available through The California Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. back to categories


Acupuncture is a licensed and regulated healthcare profession in about half the states of the U.S. Ask your practitioner if your state requires a license to practice. In states that do not currently require licensing, your practitioner should be certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists. Those who have passed this exam are entitles to add Dipl.Ac. - Diplomate of Acupuncture - after their name. Your practitioner will explain the nature of your problem and what treatment he or she is recommending, if it is in your best interests at that time. If needed, other treatment options may be available to you through your practitioner or by referral to another practitioner or physician. M.D.'s and Chiropractors may be your only option in some areas. Given the choice, you should recognize the difference between what M.D.'s call "medical acupuncture" and what licensed acupuncturists practice - which is acupuncture as part of an entire system of viewing health and the human body known as traditional Oriental medicine. Many alternative and traditional healthcare providers are licensed acupuncturists; however, practitioners of Western medicine such as Chiropractors, M.D.'s or D.O.'s can be approved to practice acupuncture with as little as one weekend's worth of training. These doctors are to be commended for their desire to use new technologies such as acupuncture to the betterment of the lives of their patients; yet from the perspective of those trained in traditional Oriental medicine, it can be a very superficial application of the genius of what this medicine has to offer. Ultimately, it is the patient who must decide what is best for him or her. People's intuition is often the best gauge.