Afraid of Needles?
Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which uses fine needles to stimulate specific points on the body and treat a variety of health issues. It has been tried and tested over the course of 3000 years, and has proven to be both safe and effective. In China, acupuncture is a part of everyday life but, here in the west, many people are afraid of needles. This means that a lot of people who could benefit from acupuncture are reluctant to give it a try. Even though acupuncture needles are much thinner than injection needles, the idea is still a little too much for some. But, did you know that Chinese medicine also has many different, needle-free techniques? Therefore, even the most needle-phobic people can find something in an acupuncturist’s toolbox that works for them.
Here are some alternatives to acupuncture:
One of the simplest forms of Chinese medicine is acupressure. It works in the same way as acupuncture, but rather than using needles to stimulate the points, you use a finger. When it comes to history, it is likely that acupressure is even older than acupuncture. Archaeologists in China have discovered ancient stones that were ground to different shapes, and it is widely believed that these were used to apply pressure to acupuncture points before needles were invented.
One of the major benefits of acupressure is that it is safe and easy to use at home. Your acupuncturist can teach you how to find some of the best points for your condition and you can massage them on a daily basis. You will even find we incorporated some acupressure instructions within several of our articles and videos here on our website. Acupressure is a great way to stay on top of your symptoms between treatments and you can do it anytime and anywhere. All you need is a few minutes and your fingers!
Moxa is an herb which is often used alongside acupuncture in TCM. It comes from the mugwort plant (artemisia) and is burned in a similar way to incense, a process known as moxibustion.
Moxa comes in many different forms. It can be used in a long, cigar-like roll which is held around an inch away from the skin to provide gentle warmth to a whole area. It can also be made into small cones which are burned on the skin to stimulate a particular point. The cones are removed before they burn down to the skin, so moxibustion is not painful. In fact, most people love the feeling of warmth next to their skin.
Moxibustion is such an important part of TCM that it is included in the Chinese word for acupuncture, zhenjiu. The word zhen means needle and jiu means moxibustion. It is great when these two therapies are combined together, but if you are afraid of needles, moxibustion works well on its own too.
Cupping has become more famous in recent years as many athletes have begun using it before major sporting events. You can recognize them by the dark red circles that are left on their skin after they receive the therapy.
Cupping marks can look scary, but they are not painful and they only last for a couple of days. They are created by placing warm glass cups or plastic suction cups on the skin, which creates a vacuum. It is used to improve circulation, relax the muscles, and relieve pain.
Gua Sha works in a similar way to cupping therapy. It uses a tool with a smooth, flat edge to scrape the skin until it becomes red and small dots begin to appear. Like cupping, gua sha can leave some red marks on the skin for a few days but they do not hurt.
Gua sha is great for relieving tight and tense muscles, and has traditionally been used to relieve symptoms such as fever. Your acupuncturist can teach you to do gua sha at home using a tool such as a Chinese soup spoon.
Massage is another important part of Chinese medicine. However, a TCM massage is probably not like any other massage you have had before! Chinese medicine uses a special type of massage called tui na. The name literally translates to ‘pushing and grasping,’ and tui na uses a variety of movements including rubbing, rolling, pressing, and patting the skin.
One of the best things about tui na is that you do not need to take off any clothes. It is traditionally performed with the patient fully clothed and covered in a towel. This means that it is easy to learn a few basic tui na techniques to use on yourself or your family at home.
Tui na massage can be quite strong, but it is great for relaxing the muscles and relieving pain. It is a truly unique experience that everybody should try at least once in their lives.
No discussion about Chinese medicine would be complete without mentioning herbal medicine. It has been used for thousands of years and was an important way of treating disease long before drugs like antibiotics were discovered.
There are hundreds of different herbs that are used in TCM. They are classified by their nature (hot, warm, neutral, cool, and cold) and flavor (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, pungent) and every herb has a slightly different action within the body.
Several herbs are usually taken together to enhance their benefits and reduce the risk of side effects. Traditionally, they are simmered in hot water to make a tea-like drink called a decoction. However, making a decoction can be time-consuming and taste quite bitter. Nowadays, most people prefer to take herbs as powder or pills.
Last but not least, dietary therapy is a crucial aspect of Chinese medicine. In fact, many TCM doctors say that “food is the first medicine.” We all know that eating a healthy, balanced diet is important, but TCM takes dietary therapy to the next level.
Just like herbs, all foods have a nature and a flavor, and therefore, different foods have different actions inside the body. Therefore, the best foods for you to eat depends on your body type and what kind of symptoms you are having.
Your provider can tell you about your body type and what you should be including more and less of in your diet. They will help you to create a personalized eating plan which is suitable for you and your unique situation. In this way, you can take small steps toward improving your health with every meal.
Learn More About How Chinese Medicine Can Help You
To learn more about how Chinese medicine could help you, even if you are afraid of needles, contact us at 773-878-7330. Our acupuncturist will be happy to answer any questions and discuss the most appropriate therapy for you.
Dr. Marlena Siroki, DACM, L.Ac. is an Acupuncturist in Chicago at Ravenswood Chiropractic & Wellness Center in Andersonville. Dr. Marlena received her Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago. She is a Nationally Board-Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist and Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, certified by the National Certificate Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.