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 Traditional Chinese Medicine: Modern Acupuncture Techniques 

Modern Acupuncture Techniques
New Methods of Stimulating Acupuncture Points
The Pulse Reflex and Ear Acupuncture
The Electrical Properties of Acupuncture Points

Modern Acupuncture Techniques
If an acupuncture needle is placed in or around an area of local pain then some degree of pain relief is frequently achieved. This has led many Western doctors to use and develop this straightforward and logical system of point selection for pain relief. Some doctors treat the painful areas alone, whilst others look at the muscle groups that run over the painful area and treat these muscles. All these methods are used by the Chinese and are described in outline in the Nei Ching Su Wen. These Western methods of point selection probably represent a process of rediscovery, but in spite of their simplicity they are useful and helpful to the patient. Such systems illustrate the fact that acupuncture can be effective without the use of traditional Chinese concepts, but the acupuncturist can only apply these ideas to painful conditions because there are no tender points or local painful areas in diseases such as asthma. Furthermore, it is my impression that the pain relief obtained by the patient is better, and more prolonged, if the full range of traditional Chinese concepts is used.

The great advantage of these systems is that they are easy to learn and will therefore enable simple acupuncture methods to be widely used. Many Western doctors find the philosophical concepts of traditional Chinese medicine indigestible because they do not seem to be logical, and do not fit into the context of Western medical training. It is mainly for these reasons that these adapted and simplified forms of acupuncture are an acceptable form of therapy within current medical practice.

New Methods of Stimulating Acupuncture Points
Some of the new Western ideas about acupuncture are quit radical and may represent the beginnings of a completely new approach. Acupuncture points are now being stimulated by variety of techniques. Both Chinese and European firms has produced small electrical stimulators that allow small amplitude pulsed electrical currents to pass between sets of paired acupuncture needles. In China these electrical machines are used to replace prolonged manual stimulation of acupuncture needle in activities such as acupuncture anaesthesia. In the West electrical stimulation is often used as part of standard acupuncture therapy. The voltage used is small and painless and passed between acupuncture needles that have already been inserted into the skin.

As yet not enough is understood about electrical stimulation to give a clear answer as to exactly how it should be best use. There are also no clear guidelines about the frequency or intensity of electrical current that should be used on patients in any particular condition. Biologically safe laser beams have also been used to stimulate acupuncture points and therefore to replace acupuncture needles. If used correctly these machines seem to be effective but a great deal of further work needs to be done before they can be properly evaluated. Some researchers are also interested in the use of magnets and magnetic fields over acupuncture points but the evaluation of these methods as a form of therapy is fraught with difficulty and is very much in its early stages.

(Excerpted from Acupuncture-Its Place in Western Medical Science)
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 About The Author
George Lewith MA, MRCGP, MRCPGeorge Lewith attended Trinity College, Cambridge and Westminster Hospital Medical School. He has worked as a Senior House Officer and Registrar within the Westminster and University College Hospital Teaching Groups in......more
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