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acupuncture

Channel your life energy through acupuncture

Sumathy B is a Bangalore-based homemaker in her late fifties who was diagnosed with stage 4 osteoarthritis over a year ago. She had an excruciating pain in her knees and was barely able to walk anymore. Every orthopaedic she consulted gave the same advice—get a knee replacement surgery done. But, unwilling to go under the knife, Sumathy looked for alternative treatment options and zeroed in on acupuncture. Today, after over a year of regular acupuncture sessions, her knee joint has improved by over 50 percent. She can walk now, and according to her acupuncturist Dr Hifzullah N S, a recent X-ray indicates that her osteoarthritis has improved to stage 2.

Given the increasing awareness about the adverse side-effects of allopathy, many are increasingly opting to cure their illnesses through alternative medicine which stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Of the alternative medicinal systems that respect the body’s inherent wisdom, one is acupuncture. With its origins in China, acupuncture is a procedure wherein needles are inserted at specific points of the body to enhance healing. Its procedure is recorded in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, dating about 100 BCE. The book contains detailed knowledge about the philosophy of qi that governs acupuncture. It also explains the channels called meridians through which qi (otherwise called life energy) flows.

According to Bangalore-based acupuncturist Ushaa Rani, when qi is well-balanced, it flows smoothly throughout the body, and we experience good health. When qi is deficient due to, perhaps, stagnation or blockage in the meridian, diseases manifest. And so, by piercing needles at specific points along the meridians, acupuncture manipulates the flow of qi. However, qi and the meridians are not visible in the human anatomy. They neither follow the pathway of the nerves nor of the blood vessels.

Increasingly, mainstream doctors, too, are accepting the practice of acupuncture as at least a complementary system of medicine


Given the abstract nature of qi and meridians, acupuncture is considered pseudoscience and is often treated with scepticism. But even though we cannot see them in our body, do they still exist? Dr Daniel Keown, a renowned acupuncturist based in London, who has worked extensively in emergency medicine,  is convinced qi and meridians exist. In his book The Spark in the Machine, Dr Keown writes that qi and meridians can be understood with the help of fascia—an often-ignored part of our human anatomy. According to him, fascia is a band of connective tissues made of collagen that has no form on its own. And so, it takes the form of that which it’s covering. “It sculpts muscles in the arm, organs in the body, even the walnut-like surface of our brains,” he writes.

While western medicine seldom acknowledges fascia, acupuncture (and traditional Chinese medicine, in general) respects it. In acupuncture terms, it is called the triple burner and even has a dedicated meridian in its name. Having no form of its own, yet present everywhere, fascia is the key to understand how acupuncture works. Elucidates Dr Keown, “Fascia explains these acupuncture channels perfectly… It explains how you can use the main fascial planes to predict where the points will be, and how the channels will behave. It goes further still. Fascia explains qi, the ancient idea of life force that drives our existence.” According to him, collagen (which is the primary protein which makes up fascia) has piezoelectric properties. And so, as he writes, “It is quite astonishing that the connective fabric of our body, the tissue that wraps and joins our entire body, is in effect an interconnected, living electrical web. An electrical force held in a fabric into which our body is woven: this is science that is beginning to sound like Chinese medicine and Qi.”

What Dr Keown’s theory implies is that, meridians are found in the fascia. And so, acupuncture needles manipulate not just the chemical composition of our body like how allopathic medicines do, but instead act on the ‘living electrical web’ present throughout our body. Working at an energy level (which can be understood as qi), it promotes the natural self-healing of the body and restores us back to health. Implausible as it might all sound, there are enough case studies coming to the fore to prove acupuncture’s true prowess. Take for instance a case report on the National Centre for Biotechnology and Information. It illustrates how a patient with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) showed progress solely with the help of acupuncture treatment. An excerpt from the study goes: “Over 4 years, the patient progressed from initially not being able to walk, having difficulty with speech, and suffering from poor eyesight to where he has now regained significant motor function, speech, and vision and has returned to snowboarding.”

It is not surprising then, that even the World Health Organisation has begun to acknowledge acupuncture and published a detailed report that lists medical conditions that can be treated through it. And increasingly, mainstream doctors, too, are accepting the practice of acupuncture as at least a complementary system of medicine. Perhaps with time, science will be able to pin point where the meridians are located, and what exactly qi is. Perhaps eventually, the concept of qi would make sense to our rational minds and we’ll be able to appreciate how acupuncture exactly works. Until then, we can be satisfied with real-life experiences that acupuncture heals. It provides a ray of hope for all those who are exploring alternative medicine for a healthy living.

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