The Far East treatment called acupuncture is gaining a hold in Western medicine
Characterizing acupuncture as “new age” medicine requires a somewhat peculiar idea of what “new” means it has been traced back 2,000 years to China. But whatever label you give it, acupuncture is more popular now in the West than it has ever been.
Although some critics have dismissed the efficacy of acupuncture, Karim Harati-Zadeh happily treats patients all the time. He practices only evidence-based acupuncture that is, treatments supported by scientific research. Indeed, Harati-Zadeh says many of his patients work in the medical field as nurses or doctors.
It probably doesn’t surprise devotees of non-traditional, homeopathic or Chinese medicine that acupuncture has been shown effective in relieving pain, but “in the past 10 years, the Journal of the American Medical Association has done many medical research studies” into acupuncture and have found it effective in treating a variety of disorders, he says. Everything “from irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and skin problems” have responded to acupuncture.
Harati-Zadeh gives himself a treatment once a week, and has been a patient of acupuncture since he was 14 years old. Back then, he suffered from chronic sinus infections and allergies, but after seeing an acupuncturist recommended by his pediatrician, he ceased having those problems.
Is that right? Acupuncture can relieve allergies? Yes, he says. Indeed, some conditions he treats include:
Generalized pain. “Neck, shoulder and knee pain are frequently treated, as are arthritis and tendonitis,” he says. It is also used for muscle spasms.
Bursitis. “Every joint has bursa on it there are 14 on the knee. They are sacs that when they fill with fluid after repeated trauma, causing bursitis,” he says. Hip, knee and shoulder treatments are common and effective.
Appetite suppression. Two tiny silver balls on the ears, plus a few pins in the belly and feet, can minimize hunger pangs.
Insomnia and relaxation. Along with pain, these are probably the most common acupuncture treatments.
Treatment is based on the concepts of chi (the lifeforce in all humans) and the existence of several different meridians in the body, each corresponding symmetrically to an organ in the body. These meridians provide the practitioner with “acupoints,” where energy can become blocked.
It’s not as spiritual as it may sound. Anyone who’s ever had a massage knows that stimulating areas of the body can release tension and create feelings of calm. (For more on reflexology, see story on Page 18.) Acupuncture (and the related acupressure) operates on similar principles.
“Acupuncture was discovered by the Chinese when looking at war wounds,” Harati-Zadeh says. “They started using stones and bamboo without puncturing the skin. Needle acupuncture took it to a new level.”
The acupoints are very close to nerve endings, and the practitioner needs to know exactly where to place the needles. They feel for certain landmarks on the body “There are hundreds of acupoints,” Harati-Zadeh says.
The needles used are hair-thin, and there is virtually no pain associated with the procedure. And the idea of looking like a pincushion is an exaggeration. Harati-Zadeh uses a few carefully-placed needles rather than dozens (“More is not better”), and they never need to stay in more than 20 minutes
(“That’s the maximum,” he says).
Usually a series of sessions are required for results to manifest. For instance, Harati-Zadeh says that he routinely treats patients with hypertension; after three or four visits, their blood pressure normalizes.
Some patients don’t realize that placement of the needles often has little to do with the area being treated. “If you have pain in your wrist, the acupoint for that is not necessarily on the wrist,” Harati-Zadeh says.
So where would you expect to have the needles inserted? “I would put them around the ankles,” he says.
Karim Harati-Zadeh with Spectrum Chiropractic, 3303 Lee Parkway, Suite 404. 214-520-0092.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 16, 2007.