People ask me frequently if acupuncture can help with their sleeping issues and insomnia. I always respond with some hesitation. It’s not because I am unsure that the acupuncture will help, but because it seems as though people have a hard time believing it will. It is completely understandable why people would be having a hard time believe it. I mean how could poking someone with needles improve their sleep!?
Well, as a Board Certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist who has been practicing for sometime now, the effects of acupuncture on sleeping patterns still manages to astonish me. For example, I had a 44 year old patient come in a few weeks ago with the main complaint of insomnia. She explained that ever since her mid twenties she has not been able to sleep well, and the issue progressively has gotten worse. She has been referring to red wine and sleep medication when the issue gets intolerable, but explained that she was tired of living that kind of lifestyle.
That day we began her treatment, twice a week with acupuncture and an herbal formula. Obviously, because she had been suffering with lack of sleep for quite some time, the acupuncture took a few treatments before she began to see a difference. I gave her a ball park of six to eight treatments to begin seeing a shift. Amazingly, it only took three full treatments and she was already beginning to sleep through the night. Of course the acupuncture treatment went on a few more sessions in order to get a solid result. This patient is one of the many positive experiences I have had for treating sleeping disorders through my acupuncture practice.
In Chinese medicine the heart is considered to be the most important of all of the internal organs, and is often referred to as the “emperor.” Its primary functions are to govern blood and house the shen. Like many other Chinese concepts, there is no exact English equivalent for the word shen. It encompasses many different ideas, including consciousness, thought, intellect, insight, and cognition, as well as the emotions and the soul. This reflects one of the fundamental ideas of Chinese medicine, that our physical body and spirit are one, that they are inseparable. In fact, every internal organ has a representative non-material function. Because the heart houses consciousness, however, it is the emperor.
The heart channel is one of the shorter channels and has only 9 acupuncture points on it. It originates in the heart itself and travels down the inside of the arm to the tip of the pinky finger (why heart conditions are sometimes felt in the arm). Some of the more obvious conditions that this channel treats include chest pain, palpitations, and irregular heartbeats. Since the heart houses the emotions (not the brain!), this channel is very important for calming the shen, treating anxiety and panic attacks, and helping people relax more easily so that they can fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly through the night.
The acupuncture channels are more like a large connected web, with primary pathways and secondary branches. For example, one branch of the heart channel ascends to the root of the tongue while another goes up the neck, crosses the cheek, and connects with the tissues surrounding the eye. Because the heart belongs to the fire element, this makes it an ideal channel to needle when there are signs of heat (pain, redness, inflammation, infection) in these areas like tongue ulcers, sore throats, or irritated eyes.
A colleague of mine called, asking a favor: would I consult on his patient who suffered from allergies with congestion, watery eyes, and red and itchy skin? As soon as I entered the room, I noticed paralysis of left side on her face. Her left eye was almost closed, there was no expression on left side even that she was smiling, her corner of lip was asymmetric to right side and her fascia on the neck was much bigger on the left side. I asked, “What has happened to your face?” She said, “It is an old injury from a stroke. My ear is always ringing and the fascia on left side of my neck is enlarged.” My evaluation confirmed my suspicion of facial paralysis. She could not close her left eye and deviation of the mouth was severe. She further explained that she has tears when she eats and does not have any feelings in the right side of her face.
I asked if I could treat her paralysis along with her allergy treatments. She told me yes, but I don’t expect any results because I have tried everything under the sun (including acupuncture) for the last 13 years.
I started an interview and exam, while she was talking about her problems and impact of the facial paralysis on her life, especially social life. (She had the stroke at age of 28). I explained what I was going to do including details about acupuncture, meridians, and qi. She lay on the table and listened to my monolog about acupuncture without any questions.
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