Acupuncture, su-jok, acupressure, jin shin do, acu-yoga, shiatsu [massage] and reflexology [zone therapy]

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[A summary of this article was carried in "Streams of Living Water", Calcutta Catholic Charismatic Renewal, issues of August-September and October-November 2006]


News about acupuncture [Latin acus, needle; punctum, prick] hit the headlines when in 1971 a group of Americans witnessed surgery on the chest of a patient at the Peking Medical College in China. Apart from a dose of morphine injected at an acupuncture site near his jaw to act as a tranquillizer, the only anaesthetic used seemed to be a needle inserted into the man’s forearm and manipulated [moved up and down, to and fro] by an acupuncturist.

The patient was able to communicate with the surgeons and even eat some fruit! This incident prompted several American medical institutions into initiating acupuncture research programmes. Between 1976 and 1977 alone, more than 100 articles were written in medical journals to explain how the system worked.

Acupuncture had come to the West to stay.

Acupuncture is not only about pain alleviation. It is also used to heal a variety of ailments using different methods.

A laser beam is used in laser acupuncture, while the needles are connected to an electrical supply which produces vibrations in electro-acupuncture*. Ear acupuncturists claim that all the needle sticking points have their equivalents in the ears, thus making whole-body acupuncture unnecessary. Animals are also treated with acupuncture nowadays.

In acupressure, the pressure of the fingers substitutes for the needles. *see pages 1, 5, 6, 14, 17


The earliest textbook on acupuncture, dating from around 400 BC was the Nei Ching Su Wen or The Yellow Emperor
s Classic of Internal Medicine.

“Acupuncture is a holistic system of healing, in that it treats the whole man, not just his present condition. It is a system in tune with Universe, and to understand it, we must understand something of Chinese philosophy,” says E.G. Bartlett, writing in favour of Alternative Therapies in his book Healing Without Harm, Pathways to Alternative Medicine.

In ancient China, since dissection of the human body was prohibited for religious reasons, the Chinese had only a vague idea of anatomy. So, early Chinese medicine was more influenced by the astrological and spiritual concepts of the time. The qualities of five known ‘elements’ [water, fire, wood, earth and metal] were correlated to five solid organs of the body [like the heart] which corresponded with five hollow organs [e.g. the stomach], and were later allocated a planet and a season of the year. According to the theory of acupuncture, there are two more organs in the body unknown to Western man: the ‘Triple Warmer’ and the ‘Gate of Life’, both of them being Yang.

They believed that diseases were sent by gods and demons. The earliest doctors were shamans who performed rituals with incantations and spells, while sticking needles into the patient in an effort to expel the demons. Later the demon model was exchanged for an astrological one. The Emperor Huang Ti observed from a study of the stars that harmony and balance reign in the universe. He concluded that man is the microcosm and must correspond to the macrocosm. In other words, man’s physical and mental processes must be maintained in tune with each other. Further developments took place with the emergence of a philosophical school called Taoism. Taoism comes from Tao [meaning ‘the way’] which was believed to be the first principle, the universal cosmic energy behind the order of nature, preceding even God. It dates back to the philosopher Lao Tse. The Tao’s two faces are the Yin and the Yang. Each has several attributes that are in opposition to the other, yet they are still one. Everything in the universe is either Yin or Yang. For example, good is Yang and evil is Yin. They do not oppose each other, but are simply two sides of the same coin. Similarly, Chinese medicine understands man as one in body and spirit, a complete unit that finds its ultimate harmony only in Tao. This is the doctrine of monism or ‘all is one’. Fundamental was the chi or life energy which permeated all things, and was all things, with its polar components of Yin and Yang, which constantly strive or interplay to achieve a harmonising balance. Disease in the human body was manifested due to imbalance in the chi or energy body of a person. Man can function properly only when his chi is in harmony with the cosmic energy of the universe. Acupuncture was performed to restore the balance of chi in the patient, arriving at a harmony between Yin and Yang, thus ensuring good health. 1.

Along with the use of meditative techniques, Taoists sought for the ultimate wholeness, a surpassing of the human condition, in the prize of immortality. Some modern Western acupuncturists downplay or ignore its Taoist underpinnings, while others adopt the use of the pendulum and other practices that Christians consider occult.


The seat of the chi is said to be the stomach. The body receives its chi from the air through the respiratory system which is connected to the large intestine. The stomach filters out the chi, passes it to the spleen and through a complex system of major [traditionally there are 14] and minor meridians, to the entire body.

Some acupressurists use their fingers to manipulate the abdomen in order to release congested chi in the stomach.

The number of acupuncture points in the body, located along the extremities of the meridians near its surface, may be a few hundred [traditionally there were 365] or a few thousand depending on the acupuncturist you select, and the chart he uses. The needles are made of gold, silver or steel and vary in length between 1.5 and 7 inches.

They are used in different combinations, for different periods of time, heated or cold, to solve different health problems.

If the Yin is too strong, a gold needle is inserted in the appropriate place to strengthen the Yang.

Twisting the needle clockwise will stimulate Yang, and vice versa. If the Yang is too strong, a silver needle is used.

But there are no fixed procedures. Methods of diagnosis also vary among practitioners.

Needles are not the only form of treatment used in acupuncture. Moxabustion uses burning of moxa leaves close to the body, Cupping employs bamboo cups to remove negative chi, and Cutaneous Acupuncture uses ‘plum blossom’ or ‘seven-star’ needles that are tapped on the skin surface and do not penetrate deep.

Also, through listening to the body’s energy vibrations and smelling to detect the body’s subtle aromas, acupuncturists may locate the centre of the Yin/Yang imbalance.

One tool is the pulse diagnosis, which is not simply the rate of the heartbeat, but an indication of the vibrations of the patient’s cosmic energy, giving insight into his condition. The left and right hand pulses [each wrist is said to have six], and either superficial or stronger pressures provided details of the different individual body organs. The procedure is said to bring the subconscious of the patient and healer in touch with each other.

Since acupuncture is a holistic treatment, during diagnosis one may be questioned regarding one’s lifestyle, fears and phobias etc., to determine the exact procedure.

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