VICUS.COM (16 Aug. 2000)
-- Raise and thrust, twirl and rotate, pluck, scrape and
Once the acupuncture needles
are in place, manipulation to achieve the desired effect can take many
forms. Needling is
typically accomplished through physical manipulation of the needles.
Alternatively, a range of techniques
are used to stimulate acupoints that
may appear exotic and, perhaps, even puzzling. They include,in order
of most frequently used to least frequently used, auriculotherapy, electro-acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology,
cupping and moxibustion.
Auriculotherapy, or ear acupuncture, is a form of acupuncture
developed in France following World War II.
It is based on the observation that the ear has many acupuncture
points that correspond to parts of the body. During treatment, these
points on the outer ear, or auricle, are stimulated using a small
electronic pulse or by applying pressure with the forefinger and
thumb. The ear being treated may turn red or blush.
Electro-acupuncture is the term given to the use of very small
electrical impulses through the acupuncture needles. The power used is
only a few microamperes, but the frequency varies from 5 to 2,000 Hz,
depending on the condition being treated.
Acupressure is essentially acupuncture without needles. The
acupressurist works with the same acupoints, but stimulates these
healing sites using finger pressure, rather than inserting fine
needles. Stimulation of the acupuncture points is performed with the
fingers, knuckle or an instrument with a hard, ball-shaped head (like
a pencil eraser).
Reflexology (also called Zone Therapy) is a variation of
acupressure where the soles of the feet, certain regions of the ankle
joints and sometimes the hands are stimulated.
In 1913, Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat
surgeon, noted that pressure on specific parts of the body could have
an anesthetizing effect on a related area. He divided the body into 10
equal and vertical zones, ending in the fingers and toes. He concluded
that pressure on one part of a zone could affect everything else
within that zone.
Thus, reflex areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas
and organs of the body within the same zone.
In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham further developed and refined zone
therapy into what is now known as foot reflexology. She observed that
congestion or tension in any part of the foot mirrors congestion or
tension in a corresponding part of the body.
For example, when you treat the big toes there is a related effect
in the head, and treating the whole foot can have a relaxing and
healing effect on the entire body.
Cupping is a method of stimulating acupuncture points by applying
suction through a metal, wood or glass jar, in which a partial vacuum
has been created. This technique produces blood congestion at the
site, which is thought to stimulate it.
Two types of cups are used: traditional and vacuum. Traditional
cups use a flame to create a vacuum, while the vacuum cups use a
Vacuum pumps are safer and more commonly used today.
The endpoint of treatment is a deep dark purple color of the skin.
The procedure takes about 20 minutes. The purple color usually goes
away in about 24 hours.
Moxibustion is a form of thermotherapy that stimulates the body by
burning a small amount of moxa, the dried and processed leaves of the
mugwort (also known as wild chrysanthemum).
At one time, this was done by burning the moxa on the skin. In
recent years, the moxa has not been placed directly on the skin.
Rather, the heat from burning moxa is transmitted to the skin
indirectly through needles or other devices. Acupuncture and
moxibustion are complementary forms of treatment, and are commonly
Table. Alternatives to
in order of most frequently used
to least frequently used
the process of stimulating the acupuncture points on
the outer ear, or auricle.
use of minute electrical impulses through the acupuncture
acupressurist works with the same points used in acupuncture,
but stimulates these sites using finger or knuckle pressure,
or the pressure of an instrument with a hard, ball-shaped head
(like a pencil eraser).
variation of acupressure where the soles of the
feet, the posteroinferior regions of the ankle joints, and
sometimes the hands are stimulated.
method of stimulating acupuncture points by applying suction.
process of applying heat from burning moxa to acupuncture
Russo Jr., PharmD, is senior vice president of medical
communications at Vicus.com. He is a pharmacist and medical writer
with more than 20 years of experience in medical education.
This article was updated on 16 Aug. 2000.
Goto S. FAQs about acupuncture and moxibustion:
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Jonas WB, Levin JS (eds.) Essentials of
Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Baltimore (Md):
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999.
Pelletier K. The Best Alternative Medicine. What
Works? What Does Not? New York (NY): Simon &
Scheid V. The globalization of Chinese medicine. Lancet.
1999 Dec; 354 Suppl:SIV10.