Classical Five Element Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used as a form of healing since 6000 BCE where sharpened stones and long sharp bones were used for treatment originating in China.  The first mentioned and recorded documents on meridian acupuncture theory were dated a few hundred years before the common era.  During the cultural revolution in China, acupuncture was outlawed in 1929.  It was reinstated in 1949.  Many traditions were lost during this time period and J.R. Worsley, a curious English physiotherapist was one of the first western practitioners who spent much time studying with the masters of acupuncture in China and many parts of Asia in the midst of this revolution.  Together with his teachers, he left China and studied intensively with practitioners in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam where the traditions were dispersed.  He brought back the tradition that focused on nature and the interrelationship between the five elements, the Wu Xing, the five phases of nature, with particular interest in the causative factor.  The one causative factor, where you live within the five phases of nature correlates with a path of virtue, and also a root cause of imbalance. We live in summer (Fire), late summer (Earth), autumn (Metal), winter (Water), and spring (Wood).  The elements are associated with twelve organs in the body.  Each organ has an energetic pathway or meridian that has a direction of flow.  The meridians contain a nutritive energetic from the air and food we take in, referred to as ying qi which is what acupuncture works with.  Qi is the universal energetic force within each living body.  Our qi requires our utmost care. Qi has the ability to nourish, preserve, flow smoothly and protect our body, mind, and spirit from internal and external causes of disease. Healthy qi allows flourishing into the lives we were made to be living.

Fortunately, we now use sterile, disposable filiform needles that are on average 0.003 inches in diameter.  When blood is drawn or injections given at your local western physician’s office or hospital, hypodermic needles that are on average 0.01 inches in diameter are used. Acupuncture needles are quite comfortable which is why physical therapists desire to use these needles for dry needling.

Moxibustion is a heating technique that was used as early as 500 BCE.  The dried herb, Artemesia Vulgaris, from the mugwort family, is formed into a cone about as big as a piece of rice, and it is heated on the patient’s body over an acupuncture point to circulate the qi and blood.  In the five element tradition of acupuncture, needles are often used in conjunction with the practice of moxibustion.  In 2015, Artemesinin, a compound of this species of Artemesia was designated as a new class of anti-malarial agents, a nobel prized recognition.  In the five element tradition, “moxa” is used therapeutically over acupuncture points to increase circulation, tonify and regulate the blood and the qi.

Chinese medicine has a starkly different philosophy from western medicine as western medicine often focuses on symptoms and suppresses them with pharmaceuticals.  This often complicates the illness.  In emergency cases, this may be necessary as we know that western medicine is by far advanced in emergency medicine and surgical treatments especially when immediate life is threatened.  For preventative medicine, pain, and chronic illness, when immediate life is not threatened, Chinese medicine is a sophisticated system of healing.  It can penetrate into the physical, mental, and spirit levels of a person to not only reach a disease-free state, but ultimately, a state of optimal health manifesting in feelings of overall wellness, restful sleep, life contentment, and joy in work and in relationships.

After your acupuncturist completes a two hour intake to understand who you are, listens to what your treatment goals are, and evaluates your 12 pulses, the needles are inserted into specific points on the body for your specific need.  The number of needles depend on your treatment.  A diagnosis of where you live within the five elements directs the treatment plan as it is the root cause of imbalance.  When this causative factor is treated, many things will begin to improve as your system starts to rebalance.

5-6 subsequent 45-50 minute treatments are recommended minimally as the treatments build on one another. The first three treatments are often clearing treatments to allow the subsequent treatments to be most effective. Depending on life transitions and circumstances, treatment can be needed 1-2x/week and ultimately tapering down visits is typical.  The goal would be for a person to reach a level of wellness that one would only need seasonal treatments.

Please eat a modest meal 2 hours prior to treatment and be well hydrated.

Some imbalances and diagnoses in traditional western medicine that Acupuncture can specifically help:

  • Infertility (male and female)
  • Musculoskeletal and chronic pain (OA, RA, joint replacements, fibromyalgia, back/neck pain, CTS)
  • Cardiac dysfunction
  • Emotional conditions (stress, depression, anxiety, grief, fear)
  • Insomnia
  • Trauma (PTSD, MVA, falls)
  • Addiction
  • Immunity and Allergies
  • Colds or Flu
  • Chronic illness or fatigue (chronic fatigue syndrome)
  • Attention deficit disorder or difficulty with concentration
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Adrenal dysfunction
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease, IBS)
  • Pulmonary dysfunction (asthma, COPD, bronchitis)
  • Adjunctive Cancer therapy
  • Diabetes or metabolic imbalances
  • Thyroid disorders (Hashimoto’s disease)
  • Transition or direction in life
  • Exhaustion from overwork
  • General preventative care