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About Alan Coffman

"In 1971, the year before the "Bamboo Curtain" lifted, New York Times columnist James Reston became ill while on assignment in China. After having his appendix removed, he was treated with acupuncture for post-surgical pain. The front-page stories he sent home reported, "I've seen the past, and it works!"

-- Beinfield and Korngold, 'Between Heaven and Earth,' p. xiii

Traditional Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture

Do you ever wonder how poking the body with tiny sterile stainless steel needles can ease pain, address disease, and promote the body's healing response? Indeed! The value of acupuncture can be counter-intuitive to many of us simply because it's not part of our own cultural experience. While it has been used widely and successfully for thousands of years, it has only been broadly available in this country for a generation or so.

All of us who practice Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) have our own ways of building bridges between east and west for clients. These are bridges of understanding, but more importantly such a bridge serves as a starting point for your own experience -- for it is only through experience that you can really know the benefits of AOM. On this web page I will share some of the many reasons why it's worth taking a small leap of faith and trying it yourself!

Why Try Acupuncture ?

Acupuncture is a safe and natural therapy with a long and successful history, useful for treating a broad range of common health conditions. It is practiced in many countries around the world. It is based on the principles of restoring balance, vigor and vitality to the body's systems, rather than simply masking, or suppressing, symptoms without addressing underlying causes.

Acupuncture has been recognized as an effective healing technique by the WHO (World Health Organization) of the UN. Ongoing studies by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, along with research projects conducted in hospitals, health clinics, and acupuncture schools continue to formally document the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture for a growing list of health issues.

It is also interesting to note that veterinary acupuncture is being used to successfully treat pain, arthritis and other conditions in dogs, cats, horses, lions, tigers and many other domestic and zoo animals.

What Does Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Treat?

Acupuncture effectively treats a broad range of functional health conditions - that is, health issues related to how well your body functions day to day, addressing digestive issues, the quality of your sleep, pain, and issues of reproductive health, among many others.

Acupuncture is also helpful for structural issues - for example, when you are recovering from an auto accident, surgery, fall or other physical trauma. Here acupuncture provides a useful adjunct therapy that accompanies and supports the necessary direct structural assistance, such as bandaging wounds, setting bones, and improving structural alignment via osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments.

In the case of degenerative diseases, acupuncture enhances the functioning of organs, glands, tissues and physical systems, complementing other treatments used for a given condition. For example, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, used in close cooperation with a patient's physician, can help minimize the nausea, hair loss, and negative impact on white and red blood cell counts that often accompanies chemotherapy.

Oriental Medicine monitors by careful external observation all of our normal bodily functions. Regular monthly maintenance treatments are ideal, as they provide the opportunity to catch things early, while it is relatively easy to treat them. When practiced by a fully-trained and licensed professional, there are relatively few and minor side effects from acupuncture.

What Oriental Medicine Treats: Some Examples

Immune Enhancement
Good Energy
Relaxation/Stress Management
Emotional Wellbeing
Restful Sleep
Good Circulation (Warm Hands and Feet!)

Common Daily Illnesses
Common Cold
Muscle Strain
Chronic Constipation
Acute Diarrhea
Moderately Serious Conditions
Chronic Fatigue

Serious Conditions
Multiple Sclerosis

What Benefits Might I Receive From Acupuncture Treatment?

Acupuncture assists the body to heal itself on all levels due to its primary action of freeing and balancing the flow of Qi. It does so by bringing the body's natural self-healing capacities to bear on cellular, tissue, organ, or bone repair as it redirects the healing energy of the body to the areas where it is needed. It is useful for restoring normal function to many body systems: reproductive, respiratory, digestive, and so on. (In essence, Qi is the life force that sustains, powers, and heals the body. There is no western concept that matches this exactly...for a further explanation of Qi with examples, please read the sections below, especially: 'Your Vital Force, or Qi')

Stress has been shown to be a major factor affecting our health in minor and major ways. Acupuncture is deeply relaxing, and thus highly effective as a stress-reduction technique. Body and auricular (ear) point stimulation helps to restore balance to the body's nervous and hormonal systems, acting like a reset button.

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for relieving pain of many kinds. In China, it is even used as an effective form of anesthesia for operations and dental work.

By promoting the normal flow of bodily fluids, acupuncture can be used to address conditions such as edema, swollen glands and congested sinuses, and the abnormal retention of urine.

Acupuncture can form a valuable part of any health-promoting or wellness program, due to the way it helps maintain balanced circulation of the blood, Qi, and bodily fluids, fundamentals for a strong and healthy body.

What Is An Acupuncture Treatment Like?

Never had an acupuncture treatment before? You are 'in for a treat!' In a typical office visit, after an intake or check-in process, you lie down on a massage table or sit in a comfortable chair, and a dozen or so small, sterile stainless steel needles are inserted into your muscle tissue at various acupuncture points.

Does it hurt? At times you may feel warmth, heaviness, or a momentary spark of energy at the needle when it is first inserted, but then things quiet down. As long as you remain still, you often forget the needles are there. Acupuncture needles are thin and solid, and gently push the tissue aside, rather than cutting it as the edges of a sharpened and hollow hypodermic needle are designed to do.

An acupuncture session may last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, and you may be treated on one or both sides of your body (front vs. back), depending on the condition you are being treated for and the current strength of your constitution.

Once people know what to expect, they tend to look forward to the quiet, relaxing time on the table, to being relaxed and even blissful by the end of the session, and to feeling better after a treatment. A course of treatments supports the healing of specific conditions; regular maintenance visits also provide the opportunity to catch imbalances early, while they are relatively easy to correct.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Put simply, acupuncture works by freeing up and balancing the flows of your body's vital energy, or Qi, as it circulates through energetic channels or meridians that serve the entire body. These channels, and the location of the major acupuncture points on those channels, have been verified by a number of modern scientific experiments.

Acupuncture helps move stagnant energy in sluggish organs, muscles and tissues and directs the body's energy to areas where it is needed. Modern research indicates that stimulation by acupuncture needles may also summon stem cells to the areas where repair and regeneration are required.

The many styles of acupuncture practiced around the world all take advantage of the underlying energetic structures present in all human bodies, the 14 major meridians or channels of energy feed every organ, tissue, muscle and cell in your body, and the many minor channels that flow out from them.

Where Did Acupuncture Come From?

Modern acupuncture is based upon a long tradition, spanning many countries and thousands of years. We can't pinpoint exactly where and when the practice began. While the historical records have been best preserved in China, artifacts demonstrating the stimulation of acupuncture points and meridians on the body have been found around the world.

The techniques of acupuncture, acupressure, Jin Shin Do and related healing arts have a long history in many Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, and Viet Nam. In modern times, acupuncture is practiced in Australia, Spain, France, Belgium, Israel, Ireland, England, Africa, Germany, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and the United States among others.

Your Vital Force, or Qi

What is this 'Qi?' Is it a mysterious healing power that only ancient Taoist monks knew about? Lucky for us, that is not the case. We all depend on this personal and universal life force energy -- known in the orient as the Qi, and pronounced as 'chee' in China or 'key' in Japan -- every moment of every day. Without it, we would not be alive. Rather than being mysterious or exotic, Qi is so much a part of our lives that it recedes into the background of the daily flow of life, and is thus easy to take for granted. At the heart of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is the art of cultivating the abundance, balance and flow of Qi.

One way to become more aware of 'Qi' is to take part in daily routines that help you develop general awareness of your own energy. You have probably heard of Tai Qi and Qi Gong, but there are many other related forms of energy exercise.

What if you don't have the time or inclination for Qi cultivation exercises? And if the Qi is all around, aren't there other ways you can you recognize its presence? Another way to recognize the play of Qi around us is to notice contrasts. Think of puppies and children, and their boundless energy. Their small bodies are powered by a strong connection with their natal, or parent-given Qi. Now think of old folks in the park feeding pigeons. Who has more or less energy, or Qi?

Now bring it to a personal level. Your energy levels go up and down during each day, and from day to day and week to week. Some days you feel like you can do anything (you have lots of Qi available). Other days you may feel like you've got nothing in your tank (you are relatively depleted of Qi).

At the core of ancient and modern energy medicine is this principle: we can all learn to make choices and develop habits that help us avoid depletion, regularly restore and replenish our Qi, and thus provide us with bountiful life energy to work, play, heal ourselves, and be creatively fulfilled.

Oriental Medicine as Physical Energy Management

The art and practice of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine center around the management of one's individual Qi energy, for the purpose of healing illness and restoring normal bodily functions.

According to the ancients, pain is primarily caused by blocks to the flow of Qi. These blockages may result from accidents or injuries, or they might be the result of years of consuming depleting foods or leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Acupuncture restores proper flow to Qi that is sluggish (stuck, or stagnant). Think of a beaver dam, where a pile of sticks blocks the flow of the stream, resulting in a large pond of water backing up behind it. As we pull apart that dam, the surge of water will grow and become stronger, and once the dam is removed, a steady and regular supply of water will flow.

The pent up water (or Qi) is a resource! The stored energy in that standing water, when released, creates a forceful downstream push, clearing mud and debris from the streambed below, and bringing life-supporting oxygen to the fish and plants downstream. In the same way, properly placed needles or other tools can be used to free up energy that is trapped by scar tissue, adhesions in muscle tissue, areas of poor blood circulation, and other anomalies in the tissue.

A good strong flow of Qi supports the healthy functioning of your organs and tissues, nourishes your muscles and tendons with blood and oxygen and nutrients, cleanses your tissues by carrying away cellular debris, and enables the repair and regeneration of day to day damage to your body. This is the miracle that is self-healing!

Building Your Qi If You Are Sick, Depleted, Or Run Down

Acupuncture is good for removing blockages to flow when there are adequate energy stores available. But how can you build your energy if you have become depleted?

Quality food, rest, exercise, sleep, healing body work, and the restorative power of deep relaxation will replenish and rebuild your energy reserves. Overwork, worry, stress, toxins, nutrient deficiencies, free radicals, etc. draw down your energy stores. You are in control of the balance between those opposing trends: you can learn to support your own healing, and slow the natural decline of your body as it ages, by the balance of your choices, or the net energy budget: what you ask your body to do (energy outputs) vs. what you 'feed' it with (energy inputs).

Life Energy In Food: An Illustration

The quality of the food you eat can boost your energy levels…or deplete them. Close your eyes and think about a time when you ate something straight from the garden…just picked it and ate it right there. Let's say it was a tomato. Remember how it tasted, the freshness of it, how it smelled, and the pure vitality of the energy of the fruit as you chewed and swallowed…now, compare that to a square pale tomato you once bought at a supermarket: a dull, lifeless tomato-imitator that was picked well before it ripened, traveled 1,500 miles in refrigerator cars, and sat in a market for a week before you brought it home and ate it.

Think about the difference between those two experiences (or try it as an experiment if you haven't done it already!) There is a strong contrast between foods that give you energy and those that give you nothing -- or even rob you of nutrients and Qi as they take more energy, minerals and vitamins to digest and incorporate into the body than they give back in food-energy value.

Similarly, you can learn to evaluate all of your lifestyle choices: sleep and exercise patterns, what you do in your free time, the kind of body work and health care that you receive, according to the amount of energy, and level of wellness, they give or take away. On the whole do they maintain, restore, or even improve your state of health and well-being? Or are they more like a trip down the ski slopes - where you have to pay for an expensive 'lift ticket' to bring you back up from the valley to the top of the run?

One of the core values of ancient and modern energy medicine is one of seeing and treating you as a whole person. By stimulating and invigorating your body's self-healing abilities, it also supports your joy, vitality, and ability to live life fully.

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