Acupuncture is well known to be a quick and remarkably effective means of treatment that is based on the principle of balancing the energy flows. An acupuncture point may be likened to a switch, which has to be pressed to put on a light. The stimulation of an acupuncture point causes a series of physiological changes both at the point itself and also in other distant parts of the body. This stimulation can be done in many ways using needles, laser, ultrasound, electricity or pressure.
The time-tested process of inserting a needle is the most effective way to balance the flow of energy. Unfortunately many people do not try acupuncture because they are afraid of needles. To overcome this problem other means of stimulating acupuncture points have been developed.
Laser is the most effective alternative to needles for Acupuncture. The word laser is a short form for 'light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation'. A laser beam is a beam of extremely pure and concentrated light. The advantage of a pure light is that it can be used to produce very precise therapeutic effects. Each type of laser emits a specific wavelength of light. All of these have individual applications, which are used to treat different types of ailments.
The development of the laser as a very pure source of light has given a new therapeutic tool to the acupuncturist in his fight against disease and suffering. Lasers are most effective in those conditions where the acupuncture points to be used lie close to the skin. The effective penetration of different types of lasers varies from two millimetres to thirty millimetres. If the acupuncture points requiring treatment lie deeper than this, then sonopuncture is the best alternative.
Sonopuncture implies the stimulation of acupuncture points with a narrow beam of very high frequency sound called ultrasound. Human beings can hear sounds in the range of twenty to twenty thousand cycles per second while high frequency sound above twenty thousand cycles cannot be heard by our ears. The ultrasound used for sonopuncture vibrates a million times a second. Sonopuncture is the treatment of choice in fat people as the beam of ultrasound passes through fat without much absorption, to the muscle below.
Transcutaneous Electro Acupuncture implies the stimulation of acupuncture points through the skin using a small electrical current. Electrodes made of carbon impregnated rubber are moistened and placed on the skin over acupuncture points. A small electric current is then passed through each pair of electrodes. This helps normalise the energy flow. This means of treatment is best suited for treating acupuncture points close to the skin.
This method of treatment is normally taught to the patient, allowing him to treat himself for a variety of conditions. These machines are battery operated and are available for about two thousand rupees (US $ 65) This treatment is effective in chronic pains, high blood pressure, colds, sinusitis, beauty treatment, drug addiction and even for treatment of an irregular heartbeat. This principle is also used in T.E.N.S. stimulators, which are used to treat chronic pain especially in the back.
The piezo electric stimulator operates on the same principle as the household gas lighter. In this instrument, pressure is applied across the faces of a quartz crystal leading to the generation of a high voltage spark. The instrument is placed over the acupuncture point to be stimulated and discharged. This works on the same principle as transcutaneous Electro acupuncture.
The simplest and oldest alternative to the use of needles is Acupressure. This signifies that pressure is applied on an acupuncture point. This can be done with the fingers, a blunt needle or with an applicator made from metal, stone, wood or any other hard material. The number of points that are suitable for acupressure are much fewer than the number of points that are suitable for acupuncture. This is because acupressure is most effective when the acupuncture points are pressed against a bone. It is thus more effective on acupuncture points close to the skin and less effective when used to treat deep acupuncture points.
Acupressure has the disadvantage that therapist has to exert a lot of pressure to achieve the required degree of stimulation. This makes it more painful than acupuncture as a larger area has to be stimulated to achieve the same therapeutic effect. Acupressure is also a very tiring
None of these alternative means of treatment are as effective as acupuncture but they are all useful in some patients. Each of these will be dealt with briefly in the following chapters along with a description some of the conditions in which they can be used successfully./p>