5 Elements

FAQ's

What is acupuncture?
How does it work?
What can it help?
Can it be used with other therapies?
Are there different types of acupuncture?
Which one is the best?
What is Five Element Acupuncture?
How many treatments are required?
Is it safe?
What can I expect to feel?

What is acupuncture?
An ancient practice of medical treatment that can be traced back several thousands of years to eastern Asia. Its continued practice is based on the original discovery that stimulation of certain points along the body’s surface reduces pain or alters body function. After much time, experimentation, observation and reason, both the location and general action of these points called acupoints were mapped out on the body.

Originally, the acupoints were activated by heat or skin puncture. Today, technology provides the acupuncturist with variety of tools to stimulate these acupoints. Usually, very fine, flexible needles are gently inserted beneath the skin’s surface and manually manipulated. In other instances, when appropriate, applying a mild electric current (electroacupuncture), warming with a smoldering herb (moxibustion) or mineral lamp, applying suction (cupping), or scraping with a smooth edged tool (gua sha) may be included to stimulate the acupoints

How does it work?
Chinese medicine follows an energetic model and claims that the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture is the result of its ability to alter subtle energies in the body. Any disturbance in quality or flow of energy becomes the primary focus of acupuncture therapy. Once a problem is detected, very fine, needles are used to activate affected energy channels at specific positions called acupoints. By selectively stimulating combinations of these acupoints, the practitioner can alter vital energy flow to help correct the destructive imbalanced patterns that have developed.

Because Western biomedicine is based on a chemical model and quantifiable changes, many Chinese theories are un-testable by Western analytic methods. However, studies do show that acupuncture favorably alters neurotransmitters, neurohormones, blood flow, stress levels and immune responses in patients. Modern science has also demonstrated that the acupoints have a different electrical conductance from their surrounding tissues, thus corroborating the locations mapped out centuries ago by Chinese medicine’s earliest practitioners.

A simple explanation of how acupuncture exerts its wide variety of health benefits continues to elude scientists. Yet, there is ample evidence from millions of people around the world, whom it has helped, that it works! In some instances, acupuncture even works when other methods have failed. Researchers continue to look for a theory to account for the effectiveness of this ancient treatment modality.

What can it help?
Frequently, people in this country think of acupuncture as a therapy reserved for pain control. While it does provide analgesia, millions of people around the world have been successfully treated with this form of therapy for a variety of other health related problems. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) support acupuncture treatment for many acute and chronic conditions that are emotional or physical in nature. Among them are:

  • Circulatory Disorders – hypertension, angina, arrhythmias, and anemia
  • Respiratory Disorders – allergies, sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders – food allergies, peptic ulcer, gastritis, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Urogenital Disorders – stress incontinence, urinary tract infections, sexual dysfunction, and infertility
  • Disorders of the Bones, Muscles, Joints and Nervous Systems – arthritis, neuralgia, dizziness, insomnia, migraine headaches, low back, neck and shoulder pain
  • Gynecological Disorders – irregular, heavy, or painful menstruation, premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat Disorders
  • Emotional and Psychological Disorders – depression and anxiety
  • Addictions – alcohol, nicotine, and drugs
  • Supportive Therapy – for other chronic and painful debilitating disorders

The benefits of acupuncture are not limited to correcting overt diseases. Because acupuncture helps decrease reactions to stress and brings the body, mind and spirit to optimal function, it serves as a superior preventative measure as well.

Can it be used with other therapies?
It can be combined with Western biomedicine. In fact, acupuncture and Eastern medicine complements Western medical therapy. Each medical system has its strengths and weaknesses. By combining both forms of treatment, patients are often able to lower their pharmaceutical requirements or shorten their surgical recoveries.

Are there different types of acupuncture?
Because acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and it was passed down between generations and different cultures, many master practitioners have experimented and expanded on its original technique. This has led to development of many different styles or types of acupuncture.

Which one is the best?
All styles of acupuncture have been found useful. Depending on a patient’s condition, styles may be combined to facilitate the healing process. While each style has its advocates, ultimately, the efficacy of a technique is more dependent on the practitioner’s own skill with a particular style than with the style itself.

What is Five Element Acupuncture?
The early Chinese practitioners realized that all things in the universe are subject to change. Furthermore, their investigations of natural phenomena, from planetary movements to plant growth, led them to the discovery that this change follows predictable patterns or cycles. These practitioners proceeded to define five intermediate phases along the transformative cycle including the sequential progression and the relationship of these phases to each other. The Chinese called these five phases the Five Elements.

Because the laws that govern the Elements explain how all life forms in nature behave, they describe the function of the human body; and everything we do, think, and feel – all aspects in the cycle of birth, life, and death. When each of the Five Elements is abundant and balanced and flows gracefully into its successor, life thrives and rises to its potential. However, unchecked excesses or deficiencies in one of the Elements will eventually create functional disruptions throughout the entire cycle. These disproportions will show up as physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual symptoms of disease. Although Five Element therapy successfully treats conditions that have manifested from an energy imbalance, the primary goal of the practitioner is to detect and correct erratic patterns before they become symptomatic.

The energy of the Elements and the natural progression they follow can be most easily explored by considering how one experiences the changing seasons of the year. Each season has its own distinctive quality, yet relies also on the quality of each season preceding it.

Water – Associated with the season of winter. This is the lowest level of activity in the yearly cycle. Life resources are focused and conserved. This time of year is characterized by the qualities of coldness, darkness, and stillness. Untapped potential is stored just waiting to be channeled.

Wood - Associated with the season of spring. From the inactivity of winter, energy ascends into the world with a burst of life. The potential of winter is activated: goals are established; plans are devised. This outward pushing energy is creatively directed to guide robust growth and movement. Roots grow into the earth to provide firmness, while sprouting growth above the ground stays flexible enough to adapt to environmental forces.

Fire - Associated with the season of summer. This peak energy in the yearly cycle is characterized by warmth, light, and exhilaration. There is a maturation of the growth spurt of springtime. The energy is expansive and everything in the environment seems connected.

Earth - Associated with the season of Indian summer or harvest time. This season is about abundance, generosity, contentment and stability. It is the balance point between the rising energy of spring and summer and the downward turn energy takes in the fall.

Metal - Associated with the season of fall. Energy begins to contract. Temperatures cool; the air becomes dry and the leaves turn color and fall to the earth. One can sense, both the brilliance and splendor of life, along with the letting go of that, which no longer serves. This phase contributes precious minerals to the soil and water to help begin a new cycle.

How many treatments are required?
For any one patient, the rate and degree of recovery from an illness is dependent on many variables. Predictions on treatment type, frequency, and duration must be individualized. After gathering information from a thorough history and examination, four or five treatments are often necessary to assess the specific response of an individual to acupuncture before a more accurate prognosis can be rendered. While many conditions may respond rapidly to acupuncture therapy, chronic conditions typically improve at a slower but steady pace. As a general guide, when treatment is begun sooner after the inception of an illness, the course of therapy is shorter and the restoration of health is more complete.

As with all forms of healing, the patient’s attitude, diet, determination and lifestyle are critical factors that affect treatment outcomes. Patients are encouraged to actively participate in their healing process regardless of their choice of therapy.

Is it safe?
Acupuncture treatment poses minimal risks. This may be one of its greatest attributes: providing potential health benefits while presenting negligible risk. With the advent of disposable, high quality needles and clean needle technique, acupuncture has never been safer.

What can I expect to feel?
Unlike hollow hypodermic needles used by Western biomedicine for injections or to extract substances from the body, acupuncture needles are solid and therefore much thinner in construction. This difference in diameter and form means that a person feels minimal stimulation when the needles are placed.

Because acupoints are distributed over the entire body and sensation varies by location and a person’s perceptual acuity, the experience is unique to each patient. Some general terms often used to describe the initial feeling are: warmth, heaviness, internal pressure, tingle, zing, a dull ache or soreness. This initial feeling is transient and often transforms to a general feeling of overall deep relaxation and well-being.

  • For more information regarding acupuncture see NCCAOM resources and information