Straight to the Point: The Art of Acupuncture
Dr. Thomas Patavino D.C., M.S.,F.I.A.M.A.

              Alternative healthcare has been on the rise for the past few years. Once a controversial act of taboo now has become not only recognized and accepted, but a staple in today's world of medicine. Taking a closer look, the term “alternative medicine” suggests that the treatments are foreign, infrequently utilized or at the very least, not accepted by the majority. In many ways, this is true and accurate, but only if you use North America as your reference. What if we referenced Asia or Africa?  Something as common as taking Tylenol for a headache would probably be considered “alternative medicine. We take for granted that other cultures have utilized different disciplines of medicine for thousands of years and the results are comparable and sometimes more effective than traditional medicine. A good example of this is acupuncture.

Acupuncture is the ancient art of healing that utilizes tiny needles to restore the body's natural mechanism of healing. As a culture, we are conditioned to fear and hate the concept of needles. Probably from the first time we received a shot in the arm or in that delicate region that allows us to sit down, we have learned to hate needles. Besides a tailor, seamstress or tattoo artist, I have never met an individual that enjoys needles. With that in mind, why would anyone want or even worse, volunteer to have needles placed along their body? To answer that question, we must first realize that the needles are far different than the needles used to draw blood or administer vaccinations. An acupuncture needle is slightly thicker than a human hair. The needles are so thin that they rarely draw blood and are surprisingly painless. A needle that doesn't draw blood or hurt? That last statement was not a misprint. Acupuncture is a safe, painless, bloodless procedure without harmful side effects.

               The art of acupuncture has been utilized in Asia for approximately 5000 years. The principals behind acupuncture are based on balancing the body and allowing proper energy flow. To begin, the Chinese believe we have an energy force that runs throughout our body. This energy force, named Qi (pronounced chee) is responsible for our physical, spiritual and mental health. When flowing properly, we are healthy individuals. When there is disruption, our health becomes challenged and we are susceptible to pain, distress or illness. In addition to the concept of Qi, we have the Yin-Yang theory. Yin and Yang are two polar opposites. Symbolized by two half circles, one side black with a white circle and the other white with a black circle. The expression ‘opposites attract” is probably coined from the Yin-Yang principal. Yin is considered the female of the two, characterized by qualities such as cold, dark, passive and low. Yang, the male counterpart is described as warm, light, aggressive and high. The Chinese believed Yang was the sun and Yin was the moon. We are made up of both Yin and Yang characteristics. In this theory, you must have both Yin and Yang for harmony. Too much of one or the other creates imbalance. When we are in balance, our body is at ease, when imbalanced you might say we are in a state of dis-ease or disease.

               Now that we introduced the concepts of QI and Yin-Yang, we can explore how these theories affect the body. Qi flows throughout the body. It travels along pathways called meridians. Meridians are like highways. The body has 14 different highways or meridians that travel throughout. Twelve of the meridians are named for the organs we have in our body such as the heart, liver and gallbladder. Along the meridians are points, which we will consider exits along the meridian highway. Each meridian has a different number of points and allows the normal flow of Qi. If a point is blocked, Qi can't flow properly. This is the equivalent of a traffic jam due to a tractor-trailer accident blocking an exit or an on-ramp. When Qi flow is disrupted, Yin and Yang become imbalanced and the body's state of harmony is jeopardized. It is believed that any disruption in Yin –Yang balance or disruption in Qi flow is the underlying cause for all ailments. An ailment might be a cold, a chronic sore back, and addiction to alcohol or nicotine, obesity, diseases such as arthritis, asthma or mental illness. Whatever condition plaques us can be traced back to the meridian system. For instance, an overactive bladder meridian can be traced to bedwetting in older children and incontinence in adults. An under active lung meridian can lead to bronchitis and asthma. Smokers and people who constantly feel hungry often have overactive mouth points.

          The theory that we are susceptible to injury and poor health due to imbalances in our energy force might explain why certain conditions affect us or people we know. How come we are constantly exposed to the same conditions and some of us are unaffected while others are stricken? Why is it the left ankle always seems to be the one I twist? How come we get sick the same time every year? I' m not referring to April 15th.  A balanced body, like a fine-tuned machine runs without error, heals and maintains itself. A body with insufficient resources doesn't run as effectively.  Acupuncture works on restoring the normal flow of Qi and maintaining Yin-Yang balance. The tiny needles are placed on specific points along the meridian and normalize harmony. If a point is overactive, the needles sedate. Vice versa, if a point is stagnant then the needles stimulate the area to restore proper energy flow (removing the tractor-trailer at the exit).         Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for musculoskeletal pain, migraine headaches, cessation of smoking, appetite control, asthma and osteoarthritis. In addition, acupuncture has been successful in correcting problems with fertility and difficulties in conception. Autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia and lupus are utilizing acupuncture as complimentary medicine and gaining good results in combating pain and fatigue.

         Living in western civilization, it is often difficult to accept concepts that we are not familiar with. We like things that we can touch and see. Concepts like Qi, Yin and Yang may be difficult to understand or accept. Life force, energy, spiritualism and religion are concepts as old as the civilizations that subscribed to them. Acupuncture has been studied and utilized for 5000 years and has been shown to be an effective form of healthcare for countless conditions. Strangely enough, acupuncture seems to have a high level of success in patients that fail to thrive with traditional methods of health care.  This might be because the body is allowed to heal itself rather than something from the outside fixing what's wrong. Is that so strange after all?   

For more information about acupuncture Dr. Thomas Patavino can be reached at or 203-758-7250.      


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