December 07th 2005 - In Praise of Physical Medicine
Copyright Karen S. Vaughan, L.Ac., MSTOM
We live in a country where the number one cause of death is medicinal drugs, accounting for approximately 784,000 deaths anually. In-hospital adverse reactions to properly prescribed medicines is 2.2 million per year. Dr. Richard Besser of the CDC speaks of tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions written every year. So why is our instinct to pop a pill when there are physical methods that may be less dangerous, cheaper and mor effective?
I first understood the power of physical medicine when I had mononucleosis as a college student. It was viral, so there were no medications other than analgesics tp keep me comfortable. But my doctor insisted that I attach a rubber hose to my shower to irrigate my throat several times a day. The result of physical removal of phlegm was that I no longer stayed up coughing all night, my respiratory passages could function and I was able to recover faster. Now I use neti pots to wash out phlegm if I get a respiratory infection.
When my children were young, they suffered from recurring ear infections. An osteopath was able to open up ear and nose passages with physical manipulation so that they were less likely to block. Considering that antibiotics are routinely given for ear infections, this saved them from treatments which would very likely cause antibiotic resistance.
After my second child was born my finger became so painfully and arthritically swollen that I had to cut off a treasured gold ring. I went to an orthopedist who prescribed a drug so toxic that it had a black box warning in the PDR ("May cause fatalaties in young adults in low doses") I wasn't going to try this while nursing, and I certainly wasn't willing to stop, so I waited two weeks for my acupuncturist. She took away the pain with needles during the office visit, and had me wrap the finger with some gold leaf and gauze, and it returned to normal, never to return.
My father recently suffered from a pinched lumbar nerve that caused so much pain that his kidneys released excess anti-diuretic hormone and his electrolytes became dangerously imbalanced. His doctor prescribed stronger painkillers than he had been taking. Painkillers may have a limited effect in allowing relief so that exercise can occur, but they also cause mental fuzziness, slow reaction times and even the very electrolyte imbalance that the pain caused (SIADH). But what painkiller is going to traction the spine and build up core muscles so that the vertebrae are not sitting on the nerve? Much better to kill the pain with frequent acupuncture, electrostimulation, physical therapy or chiropractic, while retraining the muscles and spine.
We tend to think of bones as static, especially when the spine is involved. But bones are in a constant state of reforming, and the insertion of electrical charge, from electro acupuncture or a tens unit can affect their formation. So can postural changes induced by shoes like Earth shoes, Massai Barefoot Technology shoes or orthotics.
Infertile women may have physical blockages affecting the fallopian tubes and uterus. In fact as much as 40% of infertility has been attributed to adhesions and scarring from such causes as endometriosis, pelvic surgery, ovarian cysts, or PID. A type of physical therapy where the adhesions are gently released has been quite successful at increasing fertility for these women. VIsceral manipulation may be similarly successful.
Men are paying $15 -$35 per pill for Viagra, taking sex from a free pleasure to an expensive luxury. Aside from the placebo effect that Pfizer invests in heavily, Viagra works by preventing the deflation of the penis as it becomes errect. So does a $5 jelly cockring whch can be used many times. And doing pelvic floor exercises or Iron Crotch qigong, both subjects of other articles on my site, can often reverse -or prevent-erectile dysfunction altogether.
I have found that sacro-cranial balancing unlocked my neck and jaw, relieved headaches and relieved sleep apnea. As blockages are released, stagnation abates and swelling goes down. Vascular conditions can also be relieved - I had a leg swell several inches in diameter after I bumped into a plastic tub. Massaging the area with special attention to releasing adhesions and inserting a few needles alowed the fluid to be returned to the trunk and reversed the condition.
How much Tylenol has been downed for headaches that would go away with opening up a sacroilliac joint? How much Alleve has been taken for back pain due to a too tight bra? How much arthritis medicine has been taken because patients needed to learn to stretch and to warm up their joints?
The body is replete with major and minor channels which circulate qi, blood, lymph and hormones. The acupuncture meridians were discovered 5000 years ago by martial artists who could feel channels of energy travelling through their bodies, but have been confirmed in recent experiments with soundwaves, radiological SQUIB scanning and radioactive isotope trails. In recent studies, radioactive technetium 99m and phosphorus p32 were injected into acupuncture points and gamma-camera imaging and microautoradiography followed the isotopes' uptake. The radioactive substances migrated along classical acupuncture meridian pathways, through a series of fine, duct-like tubules, (approximately 0.5 - 1.5 microns in diameter) for a distance of 30 cm in four to six minutes. Fluid extracted from these tubules revealed high concentrations of DNA, RNA, amino acids, hyaluronic acid, sixteen types of free nucleotides, adrenaline, corticosteroids, estrogen, and other hormonal substances in levels far different from those ordinarily found in the bloodstream.
In an acupoint, over ten times the blood level of adrenaline was found. This presence of hormones and adrenaline within ductal fluids certainly suggest a link between the meridian system and the endocrine gland regulation of the body. The terminal ductles of the deeper meridian system also reach the tissue cell nuclei, which are the genetic control centers of the cells. So the insertion of a needle or the pressure of massage can stimulate hormones as well as the movement of blood and lymph.
The meridian system also plays an important role in both replication and differentiation (specialization) of all cells in the body, providing an intermediate informational guidance system to the developing cells of the body. In the embryonic chick the meridian ducts are formed within fifteen hours of conception before the most rudimentary organs have yet been formed and are believed to act as a template as well as a channel for the physical building blocks of growth, This indicates that acupuncture can affect changes in the body over time.
The meridian system is also a specialized type of electrolytic fluid system that conducts certain types of subtle energies (Qi) from the external environment to deeper organ structures. Quantitative measurements have demonstrated that there occurs a nearly twenty-fold drop in electrical resistance at the acupoints.
THe acupuncture points and meridians can be activated through a variety of physical techniques. Acupuncturists of course explicitly address the movement of qi and blood through the channels. Osteopaths affect them through the monitoring of the flyid tides of the cerebral spinal fluid. Physical therapists, massage therapists and tuina specialists use exercise and massage to cause body change. Chiropractors exert pressure on the spine to allow free flow in the channels. Even if the specialists so not explicitly address the acupuncture points and meridian systems, they all play a part in rebalancing the body's inherent regulatory systems and allowing the physical body to affect the biochemical body without drugs.
Acupuncture and Herbs by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac in Park Slope and Manhattan.
118 East 37th Street, New York, NY 10016
Brooklyn, NY 11215