Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: Ancient Solutions to Modern Problems

By Craig Amrine, L.Ac.

pic1Chronic aches and pains. Allergies. Headaches. Stress. Why do you get the feeling that your body is plotting against you?

While it may be difficult to believe, the body wants to be healthy. Generally speaking, the human organism (or any living creature) is designed to thrive and function in an optimal state. Otherwise, we would not survive past perhaps a few years after birth.

So, what is the best way to keep our bodies in balance. The answer may be found in TCM acupuncture and TCM treatment.

While this practice has been around for well over 2000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, has only been recognized here in the United States in the last 30 years. It first gained notoriety in 1972 after President Nixon opened talks with China. James Reston, a New York Times journalist covering the event, had a medical emergency and underwent an appendectomy with acupuncture being used as the only anesthetic.

Today you, or someone you know, has been treated by acupuncture.  What you may not know, however, is the huge range of afflictions that acupuncture can treat. Aside from back and neck-pain, acupuncture is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) to successfully treat a wide variety of illnesses including:

  • Asthma/Allergies: Chronic asthma, allergic rhinitis, sinus infections, sinus congestion.
  • Emotional Disorders: Stress, panic and anxiety attacks, depression, insomnia
  • Digestive Disorders: Heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation/diarrhea.
  • Pre and Post Natal Care / Pregnancy: Infertility, labor-induction (shorten delivery time), reduce morning-sickness symptoms including nausea
  • Other: Dysmenorrhea, PMS, headaches, TMJ, tennis elbow, Bell’s Palsy, sciatica, weight loss, drug addiction

In TCM, the classic explanation is that “disease results when we live in disharmony with nature”.  In modern terms, we interpret this by saying that poor health can be the result of excessive stress, poor diet, environmental toxins, lack of sleep, sedentary lifestyle, and over-work. All of these factors can lead to the imbalance preventing the body from thriving in its optimal state.Acupuncturists take this concept a step further by using needles to help restore this balance. They don’t “cure” the patient, but simply nudge the body towards balance to allow it to heal itself.

How does it work?

Acupuncture relies on the theory that a “vital-force” or Qi flows through the body in a series of pathways called meridians.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are 12 primary and 8 secondary meridians.  Disease occurs when the flow of Qi is blocked or deficient in one or more of these channels.  Acupuncture needles are inserted in certain points along these channels to rectify the imbalance in this flow.  A good acupuncturist will be able to interpret the symptoms, recognize the type of imbalance, and choose a combination from over 365 acupuncture points in the body to restore this balance.


One of the greatest challenges that I have to get patients into my clinic is their deep-rooted fear and distrust of needles; usually the result of some traumatic childhood trauma at the doctor’s office.

While acupuncture needles vary in size, most are far smaller than the average hypodermic needles.  During many treatments, patients don’t even realize that the needles have been inserted.  At most, the patients feel a mild tinging around the area of  needle insertion and are genuinely surprised how painless the treatment is.  Even children no longer dread coming to the clinic once their initial fears are allayed.

Technology vs. Tradition

In a time of astounding  technological achievements and advancements in science, how is it that such a such a simple tool can be used to successfully treat such a wide variety of health problems? Surely with the millions of dollars spent on the research and marketing of new drugs each year, acupuncture should be discarded in favor of modern medicine.  Shouldn’t it?

While there is a proper time and place for modern pharmaceuticals, many of the drugs used to treat common health problems rely on relieving symptoms rather than improving  health.  In order to achieve this, some physiological response must be compromised, often leading to several undesirable and possibly dangerous side-effects.

Let’s examine two health problems heavily marketed by drug companies on TV: Asthma/Allergies and Insomnia.  Both of these problems are extremely common and coincidentally are very successfully treated by acupuncture.

Shown below are the side-effects listed (from their website) for a common allergy medication to treat allergic rhinitis:

“ – occurring at a frequency greater than or equal to 1% and at an incidence greater than placebo, regardless of causality assessment, were sinusitis, upper respiratory infection, sinus headache, cough, epistaxis, headache, otitis media, pharyngitis, and increased ALT. “  – (

The side-effects listed for a common sleep-aid as shown on the popular website: These side-effects were listed in a clinical trial and shown to occur in greater frequency than a placebo:

“ Headache, depression, dizziness, hallucinations, libido decreased, nervousness, somnolence, respiratory system infection, skin rash, unpleasant taste, gynecomastia,  dysmenorrhea*”

In contrast, the long-term side-effects of acupuncture, regardless of the details of treatment, may include a mild euphoria, relaxation, improved sleep, and an enhanced immune system.

So, which approach would you choose?

There Is Hope…

Fortunately, many health insurance companies have recently discovered that acupuncture is actually less expensive than surgeries and pharmaceutical drugs for many of today’s modern health problems.  More importantly, they recognize the vast amount of data proving acupuncture as a very real and powerful healing modality.  As a result, several health insurance companies will now reimburse patients for acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture is growing. Even medical doctors and chiropractors have tried to exploit  the popularity by establishing fast-track courses allowing them to use acupuncture needles.

So before you reach into the medicine cabinet to deal with chronic allergies, or request another cortisone shot for your knee, discuss the problem with your local acupuncturist.  It may be the better (and safer) choice.

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pic2Craig Amrine is a licensed acupuncturist in the state of Arizona (L.Ac.) and has received his Masters of Science degree in acupuncture from the accredited Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture (PIHMA) in Phoenix, Arizona. He is also a nationally board certified Diplomate in Acupuncture with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), and operates a successful clinic in Tempe, Arizona.  His clinic, Hidden Rhythm Acupuncture, uses a combination of both traditional methods including the use of acupuncture, cupping, moxabustion, tui-na (body-work) as well as modern techniques using electrical stimulation and cold-laser therapy to treat a host of afflictions ranging from physical pain to respiratory, digestive, sleep, or neurological disorders.  For questions or comments, he can be reached through his website at