What could knee pain, conjunctivitis, tennis elbow and depression have in common? How about migraine, insomnia, sciatica and anxiety? These are physical and somatic conditions commonly treated and relieved with acupuncture, an important branch of Chinese Medicine that incorporates the placement of tiny needles in specific points on the body to bring about healing and wellbeing as a preventative and acute healing practice. Acupuncture works directly with the body’s energy or qi through treatment of specific points related to symptoms or illness present, effectively removing these energy obstructions.
Acupuncture has been used for many thousands of years, predating recorded records. The Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine) is the earliest book written on Chinese Medicine and was compiled around 305-204 BC. The history of acupuncture includes its refinement and writing of meticulous texts by medical scholars throughout all the great Chinese Dynasties and periods. Acupuncture continues to play an important role in China’s medical system and its application and clinical effects, although modernized, will never lose its connection to a philosophy established thousands of years ago.
Niels Christensen of the Acupuncture and Body Care Clinic in Campbell River has been studying acupuncture for 20 years. He graduated from the Canadian College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Victoria in 1993. Niels says he “was always interested in Eastern philosophies” and is trained in acupuncture, herbology and massage, although he focuses on acupuncture.
According to Niels, acupuncture is an important treatment for healing because “it can work on so many levels.” This includes physical pain of the musculoskeletal system – sciatica, shoulder pain, back pain – and “helping patients be in contact with the intrinsic reason of why there is pain”, because not all physical pain has a physical cause. From this perspective Niels feels as comfortable talking with physicians and physiotherapists about proprioception and muscle shortening, as he does to other care workers addressing physical symptoms that may arise from an emotional or spiritual nature. He has the expertise to treat people precisely “where they’re at” with regard to mind/body awareness or strictly at the physical level from injury or wear-and-tear.
Niels says he was always curious about how the mind affects the body and learned early on about the phenomenon of memory stored in the body. This explains why sometimes pain felt in the body is disproportionate to what is actually physically happening or has happened. The knowledge of memory of past trauma affecting us physically, has been recognized worldwide by many in the field of physical and mental health, including Doctors Christiane Northrup, Dean Ornish, Gabor Mate and Deepak Chopra; by psychiatrist Carl Jung; and by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle – who calls this phenomenon the “pain-body.” Niels says: “Because we store memory in our bodies and it requires muscle tension to achieve this, sometimes when I begin to release the muscle tension, the memory or emotions held there, are released. This is similar to a scent eliciting a strong memory, except here, it is not a smell, but a needle that is the stimulus.”
Niels finds there is a bell-curve to his acupuncture practice; a mostly physical or mostly emotional/spiritual nature of pain or discomfort for a client. Some of the most commonly treated include: back pain, sciatica and muscle pain, shoulder and neck pain; gastrointestinal complaints, gynaecologic, asthma, allergies and respiratory. He uses “motor point” acupuncture for muscle-based pain. This involves using needles on a muscle where the nerve responsible for initiating movement makes contact with the muscle. Niels says, “This is incredibly effective at alleviating spasm, pain and shortening of the muscle.”
Niels performs “Traditional” Chinese acupuncture, where specific meridians are used to treat specific complaints; for instance, the “stomach” meridian may be used to treat stomach complaints. Intrinsic symptoms like headaches, insomnia and irritation also receive needles on the meridian points. Most treatments consist of the combination of motor points and meridian points for needle placement. Laser treatment, especially in points on the ears, is also used and is particularly helpful for addictions, as well as for children and people who are “needle-phobic!” Auricular acupuncture is a complete system in itself, done entirely within the ear, useful primarily for pain, addictions, insomnia, depression and weight loss.
Niels also uses “Esoteric” acupuncture, an approach that helps clients deal with “generational karma” – discomfort that is more intrinsic or spiritual. This can be due to unresolved conflict or trauma from the past; often “an extension of the challenges our families or others may have encountered, themselves.”
Another style of acupuncture is “Five Element” acupuncture. This practice incorporates interpretation of signs and symptoms in the context of the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water or wood. “Each element has an exhaustive list of associations within it that leads a practitioner to their assessment of where a client is blocked. For instance a client exhibiting asthma symptoms and who has experienced a lot of grief in their life may be viewed as having a ‘metal’ imbalance.” The metal element deals with loss and grief and is identified by the lungs, large intestine and the skin. These three organs are most responsible for elimination or “letting go” of what’s no longer needed by the body, “hence the connection between loss and grief.” Niels continues, saying “There’s a whole other language available to address the associations with feelings and all the emotions.” He can help clients address the physical and emotional aspects if they wish to look at this mode of healing.
An example of the association of feelings to an injury is this: In the treatment of hip pain, the acupuncture points lead down the leg to the ankle. If a client has the memory of a traumatic childhood injury to the ankle this could become a “vehicle for self-awareness” where the client can regain body awareness and connection, leading to another level of work. Niels says “Acupuncture can get you to deeper layers”, stating also that he’s not a counsellor; that this is a starting point where he can refer a client to a therapist or counsellor if they wish to explore and heal on this deeper level. Either way for Niels, his work is neutral and he is clear about letting the client take responsibility for further healing in this regard.
Niels says that, “Western medicine has forgotten the spiritual part of healing” which in past centuries and even just decades ago, was as important to healing as setting bones and suturing skin. We talk about the Caduceus – the universal medical symbol, which is on the Hippocratic Oath which many doctors still sign. This is the staff and two serpents crisscrossing upwards to the crown, symbolizing the seven major chakras or energy centers in the body, culminating in the crown chakra. The serpents represent Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning the latent spiritual force that lies coiled at the base of the spine like a snake, waiting to be awakened through meditation, yoga or other healing practices that incorporate mind/body/emotional connectedness.
Niels’ work shows him “where real healing can go.” He meets and gets to know wonderful people; sometimes talking about things they may not otherwise talk to health practitioners or other people about. In the professional/client relationship, there’s no superficiality. He says “I get to hear others’ perspectives and it becomes part of my own healing.”
In past years, on December 6th, Niels has contributed a day of acupuncture treatment to the Counselling Centre for Adults Affected by Abuse in Campbell River . December 6th, 1989 is the date of the killing of 14 women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique. While Niels has no business affiliation with the Counselling Centre for Adults Affected by Abuse, he sometimes refers clients to them – some who perhaps have never told anyone about being physically or sexually abused in the past. Their service is by donation – usually a welcome gift, and they offer what is possibly a new beginning.
Acupuncture – a holistic way to care for the body; in harmony with living, healing and – being side effect free – more natural.