Discoveries and innovations have moved so swiftly during our lifetime that it’s hard to believe that it was less than 100 years ago that our health and wellness was improved dramatically by the development of penicillin. Also at that time, a form of chemotherapy was discovered, but those scientists had no idea then that it would one day help cure cancer.
It is easy to take the last 200 years’ worth of medical advancements for granted and hard to imagine what it would be like without them. How did man deal with the many hundreds of thousands of years of illnesses and injuries without antiseptics, antibiotics and around-the-clock doctors ready to help and heal us?
Well before many of the medical advancements we benefit from today, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was already being used to strengthen the body’s defenses and enhance its capacity for healing and good health. TCM first came to widespread attention in the U.S. in the 1970s and there are currently around 50 colleges of Oriental medicine here along with 40 states who license their practitioners.
Everything old is new again.
Today, many of us shy away from the high prevalence of chemicals in everything we touch, breathe and eat, so interest is high in the more natural ways of achieving balance and staying healthy. This return to a more “organic” way of life has also spurred increased attention to holistic health care, which focuses on the prevention of illness as does TCM.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Licensed practitioners utilize Chinese herbal medicines, various mind and body practices like tai chi, qigong and dietary therapy, along with hands-on cupping, acupressure, acupuncture, moxibustion and Tui Na to treat or prevent health problems. In the U.S. it is used primarly as a complementary health approach as Americans search for more natural ways of achieving wellness in their overall physical and mental health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based upon the principle that the functioning of the body is controlled by a vital force or energy called “Qi” – pronounced “chee”. It flows throughout our body between organs and along invisible pathways called “meridians”, which we can picture as an “energy highway” accessing all parts of the body. The status of our Qi depends upon the delicate balance of two opposing energies:
Yin – nourishing, moistening, cooling energy
Yang – energetic, hot and motivational energy
If there is too much or too little of these types of energy in a specific area of the body, it can result in an unbalanced state of being. We have learned through modern physics that everything is energy, so in TCM it makes sense that Qi is considered life itself. If you view health issues from the TCM perspective of the fluid and transformational qualities of Qi, it then becomes clear that nothing is unmovable or permanent.
How can ancient treatment techniques be utilized today for addiction recovery?
Acupuncture is the stimulation or reduction of Qi by inserting needles into the meridians or energy highways. The flow of Qi throughout the body enhances healing of affected areas. It is used for many health problems including treatment for asthma, arthritis and PTSD. Prior to any acupuncture treatment, a full assessment is done at the initial consultation to discern the specific treatment needed for each person. Because it treats the whole person, some people with the same symptoms will be prescribed completely different regimens than others. For addiction treatment, it can provide relief for the outward signs of headaches, nausea and dizziness during withdrawal, and it can be a successful ongoing treatment tool for the underlying causes of many addictions, which are chronic pain, depression and anxiety.
Chinese herbal medicine uses plants, minerals and animal products to promote wellness and to treat problems such as insomnia, pain, anxiety and depression. For those in recovery, herbal medicine decreases cravings and enhances the balance of the energies in the body as it treats the whole person.
Moxibustion utilizes a moxa stick made of the herb mugwort, which is held near acupuncture points to improve the flow of Qi by stimulating the stuck or depleted energy. Some practitioners may recommend it for improvement of general health, to aid in cancer treatment success, as well as treatment of chronic conditions, such as arthritis and digestive disorders.
Cupping is a 2,500-year-old practice involving the placement of special cups filled with heated air onto areas of the body. As the cups cool, the volume of air within them shrinks creating a suction on the skin and increasing the blood flow to the area. It is commonly used to aid respiratory problems by mitigating coughs and wheezing, improve circulation and reduce menstrual symptoms. The relief of aches and pains after cupping is a major benefit during recovery since self-medication for intense pain was often a source of the original addiction.
Acupressure is a form of TCM that uses pressure, not needles, to stimulate the acupuncture points of the meridians in order to release tension and to promote blood and Qi circulation which are benefits to all, whether suffering from the disease of addiction or not.
Tui Na (pronounced tway-na) is a manipulative therapy that aims to open the body’s blockages and stimulate movement in the meridians and muscles. Practitioners may brush, knead, press and rub the areas between the arm and leg joints using a range of motions and massage plus stimulation of the acupressure points. It is used for the treatment of both musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal conditions, and the pain relief and relaxation throughout the mind and body are key for those in recovery.
The healing powers of acupuncture.
While there are benefits from all facets of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the healing powers of acupuncture have become a highly promising weapon in the fight against chemical dependency as it can bring relief from the overwhelming physical withdrawal symptoms, helps to strengthen the liver, kidneys and lungs – which have usually been damaged by the substance abuse – and substantially reduces drug craving. When combined with the overall feeling of calmness and balance, acupuncture allows people to be less defensive, more open-minded, confident and self-motivated as they move through the process of healing from their addiction.
Studies have even shown that the insertion of the acupuncture needles stimulates the body’s production of beta-endorphins into the nervous system. Those beta-endorphins act as a natural painkiller, so the cravings and withdrawal symptoms experienced by those recovering from addiction can be alleviated by raising the level of endorphins naturally present in the nervous system.
Acupuncture is not a physiological treatment for drug addiction, but the soothing, relaxing effect is extremely helpful to people experiencing any kind of lifestyle change, especially a change of the magnitude of drug withdrawal. This procedure can be very beneficial as an adjunct to a comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program offering evidence-based behavioral therapies, family and social support group involvement, stress management, as well as health and wellness training to help heal the body.
At Enterhealth, a number of our clients have found that acupuncture treatments plus other therapeutic practices of TCM have helped them stay in therapy longer, resulting in more successful treatment outcomes. Our certified and licensed acupuncturist, Dr. Susana Méndez, is known worldwide for teaching TCM and allopathic medicine, and also has extensive experience with other TCM specialties such as acupressure, cupping, moxibustion, magnets, Tui Na and Alpha-Stim® SCS.
To learn more about Enterhealth’s luxury, residential addiction treatment center or Outpatient rehabilitation programs, call 1.800.388.4601 or contact us using this form to talk to your trusted advisor, today!