Acupuncture Training Programs
By Ashley Boyce, an allied health world staff writer
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Training to become an acupuncturist begins with a personal commitment to the health and safety of a practitioner’s potential client base and ends with the completion of a formal training program through a respected institution. Allied Health World has spoken with recent graduates of acupuncture training programs, as well as accomplished practitioners, so as to answer the questions most frequently asked by those considering formal training in the ancient healing art of acupuncture:
What are the common methods or approaches to acupuncture?As would be expected of this type of healing art which has evolved over thousands of years, and which has been embraced by many different cultures from within Asia, and well beyond, there are a number of different methods by which to approach acupuncture. Each approach is a culturally and historically significant specialization that was adapted to meet the healing needs of individuals from different parts of Asia, and indeed the world. The following represents a short list of the more common approaches, which are overviewed in most acupuncture training programs:
System of Five-Phase Correspondence: This is perhaps the most popular form of acupuncture as it is most closely related to the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, most contemporary acupuncture schools still base their programs on the system of five-phase correspondence. This approach seeks to find a relationship between an illness or malady being suffered by a particular organ and an imbalance in its elemental and esoteric counterpart that exists in nature. In this way it relates the elements of fire, water, earth, wood, and metal to the seasons recognized as Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn, and Winter to correspond with the related climates of dampness, heat, dryness, wind, and cold which denote the specifics of the imbalance, and in turn the appropriate treatment.
Japanese Acupuncture and Hara Diagnosis: This more subtle form of acupuncture is characterized by a greater attention to diagnosis through palpation, and in particular palpation of the Hara, or abdomen. Japanese acupuncture employs a more gentle approach that involves lighter needling such that needles do not penetrate as deeply.
Auricular Acupuncture: This approach to acupuncture is based on the discovery that certain points in the ear can be directly correlated to certain parts of the body and when charted in comparison, the ear appears as a homunculus, or miniature person. This approach was pioneered in the West and is frequently used as a drug free form of withdrawal therapy to treat chemical addiction.
Korean Hand Acupuncture: This method focuses on the hand as a microcosmic representation of the entire body, much like Auricular Acupuncture does with the ear. In this way the entire body is represented in various points throughout the hand allowing the acupuncturist to limit needling to the hand only. Very small needles are used and may be left in place for a number of hours depending on the nature and severity of the condition being treated.
What is a “cun” measurement in the practice of acupuncture?Because everybody occupies a unique physical form, there is no universal incremental measurement system for locating acupuncture points on an individual’s body. That is to say, that although approximate locations are known, the location of specific points will vary slightly on each person based on his or her relative size and physical dimensions. This is why the increment that is used to locate the acupuncture pressure points based on their relative distance from one another on a meridian is actually drawn from the individual’s body itself. The distance between the distal interphalangeal joint and the proximal interphalangeal joint on the middle finger of each individual is the increment known as “cun”. The cun is used to measure the distance between acupuncture points, and therefore locate the exact point based on its relative number of cun from other points. In this way, each individual has a unique cun increment used to locate acupuncture points on his or her own body.
Even this particular cun derived from the distance between joints on a person’s middle finger is not universally accurate for locating all of his or her acupuncture points. Distances between other relative landmarks on the body are also used for locating points elsewhere on the body. As an example, acupuncture points on the chest and torso are located using the distance between nipples, which represents eight cun. Another common incremental measurement is the distance between the kneecap or patella and the lowest tip of the tibia bone, which marks sixteen cun, and is used in locating acupuncture points on the legs.
How is pulse diagnosis used in client assessment?A great deal of information can be gleaned through conventional methods of assessment such as having clients complete questionnaire sregarding their medical histories, conducting interviews for a better understanding of the nature of the issue they’re seeking treatment for, and conducting conventional physical examinations. However, acupuncture training programs teach that the assessment of a patient’s pulse points provide crucial information that ties directly back to the health and vitality of his or her energy meridians. This can offer the most definitive clues to the nature and severity of a patient’s issue in the context of the acupuncture treatment to be administered.
The radial arterial pulse can be felt in the area of the arm where the wrist meets the forearm. When a practiced acupuncturist places three fingers on this pulse point, he or she is able to make an assessment based on what is felt. A number of points within proximity of this pulse point coincide with various organ systems and can give an indication as to which one of these systems is responsible for the condition the client is suffering from.
Most programs offer comprehensive acupuncture courses devoted to the practice of pulse diagnosis. When performing pulse diagnosis, the acupuncturist is looking for a number of distinctions in the qualities of the pulse. Among the qualities that the practitioner is looking for when palpating the area around the pulse point are whether it is fast or slow, whether the area is hard or yielding, and whether the pulse can be felt as forceful or weak. Based on these key indicators, an experienced practitioner is often able to diagnose the ailment so as to know how to best approach treatment.