Regardless of the ailment that is being treated in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the focus is always on treating the whole person. For example, a typical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome would include placing needles on the body to unblock the energy pathways (meridians) that run thru the wrist, and also to place needles on the body that would have the function of nourishing and/or relaxing the tendons.
While acupuncture is extremely safe and using multiple needles usually puts the body in a profound state of relaxation, caution is indicated if the patient is extremely fatigued, hungry or emotionally distraught.
A few weeks ago, I had a new patient with an acute flare up of carpal tunnel syndrome. She arrived at my office in tears, stating that she had not slept in four days. She had not eaten at all that day. And her pain was so severe that she said she wished that she “could just cut her arm off to make the pain go away.” She said that it felt as if there was a nail at the center of her wrist (exactly at the location of Pericardium 7 for anyone familiar with acupuncture point location). The pain radiated into her palm and up to the elbow along the pericardium channel. She was also a little nervous because she had never had acupuncture before. I was really concerned about treating this patient too aggressively.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend an acupuncture seminar in New Mexico. The speaker was Dr. Richard Tan. He explained theories of selecting acupuncture points to treat pain that was quite different from my traditional training. He calls his method the Balance method. I found his theories to be very logical, even mathematical. Having worked as a computer programmer for twenty years, I was fascinated. He taught us to look at the body holographically and to image the “sick” part of the body on a healthy part of the body. Hence, the leg can image the arm and the ankle can image the wrist. Then based on our knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, we would select points that would balance the sick meridian. He also taught us to “never underestimate the power of a single needle”.
Hoping that I would be able to help this woman, I selected a point (Liver 4) on the ankle opposite to the wrist pain. Within seconds, the pain started to subside and within two minutes it was completely gone. The patient was amazed and able to rest comfortably for forty minutes with the one needle in place. After leaving my office, the pain completely subsided for eight hours and then returned at a much more tolerable level. (This is a common pattern in pain management with acupuncture). After a second treatment, the patient reported a 99% improvement and now will continue treatments to balance the whole body, with the intention of preventing future flare-ups.