The Intervention Methods of Acupuncture
Acupuncture assembles a large number of interesting methods. The basic method consists in exciting specific points situated on the surface of the body, in or on the skin, with needles, moxibustion, massage, and movement.11 These interventions often have a remarkable power to influence the deep physiological dynamics of the human organism Legend contends that acupuncture was discovered by a hunter, accidentally wounded by an arrow. It had penetrated the external face of the foot behind the ankle. When the arrow was removed, the hunter began to dance and exhibited a strange and joyous behavior. He explained to those who were providing care that he had been suffering for some days from a sharp pain that extended from his kidneys to his feet. He was saying to himself that the arrow must be magical because the pain had suddenly disappeared. A physician, witness to these events, would have subsequently stuck an arrow in the same place on persons who were complaining of a similar pain and thereby cured them.12 Analogous legends allow us to suppose that others found, by trial and error, various miraculousâ points that they pierced with needles, with the intent to intervene in the least painful way possible. They discovered that various ways to stimulate a point could have different effects. Sometimes applying pressure with a finger sufficed; sometimes turning the needle one way had one effect and turning it another way had another effect (yin for left or yang for right). It would seem that Chinese physicians noticed that the points organized themselves in the form of lines, which are the meridians. Each line could be associated to a group of particular set of psychophysiological dynamics and the circulation of chi in the body. The acupuncture points are thus handled as if they were like doors that can regulate the flow of the chi in a meridian, like the valves in the veins of the legs.
According to George Soulie de Morant,13 we find a therapy using 120 points around the year 500; but it wasn’t until 1027 that a physician made a statue showing all of the known points, and 1102 until we had a definite chart relating the points to organs: something established after a particularly systematic research on prisoners condemned to death (pierced with needles before death and then dissected). This medicine of the pointsâ established correlations between the state of the inner organs and the cutaneous sensations (hot/cold, irritation/comfort, red/pale, etc.). A clinical teaching method based on such observations was developed over more than a thousand years. Every meridian is associated with a yin or a yang value, to an organ, and sometimes to affects. The meridian of the liver is associated with certain headaches and anger, whereas the meridian of the kidneys is associated to clammy and cold hands and fear.
Acupuncture and Massage
Chinese massage techniques are extremely varied. In the courses given by Hiroshi Nozaki in Lausanne, I learned to massage with fingers, hands, elbows, head, and feet and by walking on the back. Some massages are gentle, and some are painful. We massaged the muscles, the bones, the skin, the organs, the acupuncture points, the scalp, and sometime the space surrounding the body. Some massages follow the theory of acupuncture14 and require a solid understanding of the points and the meridians.
A Chinese masseur only rarely works directly with the emotions that express themselves during a session. If an individual begins to cry, to let sexual movements occur, or to erupt in anger, the therapist typically places a blanket on the person and waits for the crisis to subside by itself. These affects are known and included in the clinical teachings of acupuncture. Often in China, a physician treats several patients at the same time. He moves from one to another, adjusting the needles of one and massaging another. Once a patient’s emotional outburst has subsided, the therapist talks with the patient while he is preparing to leave, sometimes discussing recent events that might be related to the emotional experience. It can happen that at the following session, the physician focuses on the points associated with the emotions previously expressed, but the emotional content is not verbally discussed. There is thus no psychotherapy born out of acupuncture. We are here manifestly in the treatment system of the mechanisms of organismic regulation. The mind is part of these mechanisms without being the center.