Why choose 5-Element Acupuncture for your health

Miguel Andrango – backstrap-loom weaving

In order to weave silk into a beautiful pattern, you must know what each individual thread is doing. However, if you stay focused on the individual threads, you will never see the pattern that these threads create. By favoring pattern recognition over individual signs and symptoms, 5-Element Acupuncture occupies a unique place in the healthcare universe that sets it apart, not only from Western medicine, but also other forms of acupuncture.

You have choices in acupuncture

We are blessed in this modern age to have lots of choices when it comes to acupuncture, TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine), Japanese Eight Principle, Auricular Acupuncture, Korean Hand Acupuncture, and individual techniques like Dr. Tan’s Balance Method, and the NAET allergy elimination protocol.

Choices can cause confusion

This profusion of styles is also a curse. You now have to educate yourself to make a wise choice. It would take an entire book to explain all the different types of acupuncture, and since I am only an expert in one style, 5-Element Acupuncture, it would be presumptuous of me to speak for other traditions.

What makes 5 Element Acupuncture unique

However, I can tell you the unique features of 5-Element Acupuncture and the benefits of its approach. If you find yourself bored and uninterested, move on and find another practitioner (or style). However, if you find yourself drawn in and intrigued, schedule yourself a consultation to find out if 5-Element Acupuncture is for you.

A person and her health is not simply a matter of biochemistry, or internal energy flow for that matter. She constantly adjusts and responds to her environment. She also is an expression of her past. Just like thousands of threads are woven together to make a dress, time weaves the physical, mental and spiritual threads of our lives to make us what we are today.

Heart disease as an example

For example, let’s take a look at heart disease. In modern medicine, the first sign of heart disease might be raised blood pressure. In response to this finding, a doctor might prescribe several blood pressure medications and advise the patient to exercise, lose weight and make a follow-up visit in 6-12 months.

Similarly, in the TCM acupuncture model, a patient might present with a tight pulse and a tongue that is slightly purple. The TCM practitioner would have a similar response to the Western doctor and use needles and a herbal formula like “Relaxed Wanderer” to ease “liver stagnation” and advise the patient to practice yoga or meditate.

These are essentially the same interventions which address the mechanism of increased blood pressure, but completely ignore how the patient’s past and environment might be influencing her entire quality of life and not just the blood pressure. Put that thought on the shelf. We will come back to it.

Laughter is linked with heart health.

Laughter and your heart

A study just came to my attention that linked laughter and heart disease. To a Five Element Acupuncturist this is 2,000 year old news, but it’s always nice to get validated by rigorous modern research. In 5-Element theory, the heart is associated with the Fire Element whose sound is laughter and whose emotion is joy. Score one for the old Chinese dudes.

The researchers started by asking the patients if they would laugh if they showed up at a party and someone else was wearing the same outfit. Those who had a sense of humor, were found to be 40% less likely to have markers for heart disease, including high blood pressure.

One could make the case, in fact I am making the case, that the cause of these patients’ heart disease symptoms was a lack of joy in their lives. No joy, no laughter. No laughter, no healthy heart.

If you simply relax the cardiovascular system and reduce the blood pressure, the main cause of stress, a joyless life, is left running rampage through the person’s life and will continue to cause physical damage.

In 5-Element Acupuncture, we are trained to observe a patient’s emotional state as well as their physical state. If we find a person does not laugh easily, we get curious and look for the reasons why. While this may sound like we are trying to be junior psychologists and go all Doctor Phil on our patient’s, you have to take my word that we are not.

The 5-Element System is a tool for identifying large patterns, the meta-patterns, if you will, that give rise to smaller patterns of disharmony, like high blood pressure, or constrained liver qi.

Treating the overall pattern

Anybody over the age of 30 has many of these small patterns or symptoms. Trying to address them individually is like trying to use chopsticks to eat a bowl of rice one grain at a time. If you can identify the meta-pattern influencing the person’s life, what 5 Element Acupuncturists call the causative factor, you can then treat the entire landscape of health physical, emotional and spiritual.

The individual rice grain approach is why patients end up with a shelf full of medications if they go to a doctor, or a shelf full of supplements if they see an alternative health practitioner.

Please don’t mistake my drawing distinctions for disdain. I’m not dismissing this approach out of hand. There are times when concentrating on an individual symptom or disease is critical. However, this is not the strength of the 5-Element System. An individual practitioner may have an expertise in an area, but  has created that expertise outside the 5-Element System. For example, I have specialized in treating Lyme Disease. I uses the 5-Element System, but also use other techniques from various disciplines to focus on helping people with this terrible disease.

Request a free information packet.

Just enter your email and I’ll send you a complete information packet about acupuncture including practice information, pricing, and  payment options.

That’s an old Chinese saying “The wise person is sick of being sick.” Don’t let another day slip by without starting your path back to health.

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Acupuncture – The Basics

What acupuncture works for

Acupuncture has been used to treat everything from pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis to asthma. The World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for many respiratory diseases, eye and mouth problems, orthopedic problems, neurological disorders and gastrointestinal ailments.

It also has been used to help patients regain movement after strokes, and to treat anxiety, depression, headaches, low back pain, tennis elbows, and  substance abuse. A study in Neuroscience Letters suggests it may even be useful for treating Parkinson’s Disease.

Does it hurt?

The needles used for acupuncture are only as thick as a single human hair. You will feel a pinch and a “releasing” sensation as the blocked qi is freed. The needles usually only stay in for one or two seconds. Occasionally, needles will stay in longer depending on the type of treatment.

Recommended sequence of acupuncture treatments

Treatments take place once a week for two months or so and then are spaced out to once a month and eventually 5 times a year. Most patients find that once they reach the once a month schedule they are well on their healing path and the monthly treatments help them stay happy and healthy.

There are five steps in 5-Element Acupuncture Treatment:

1. The Traditional Diagnosis
2. Clearing Treatments
3. Balancing Treatments
4. Re-Building Treatments
5. Maintenance Treatments

Each steps builds on the next and ushers you to a new level of health and vitality.

Acupuncture Treatment Steps
Step One: Traditional Diagnosis During your Traditional Diagnosis, my job as a 5-element acupuncturist is to determine your Causative Factor. Once it is correctly identified and treated, all the other imbalances will resolve naturally. The focus on the Causative Factor is what sets 5-Element Acupuncture apart from other systems of acupuncture.
Step Two: Clearing There are number of energetic blocks, which can overlay the Causative Factor and must be removed before work on the Causative Factor element will be effective.
Step Three: Balancing After years of neglect our bodies become imbalanced. Like a bicycle tire that is out of balance and vibrates dangerouly if we go too fast. By restoring the body’s balance, we are able to move onto the next phase of treatment, nourishment, without causing more distress.
Step Four: Re-Building Once treatment blocks are removed and your energy balanced, it is safe to re-build your energy so the capability of your body to heal and your spirit and mind to grow is restored.
Step Five: Maintenance Seasonal treatments are similar to changing the oil in your car. They keep the day to day stresses in our environment from building up and restarting the downward spiral toward illness.

How this all comes together in the clinic

Your first acupuncture session is the longest and most intense. It combines  steps one and two, the Traditional Diagnosis and the Clearing Treatments. This session lasts two to three hours depending on which treatments are required.

The next seven balancing treatments last about an hour each and are scheduled one week apart.

After your energy is balanced we move onto monthly Re-building Treatments. This is the longest phase and about two years depending on the level of depletion and the current amount of stressors in your life.  After your energy is restored, you are ready for seasonal treatments.

For more detailed information put your email in the form below.

Request a free information packet.

Just enter your email and I’ll send you a complete information packet about acupuncture including practice information, pricing, and  payment options.

That’s an old Chinese saying “The wise person is sick of being sick.” Don’t let another day slip by without starting your path back to health.

Understanding 5-Element Acupuncture


5 Element Acupuncture: A 2000-Year Track Record
A needle usually doesn’t conjure up a feeling of comfort, but a growing body of medical evidence suggests that acupuncture – the use of carefully placed needles to promote health and improved function – does help many people. It’s been used by the Chinese for more than 2000 years and has been growing in popularity in the United States. A national health survey found that more than eight million adults have used acupuncture as part of their health care.

How 5 Element acupuncture works
According to Chinese Medicine, energy called qi (“chi”) flows through the body in 12 major pathways called meridians. The meridians correspond to specific organs and body functions. If the flow of qi is blocked, you get sick. Inserting very fine needles at specific acupuncture points along these meridians helps restore the flow of qi. Most doctors believe that the needle stick causes the central nervous system to release morphine-like pain killers called endorphins. Acupuncture sends a signal to the body to turn on it’s own healing system.

Another theory is that acupuncture regulates the part of the brain that is made active by mental and physical stress. Acupuncture helps calm the brain down. It re-balances the connection between mind and body. Chinese Medicine places a much greater emphasis than Western medicine on the close relationship of body, mind and spirit.

What acupuncture works for
Acupuncture has been used to treat everything from pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis to asthma. The World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for many respiratory diseases, eye and mouth problems, orthopedic problems, neurological disorders and gastrointestinal ailments.

Acupuncture has been used to help patients regain movement after strokes, and to treat anxiety, depression, headaches, low back pain, tennis elbows – even substance abuse. A study in Neuroscience Letters suggests it may even be useful for treating Parkinson’s Disease.

What to expect
The needles used for acupuncture are only as thick as a single human hair. You will feel a pinch and a “releasing” sensation as the blocked qi is freed. The needles usually only stay in for one or two seconds. Occasionally, needles will stay in longer depending on the type of treatment.

Treatments take place once a week for two months and then are spaced out to  once a month. Most patients find that once they reach the once a month schedule their health is greatly restored and the monthly treatments help them stay happy and healthy.

5 Element Acupuncture’s philosophical underpinnings date back 2000 years to the first acupuncture book called The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine. By comparison, modern medicine is about 150 years old. So you can imagine there would be significant differences in the way 5 Element Acupuncture approaches heath care.

How 5 Element Acupuncture differs from modern medicine
To help understand the 5 Element style it’s helpful to compare it to the modern Western medicine you are familiar with. The table below was adapted from Peter Eckman’s wonderful history of 5 Element Acupuncture, In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor. (1) Let’s contrast the underlying views of the two systems of medicine.

Categories Western Medicine 5 Element Acupuncture
Foundation of understanding: Chemistry 5 Elements
Essential Functions: Cellular functions 12 Officials
Essential Structures: Anatomy Meridians and Points
Causes of Illness: Germs, Toxins Internal disharmony
Nature of Disharmony: Physical pathology Energy imbalance
Clinical Investigation: Medical tests Diagnostic conversation
Case Analysis: Disease process Causative Factor
Treatment: Drugs, surgery Acupuncture, diet

The original holistic model of medicine
Modern medicine is based on biochemistry. The body is understood in terms of chemical reaction that happen inside of organs and individual cells. This approach isolates and zooms in on specific reaction in the body and attempts to alter them with medication. By comparison, 5 Element acupuncture is based on zooming out and grouping together related body functions and the environmental factors that influence them.

The heart of 5 Element Acupuncture is the 5 Elements and their corresponding functions in the body. For example, 5 Element Theory states that there is a link between chewing and thinking because they are both associated with the Earth Element. Today’s studies confirm this ancient wisdom. (2) Below is a chart of the 5 Elements and some of the correspondences.

FIRE EARTH METAL WATER WOOD
Officials Heart
Small Intestine
Circulation/Sex
Triple Warmer
Lung
Colon
Spleen
Stomach
Kidney
Bladder
Liver
Gall Bladder
Sense Touch Taste Smell Hearing Sight
Sense Organ Tongue Mouth Nose Ears Eyes
Fortifies Pulse Muscles Skin Bones Ligaments
Flavor Bitter Sweet Pungent Salty Sour
Sound Laughing Singing Weeping Groaning Shouting
Color Red Yellow White Blue Green
Odor Scorched Fragrant Rotten Putrid Rancid
Emotion Joy Sympathy Grief Fear Anger
Climate Heat Damp Dry Cold Wind
Spirit Shen
Purpose
Yi
Thought
Po
Physical Urges
Chih
Will
Hun
Soul

The Chinese did not believe you were made of wood
The Elements are the foundational understanding of how the body works in 5 Element Acupuncture. Unlike the Greek system of four elements (water, earth, fire, air), the 5 Element system does not believe that a human being is literally a mixture of the 5 Elements.

A more accurate translation of the Chinese Wu Xing (5 Elements) would be “five phases” or “five aspects.” In fact, to fully understand 5 Element theory, you must always keep in mind that the concept of Yin/Yang is the foundation on which it rests. Yin/Yang is the simple and profound observation that dynamic systems cycle. Take, for example, the dynamic of rainfall. Water evaporates as vapor, gathers as clouds, falls to Earth as rain, pools in bodies of water only to evaporate and start the cycle again. The Yang phase is the vapor rising and the Yin Phase is the rain falling.

 The 5 elements are a more detailed version of yin and yang
The five elements are, at their simplest, an expansion of this idea of Yin/Yang. Instead of identifying only two phases in a dynamic cycle, five are identified. Like the expanding part of a cycle is understood as yang and the contraction phase yin, the 5 Element System identifies different phases of the contraction and expansion and calls these phases the five elements of a system. The five elements are Water, Wood, Fire Earth and Metal.

How my cows taught me about the 5 Elements
Watching how our cows graze has given me a new appreciation and deeper understanding of the 5 Elements. I believe the 5 Element system is an ancient manual for survival. Originally, the 5 Elements were represented much like the American Indian medicine wheel with Earth in the center. This reflected the life cycle of nomadic hunter gatherers like the plains Indians in America and the Mongols in China.

For these ancient tribes, Mother Earth was the central figure and needed special care so she would give up her bounty. In Spring, the new green grass would attract wild herd of buffalo. This signaled the end of Winter and the arrival of a new food supply. As spring progressed and the animals grazed their preferred grasses, they would leave behind “weeds.” In our pasture the cows eat around a wed called  napweed. Over a few weeks, these weeds would crowd out the preferred grasses and then the animals would move to more distant pastures, making hunting more difficult.

How ancient cultures used the 5 elements
The plains nomads solved this problem with Fire. After the herds moved on, the nomads would burn the prairie killing the mature weeds and giving grass a chance to grow. The new fresh grass would then lure the buffalo back to the nomads. In this ancient system, the Fire season yields to “The Return,” or the Metal season. This was a time of celebration and giving thanks to Mother Earth for her bounty and preparing for the coming cold and barrenness of Winter.

Everyone should see a cow kick up her heels when the gate to new pasture of young grass is opened. It’s also interesting to note that the flesh and eggs of animals fed young grass have more nutrients.

The Shift to Farming
As centuries passed and agriculture began to be the main force shaping civilization, pastoral life called for a different understanding of the seasons. This new understanding gave rise to the current depiction of the 5 Elements as equal phases instead of Mother Earth as the center.

Agrarian societies needed a different framework to understand nature. Farmers learned to work the soil and Mother Earth faded from consciousness as the mysterious source of food and became another aspect of the natural world to be worked and managed in order to produce a crop and keep a village supplied with food.

And the Shift to Medicine
Somewhere along the line, a brilliant person had the insight, “As it is without, so it is within.” This means that just as the 5 Elements had become essential for understanding and managing the natural environment, the same wisdom and insight could be used to understand the dynamic landscape of a human being to keep her healthy and vital. This moment of inspiration was the beginning of 5 Element acupuncture.

Request a free information packet
Just enter your email and I’ll send you a complete information packet about acupuncture including practice information, pricing, and  payment options.

That’s an old Chinese saying “The wise person is sick of being sick.” Don’t let another day slip by without starting your path back to health.

End Notes:

1) Peter Eckman, MD, 09 November 2007In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor
2) New Scientist, 13 March 2002, “Chewing Gum Improves Memory”

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