What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the strategic insertion of very fine needles into specific locations on the body to treat a range of symptoms and conditions. It is a healthcare system that has been in practice on a large scale in China, Japan and Korea for many centuries, and is officially recognized by their governments.
What Is Scalp Acupuncture?
Scalp acupuncture is what is called an acupuncture microsystem. The entire body is represented on the scalp, and so the entire body can be treated by placing acupuncture needles only on the scalp. Other microsystems you may have already heard of are foot reflexology, which treats the entire body from points on the foot, and auricular (ear) acupuncture, which treats the entire body from points on the cartilage of the ear.
The tissue of the scalp is thin, so the acupuncture needles are placed almost parallel to the curve of your head rather than going straight in. By strategically placing needles on the scalp, we can affect the motor (strength and movement) and sensory (pain, temperature, and sense of touch) function of specific areas of the body. If you have trouble lifting your right arm due to a stroke, a needle can be placed in the specific region of your scalp that will make it possible to lift your arm. Or if your neck hurts, a needle can be placed in the region of your scalp that will affect your neck.
Who is Dr. Mingqing Zhu?
Though there are several types of scalp acupuncture, Dr. Danielle Baert practices the system devised by Dr. Mingqing Zhu, renowned for his success in rehabilitating both stroke and spinal cord injured patients to an extent currently unmatched by modern Western medicine. Videos of him working with patients with paraplegia and hemiplegia are readily found on YouTube.
Did You Know That There Are Many Types of Acupuncture?
Dr. Baert practices mainly traditional Chinese style acupuncture and also some Japanese style acupuncture, both of which are based on Chinese meridian theory. She also does a great deal of Zhu style scalp acupuncture.
You may have already had acupuncture with a physiotherapist, chiropractor or medical doctor (MD), who may have treated you with what is called "dry needling," "medical acupuncture" or "IMS (intramuscular stimulation)," but these types of acupuncture are based on different theory and can yield a different effect than acupuncture based on meridian theory.
What is the Difference Between IMS, Dry Needling, and Medical Acupuncture versus East Asian Style Acupuncture?
Many people are confused about this and so it is important to understand the differences because the two approaches are very different and can yield completely different results.
IMS (which stands for Intramuscular Stimulation), Dry Needling and Medical Acupuncture use Western anatomical theory to decide where to place a needle. This kind of acupuncture is usually practiced by physiotherapists, chiropractors, naturopaths and medical doctors (MDs). Typically, they are needling into muscles to stimulate motor or trigger points in order to relieve pain or increase your ability to move. This can be very effective, depending upon the skill of the practitioner and the nature of the problem.
In contrast, in East Asian Style Acupuncture (which includes Chinese, Japanese and Korean acupuncture), the placement of the needles is determined mainly by Chinese meridian theory, which is entirely unrelated to Western anatomical theory. In addition, an East Asian Style acupuncturist will typically spend time going over your entire health history with you in great detail, in order to determine how all of your symptoms are inter-related.
When To Choose East Asian Style Acupuncture Rather than IMS, Dry Needling, or Medical Acupuncture
What makes acupuncture based on Chinese meridian theory so powerful is that it makes relationships between many symptoms which seem (to a physiotherapist, chiropractor, naturopath or MD) to be unrelated. This makes it possible for an East Asian Style Acupuncturist to treat many symptoms all at the same time, rather than treating one symptom at a time.
For example, you may often have pain in your neck, the top of your shoulder, hip, outside of the knee and outside of the foot, but not necessarily in all of those areas at the same time. According to Chinese meridian theory, all of these painful areas are related because they all lie along the same acupuncture meridian. It is not necessary to put needles in each painful region because Chinese meridian theory makes it possible to use fewer needles to affect more regions during one treatment. But East Asian Style acupuncture doesn't only treat pain and so that is just one example.
Another common scenario is a patient may come in complaining of lower back pain that they have had for a long time. They had treatment from a chiropractor for many years along with many hours of massage therapy, but the back pain persists despite all of this treatment. A TCM practitioner would have also asked if their feet were cold and whether they wake up at night to urinate and, if so, then this type of low back pain will only resolve with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and East Asian Style acupuncture. What seemed, to both the patient and to other practitioners, like four unrelated symptoms (chronic low back pain, depression, cold feet, and nocturia) are actually one problem according to TCM diagnosis.
What this means is that body pain is not always just a local (meaning in one place) or musculoskeletal problem. Sometimes the body pain is just one indicator of a larger pattern of symptoms which often occur together. TCM diagnostic theory will catch these more complex health situations, whereas IMS, dry needling, medical acupuncture will not. If you many symptoms that you have seen other practitioners about and you have gotten no result, then treatment with a TCM practitioner is a more appropriate choice.