episode 12. Acupuncture: Finding balance in women’s health

Imagine you’re relaxed, music is playing, the room is warm and smells good, your qi is flowing as needles are being stuck into you… wait, what is happening? Well a lot is actually happening but to put it simply, acupuncture! But what even is acupuncture? I mean more than the laying on the table with needles in your back. You may be surprised by how much there is to learn about acupuncture and how it applies to the medical field today. Because in this episode, we are talking about the intersection between acupuncture, traditional chinese medicine, and women’s health. You will learn about how your qi can be manipulated with needles, the channels that lead to your uterus, and how this alternative form can help women find balance in their healthcare.  Join in the conversation as we step outside our usual scope to explore a part of medicine not always at the forefront of our mind, or our medical education.

Feminist Corner:

Why do you think acupuncture and alternative forms of medicine have gained popularity in Western culture? How does this relate to the over medicalization of women’s health or medicine in general? Specifically for women’s medicine. 

I think it’s interesting how much the women’s monthly cycle of both menstruation and yin/yang is considered when diagnosing patients or forming a treatment plan of alternative methods. But I feel like in Western medicine is the opposite. Women aren’t subjects of research studies because their bodies are too variable, too unpredictable. A woman’s cycle is seen as an untamed beast and not a marvel. Why do you think there is this difference in cultural views and practice of medicine? 

As a neuroscience major and geek, what do you think of acupuncture and its neural effects? Do you see this as a future treatment that is seen as less alternative or more accepted in medicine for treating disease and health through the nervous system?

Listen to the episode, discuss these questions with friends and family, let us know what you think!

Show Notes:

In this episode, we will be talking about something a bit different than usual. We wanted to start to look outside the scope of medicine that is not always at the forefront of our mind, or even our medical education. And we decided to start down this path with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The history of acupuncture is a confusing one because there doesn’t seem to be much evidence. A journal on alternative therapies from the Han Dynasty mentioned ‘needling’ where fine needles were used for surgical procedures. But there was no mention of acupuncture. 

But what is acupuncture and how do TCM concepts tie into it? Qi, the balance of ying and yang, is a form of energy within the body that is important in acupuncture. Yang is masculine energy that is hot, firm, and forceful. Yin is feminne and is still, flexible, and cold. Qi is the balance of these concepts, and the balance gives way to good health. However, just because one is masculine and one is feminine, doesn’t mean you are confined to these gender categories. Any gender can experience either yin, yang, or both. Qi then travels through channels in the body called meridians that reside beneath the skin. Acupuncture modulates these channels and the Qi inside them.

Acupuncture does have psychological and biological effects. Animal studies have shown that it has mechanical, neural, hormonal, and immune effects. It has also been shown that yin and yang changes throughout a women’s monthly cycle, much like her natural hormones. These changes in yin and yang are measurable and allow for diagnosis/treatment in women’s health. To add to that, acupuncture for women’s health has been shown to release hormones that have a positive influence on fertility, PMS, and pain relief for women.

The advancements in knowledge and practice of acupuncture is so interesting because China outlawed it in 1949 as the communism party became prominent in the country. But in the United States, physicians thought acupuncture was amazing. And overtime, the field grew and took hold within the United States.

Sources:

Beal, M. W., PhD. (1999). Acupuncture and acupressure: Applications to women’s reproductive health care. Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, 44(3), 217-230. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091218299000543?casa_token=jrZEaVV7NdQAAAAA:r01bx4-r1lmB4gbe7ySh8VP-PS58MJI5W26uDNTzrkeOkVa45–TFImjaErgHJcmITBJbH-N.

Cochrane, S., Smith, C. A., Possamai-Inesedy, A., & Bensoussan, A. (2014). Acupuncture and women’s health: an overview of the role of acupuncture and its clinical management in women’s reproductive health. International journal of women’s health, 6, 313–325. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S38969

Ramey, D., & Buell, P. D. (2010, June 14). A true history of acupuncture. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1211/fact.2004.00244

Understanding Yin, Yang and Qi [1]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://qi-encyclopedia.com/?article=Understanding-Yin-Yang-and-Qi

Like the episode? Send us your thoughts and questions!

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