Acupuncture Anesthesia has been dreadfully under-utilized in the West, however, at the Yunnan Province TCM Hospital, in Kunming, its a common occurrence. Its a safe and effective means of inducing anesthesia without the dangerous side effects of Western drugs.
Dr. Wen is our translator at the hospital. And he's also the anesthesia department
This isn't what he looks like in surgery, this is what he looks like at the Jin Dian monastery.
Acupuncture anesthesia is based on both Western neurological understanding as well as the traditional Chinese medicine paradigm. Some needles are inserted close to the nerves that travel to the area of the body that is to be worked on. Other needles are inserted for their therapeutic functions in accordance with traditional Chinese medical theory.
In the case of the surgery in which the picture below was taken, it was the knee cap that was to be repositioned. We use acupuncture anesthesia most often for orthopedic surgeries, though it is also used for surgeries on organs above the diaphragm.
The nerve through which the pain signals travel from the knee area to the brain is called the tibial nerve. It travels from near the groin down to the knee. We applied needles to two points along that pathway. These needles were attached to an electro-stim machine. This is a small little electronic unit that emits very slight bursts of electricity to the needles.
Here I am, smiling for the camera, while inserting a needle into an acupoint on the hand.
These little electric signals over stimulate the nerve without any pain. When the nerve is over stimulated, it is unable to transmit any other sensations, such as the pain associated with the surgery. Its a little bit like when there's loud music in the room and you're trying to talk on the phone. The nerves in your ears are overstimulated by the volume of the music, and so you can't hear anything on the phone. Once the music is turned down, you can hear again. That's pretty much the reasoning with needles inserted along a nerve pathway for acupuncture anesthesia.
Other points used for this surgery included two on the arm. Their function was to both stimulate additional endorphin release in the body which is an action based on Western medical theory. Endorphins are one of the body's many pain relief chemicals. The other point that we used on the arm was Pericardium 6. This point was chosen for its traditional Chinese medicine therapeutic action. This point calms the spirit. This enables the patient to feel calm during the surgery.
And this patient was remarkably calm. By the end of the surgery, he remained in good spirits.
This was the second surgery that I took part in. I hope to continue my education in this exciting area of acupuncture therapeutics.
For more information on Acupuncture Anesthesia, written for TCM practitioners, please see: Acupuncture Anesthesia.