Health Challenges of Aging and How Acupuncture Can Help
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

“Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.” — Confucius, ancient Chinese teacher and philosopher.

acupuncture-articleCould this be the fate of the aging as Confucius decreed? To be able to enjoy the golden years of life implies a life well lived, and that a good, if not excellent, standard of health was maintained.  How to live a life with vitality and exuberance, one that can last until the time of death is not a foolish quest, but one that is recognized by practitioners of acupuncture and Oriental medicine as realistic and completely within reach.

For those of us who have grown up in the west, our attitudes towards the elderly and aging, in general, are not always so encouraging. As the American actress/comedian Lucille Ball humorously put it: “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”

One of the basic tenets of the theory of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is the belief that all disease results from the imbalance of yin and yang forces. Yin qualities include darkness, quiet, moisture, and formlessness. Yang qualities are represented by light, noise, dryness, and form. Running is a yang activity, whereas the rest that comes afterwards is a function of yin. Resting allows for the renewal of depleted energy reserves, which, in turn, makes activity possible. This is one way to describe how the dynamic relationship between yin and yang powers our life force.

The challenges of aging also result from this lack of balance between yin and yang energies. This means that some conditions and symptoms of disease associated with advanced aging may be mitigated by bringing these two energies into harmony again. For example, dry eyes and poor vision can be addressed by acupuncture treatments that focus on nurturing yin and increasing yang. Yin fluids will provide lubrication to the eyes, while an increase in yang helps ensure more energy can reach the top of the head to help improve vision.

The earlier an individual can start using a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the better. This is because there is a huge emphasis on disease prevention. Historically speaking, practitioners of ancient China did not profit from their patient’s sickness, but from their wellness. Payment was rendered only when the patient exhibited good health. Of course, not even the great physicians of ancient China were able to find the proverbial Fountain of Youth. Growing old gracefully requires wisdom in order to properly manage expectations.

There is an adage describing the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine: “The superior doctor prevents sickness, the mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness, and the inferior doctor treats actual sickness.” A superior practitioner can catch the subtleties within the body that, if left untreated, can manifest as illness. These warning signs can be detected in several ways, such as pulse diagnosis.

Pulse diagnosis allows a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to ‘listen’ or ‘feel’ the state of a patient’s internal organs. This is done by asking the patient to relax and rest their arms comfortably with the palm-side up. The practitioner generally uses three fingers to press on the delicate area of the radial artery pulse. Each finger lies over an area representing different internal organs.

Each time the heart beats, blood is pushed out through the arteries. The resulting pressure from the surge of blood flowing can be easily palpated at the radial artery. A practitioner feels for more than just the heart rate, or what is termed beats per minute (bpm). Qualities such as the strength, width, rhythm, and depth of the pulse provide valuable information. In addition to being able to assess individual organs, a patient’s blood quality and state of Qi may be ascertained. Qi is the most fundamental energy necessary for all life to exist.

If you experience a waning in your Qi as you approach your golden years, or have concerns about conditions associated with aging, consider an appointment with a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. As long as someone has a pulse to be palpated, it is never too late to start treatment!