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Japanese Acupuncture Promises to Pin down Bad Health

Like many people, I’ve battled with health problems throughout my life.  Recently, two conditions have made life more uncomfortable than usual.  Asthma, which I thought I left behind in childhood, is back with a vengeance.  The other is an injury I got when practicing judo in Tokyo: three ruptured discs in my neck.  Only a risky surgery can repair the damage.  Modern medicine fails to offer a safe cure for either condition, so I think it’s time for me to try an alternative treatment: acupuncture.

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Dr. Yamaguchi performs a pre-exam, carefully studying my pulse.  I relax.

Acupuncture is an age-old, East Asian form of treatment where needles stimulate prescribed points on the body based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to regulate one’s energy flow.  Today, there are many styles of acupuncture, like Chinese, Korean, even electro-acupuncture, among others.  After some research, I chose Japanese-style acupuncture for its unique characteristics.  Unlike its Chinese ancestor, which uses large needles placed deep into the skin until a “de-qi” sensation (like tingling) is reached at each point, Japanese acupuncture has developed to focus on relaxation by incorporating finer needles, about the breadth of a human hair, which are placed just beneath the skin gently with a small tube for guidance.

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The two larger needles on the left are Chinese type; the blue-handled needle
with plastic tube is the finer Japanese type.

I walk into the Yamaguchi Clinic a bit nervous at the thought of needles on my delicate skin, but Dr. Yoshihiro Yamaguchi immediately makes me feel relaxed.  He also allows me to choose which language I would like to use during the session, so I dare to speak in Japanese.  Amazingly, he can immediately tell from my few sentences in poor Japanese that I have lung problems, weak kidneys, and sensitive skin. I lie down on the table as he taps my pulse on each wrist for several minutes and looks at my tongue and throat.  Touching is emphasized in the pre-exam of Japanese acupuncture in order to determine proper needle insertion points and treatment strategy.  Dr. Yamaguchi points out another unique feature of Japanese acupuncture.  “In Japan, acupuncturists attend school for three years, studying both TCM and Western medicine.  This gives them the skills necessary to diagnose and treat patients in diverse ways.”

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A needle stimulates a point in my arm as part of my asthma treatment.

Targeting the asthma, he inserts over a dozen needles in my chest, abdomen, arms, hands, and shins.  Two of the needles produce a slight pricking sensation, but the others only feel like gentle taps on the skin.  The gentleness of the experience and my immediate calm surprises me.  After resting for a time, and resembling a pincushion, Dr. Yamaguchi removes the needles and I sit up.  To my disbelief, my lungs feel much lighter and I manage to breathe deeply without restriction, as if I just used my inhaler.

Dr. Yamaguchi turns now to my neck and changes to a special Japanese needling technique: “quick insertion, quick removal” (sokushi sokubatsu).  He inserts a needle into points along my neck and upper-back and removes it just as quickly.  At last, after massaging my neck to find the most painful point (I don’t tell him, he just finds it!), he inserts a single needle and gently pivots my head in all directions before removing it.  Because of the severity of the injury, apparently, more sessions are necessary to produce noticeable improvement, but my neck definitely feels less stiff.

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Dr. Yamaguchi performs “sokushi sokubatsu” technique to treat my neck.

Even though I won’t be entering a triathlon or doing headstands any time soon, acupuncture has opened my eyes to the hope that my lungs and neck don’t have to keep me from enjoying an otherwise healthy and active life.  Where there is a will, there is a way. So if your back is up against a wall of bad health, acupuncture just might be the door out of your anguish and into a healthier life.

——– Reported by Chad Diehl

Yamaguchi Acupuncture
161 W. 54th St., #21 (bet. 6th & 7th Aves.)
New York, NY 10019
TEL: 212-246-7588 / www.yamaguchiacupuncture.com