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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Energetics in Acupuncture: Five Element Acupuncture Made Easy by Radha Thambirajah (Churchill Livingstone)

Energetics is an area of growing interest and importance in acupuncture. Acupuncture treatment aims to correct the imbalance of energy, or qi; energetics is a method of diagnosing which aspects of qi are out of balance. One symptom can be caused by many different imbalances of organs and it is essential for the therapist to correctly diagnose the problem before commencing treatment.

Energetics in Acupuncture provides a diagnostic method of identifying which aspects of the qi are out of balance and therefore what acupuncture treatment is required. Once the correct diagnosis is made, the relevant points can be treated with appropriate techniques.

Features of Energetics in Acupuncture include:

  • Treatments are described for over 80 different diseases.
  • Innovative visual 'towers' show what an energy imbalance looks like.
  • Case studies illustrate imbalanced states.

'Medical acupuncture' as practiced in the West bears little resemblance to the method of acupuncture envisaged by its Chinese forefathers apart from using needle insertion. Compared with other forms of treatment, such as allopathic medicine or homeopathy, the differences and the lack of uniformity is huge indeed. Author Radha Thambirajah is a private practitioner and visiting lecturer at Sutton Coldfield, UK. Her approach since the inception of her practice of acupuncture has been that of 'energy balancing' choosing points that would cause energy flow between organs in order to balance their quality and quantity.

In the West, many practitioners use acupuncture together with Chinese herbal medicines.

But acupuncture is much more than a symptomatic treatment. It can be used with precision and accuracy so much so that should a treatment fail or the symptoms worsen, one could work backwards and revise the diagnosis that has been made before. This means that the response to our energy-balancing treatment provides the feedback as to whether the diagnosis was correct or incorrect. If it was incorrect, practitioners can take the necessary action to correct it. This aspect of acupuncture has not so far received the attention it deserves, a point emphasized in Energetics in Acupuncture.

Thambirajah believes that acupuncture should be an individualized form of treatment. The principles of 'energy balancing' have to be applied to the unique characteristics of the patient, which include his or her clinical presentation, appearance, associated symptoms, diagnosis through clinical examination, emotional character and general likes and dislikes. Local and Distal points, Symptomatic points and point prescriptions for conditions diagnosed by Western medical practice all have their place with the main aim being to improve the general well-being of the patient.

During consultation, acupuncturists use traditional approaches such as observation, history taking and palpation to make a diagnosis of the energy imbalance in different areas and organ systems in the patient. A disease is only an imbalance in a meridian or in an organ, or multiple imbalances that are interrelated to each other. Once the diagnosis is made, practitioners have at their disposal a number of methods of establishing a balance in one or many of these meridians or organs. If this change has to come from within the patient, it is important to change some aspects of diet, exercise, massage, lifestyle and environment, or administer herbal remedies. To believe that needles by themselves are sufficient to bring about a lasting clinical change is missing the idea of harmonizing energies both within the body and between the body and its surroundings.

In order to treat imbalanced states of energy effectively and produce long-lasting results, it is necessary to educate patients and motivate them to participate in their treatment. The patient should take responsibility for his/her energy imbalanced states (or diseases) and work together with the doctor or therapist to correct these. If this does not happen, the imbalance may resolve but not last in the long term.

Energetics in Acupuncture has three parts: theory, energy-balancing laws, and diseases: symptoms and treatment. The theory deals with Yin and Yang and their clinical concepts, associations, imbalanced states, manifestations of these states and rules for balancing. Yin and Yang affect the five stages of our lives. The terms Blood, energy and body fluid are introduced, and the various climatic pathogenic factors that attack the body from the exterior are discussed, as well as how they can move towards the interior (explaining why we refer to certain illness states as damp or wind etc.).

The theory of the Five Elements, which is the most important part of Energetics in Acupuncture, forms nearly half the book. All common imbalanced states are described with four pictures of imbalance Blood, Yin, Yang and Qi.

The energy-balancing laws explain the superficial and the deep energy circulation in the body. The meridian system is explained with its exterior and interior connection and uses, the Organ Clock, the relationship of the Five Elements with the Mother-Son Cycle and the Over-Powering and the Counter-Powering Cycle. The eight extra meridians and their uses are also covered. This part of Energetics in Acupuncture also deals with treatment and diagnosis.

All diagnostic methods including history taking, observation, tongue and pulse diagnosis and making a diagnosis on the Five Element diagram are explained. Needling and needle sensation, needling techniques and all the extraordinary therapies moxibustion, cupping, plum-blossom-tapping, electrical stimulation of needles and bleeding are also covered.

The diseases and their symptoms, differential diagnoses and treatment are included throughout the chapters on the Five Elements, and at the end of each of these chapters. Over 80 common diseases and symptoms are discussed and treatment is given for different causes of the same symptom. Thambirajah explains the use of nearly every point in the prescriptions. Thambirajah uses clinical illustrations and examples all through Energetics in Acupuncture. Each case history and treatment is illustrated with the location of the points used, so that readers do not have to look for these anywhere else.

Dr Thambirajah has finally written the bible of Five Elements Theory and Syndromes. It is a true gain for the TCM practitioner: clear text, descriptive graphics, well arranged, easily understandable, nevertheless comprehensive for the treatment of disease from the Chinese and Western points of view. Giving numerous practical examples, she shares with us the treasures of her experience. Dagmar Ehling DOM, author of The Chinese Herbalist's Handbook; international teacher, Durham, North Carolina

Radha Thambirajah has always managed to divide the world into five, the phases, and at the same time into two her yin/yang columns are legendary. This means she follows the classical tradition of pre-TCM times. Radha's practical knowledge and her therapeutic experience of decades is a living treasure that has finally been discovered. I am very happy that this book has been published at just the right moment. May its influence be widely spread. Claudia Focks, author of Atlas of Acupuncture; physician, Rottweil, Germany

I started learning acupuncture in 1978, during my medicine studies, and in 1986. I was still looking for a good and clear professor. Then I found one. Her way of teaching Chinese medicine is clear and practical. But most importantly, this way of treatment applied in patients works quickly and efficiently. I hope Radha's book helps people to enjoy and love Chinese medicine. Isabel Giralt, President of the Barcelona Medical Acupuncture section affiliated to the Medical College, Barcelona, Spain

Energetics in Acupuncture provides a straightforward diagnostic method of identifying which aspects of qi are out of balance and requiring acupuncture treatment. With its logical approach to diagnosis, it also provides relevant lines of questioning and reasoning. The substantial volume makes a good patient bedside book for the practice of acupuncture.


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