That's the message Bud Rich, who runs Inner Balance Acupuncture, tried to get across last week during a presentation at the borough's Memorial Library. "There are a lot of things that go into the practice of acupuncture," said Rich, who also is an emergency medical technician and works as a patient-care technician in the emergency room at Morristown Memorial Hospital.
"We look at the tongue, take your pulse, ask questions about pain and quality of pain, feel the body, smell the body, observe the skin, listen to the voice and chest. . . . It's more than just putting a pin into someone's body." Acupuncture, which has been practiced in China for more than 2,500 years, first was introduced in the United States in the early 1800s. In 1892, William Osler — widely referred to as the "father of modern medicine" — identified the practice as good for treatment of myalgia, sciatica and neuralgia. Since that time, acupuncture slowly has become integrated with the medically based practices of Western medicine, Rich said.
"Traditional Chinese medicine today is just what works," said Rich, who also advocates the use of herbs, roots, bark, metals, bone and flowers, among other items, to complement acupuncture therapy. "It's acupuncture points — and there are more than 700 in the body — and herbal medicines that help people and help the body heal itself. It brings the body into balance." With acupuncture, balance also means application of the principles of yin and yang. This is not just a black-and-white symmetrical symbol some associate with peace. In Chinese medicine, yin and yang are polar opposites. Yin is the positive force. It activates, quickens, is tense, embodies effort, moves forward in time, is creative, fosters newness and is visionary. Yang is the converse of Yin. It relaxes, softens, is smooth, represents the actualized, and is lodged in the memory.
"The difference is that it represents the settled or solid parts of the body," said Rich, who has been licensed to practice acupuncture since 2006. "Yang is part of the process and function. And that's where we can get messed up." But Rich said he can help people who are "messed up" — although he said acupuncture is only a means to the solution, not the solution itself. "Acupuncture doesn't cure anything," he said. "It allows the body to cure itself."