Acupuncture for Cystic Acne
Acupuncture for cystic acne is very powerful and has an immediate, almost miraculous effect.
Styles of Acupuncture
There are many different styles of Acupuncture. The oldest is Classical Chinese acupuncture. That is what I use when I treat teenage acne, hormonal acne, and cystic acne. There are also Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, even European and American styles of acupuncture for cystic acne.
Acupuncture for Cystic Acne–Clear Heat Toxins from the Skin
All styles of Acupuncture for cystic acne share a basic principle. Acupuncture needles are used to clear pathological heat toxins from the skin. They are used to unblock the stagnation of Qi and Damp that causes this kind of heat toxin. This reduces the inflammatory response to the staph bacteria that causes acne. It also balances the hormones like testosterone and progesterone associated with excessive sebum that creates the conditions for the staph overgrowth.
How does Classical Chinese Acupuncture know there are “heat toxins” associated with acne, especially with cystic acne? Because acne lesions are red, inflamed, and there is infection with staph bacteria.
Qi Stagnation, Damp Stagnation, and Acne
We know there is stagnant Qi and Damp because we can see swelling, pus and serous fluid. Dampness in also the cause of clogging of the pores and in blackheads.
How Stagnant Qi leads to Heat and Phlegm
Chinese acupuncture theory describes Qi as the non-stop movement within your body that is the difference between life and death. If your heart stops beating and your blood stops moving, you die. We call that your heart Qi. If your brain’s synapses stops moving, that is brain death.
Qi has particular qualities. As Qi is an invisible force (no one can describe what life force actually is in Science, we can only describe what happens when its operative) we can say that Qi is light. Because life is a process of warm transformation of air and food into energy, we can say that Qi is warm. This is why the Chinese character for Qi represents steam rising off of a pot of cooking rice. Pretty significant, given that rice is the staple grain of China and therefore the “staff of life.” Steam also suggests Qi’s other properties. Like steam Qi is mobile and moist.
How Qi Stagnates
When your nervous system is affected by negative things, discomfort, pain, stress, grief, anger, lack of activity, a negative mindset; then your Qi stagnates. One example of that is muscular tension associated with stress. Another is the effect of hormonal excesses or deficiencies. Because Qi is warm, when it stagnates, over time heat is produced.
Qi is the “Commander of Fluids”
Qi is also the “commander of fluids.” When we get old, and our Lung and Heart weakens, then we tend to accumulate fluid in our ankles. Getting up in the morning after lying still for eight hours, our face is puffy and our joints may be stiff. These are examples of weakness or lack of movement of Qi resulting in fluid accumulation. We call this fluid accumulation dampness, when it becomes pathological.
Pathological fluid is fluid where there should not be fluid. After a stroke someone may lose control of their saliva. They drool. This is dampness due to Qi weakness on the side of the body effected by stroke.
Diarrhea follows food poisoning. That is fluid where there should be solid. So not enough of the right thing in the right place is weakness of Qi. Too much of the right thing in the wrong place is fluid accumulation or dampness. This is why we often see cystic acne with oily skin.
Ideally skin should be neither dry nor oily. Excessively oily skin is too much of the right thing (moisture) in the right place, resulting in oily skin. Oily skin is more prone to acne because of the increased sebaceous excretions, and because it is often associated with higher testosterone levels. This corresponds to the Liver Qi, or Wood type in Classical Chinese acupuncture theory, and Pitta Dosha in Ayurveda.
When the Qi Stagnates, So Do Fluids
What causes dampness to accumulate in the first place is Qi stagnation. Qi stagnation is how we describe the cascade of nervous system effects caused by the fluctuating hormones of the teenage years, of the menstrual cycle, and from stress.
How an Acupuncturist Chooses Her Points
Classical Chinese Acupuncture for cystic acne is a craft that you learn from your teachers and hone, over time, from your own experience and from trial and error. It involves choosing the right points for the right person at a particular point in time. Crafting a treatment that covers the maximum number of bases with the fewest number of needles is part of the game. It involves a combination of needles that have specific physical and mental effects. This is important because of the effect of stress and emotions on the nervous system that controls hormones and influences cystic acne.
“Sea” Points to Clear Heat
The acupuncture points at the elbows and knees clear pathological heat toxins of many types. They clear heat from the blood associated with heavy periods and with cystic acne. LI-11 and Sp-10 are two of these points. They are known in one of acupuncture point systems as “Sea” points. These are points that clear heat and cool toxins. The two above points clear heat from the skin as well as blood.
Acupuncture Points to Regulate Hormones and Calm the Nervous System
There are other points that help to regulate hormones. These are found on the outside of the ear, just above the ear lobe, and the upper part of the ear. When I do acupuncture for cystic acne I like to include the general endocrine point and the an ovary point. There is also a point “Ear Shen Men” that I use to help calm the mind.
How Your Acupuncturist Makes a Diagnosis
In order to craft your acupuncture treatment for cystic acne you have to first make a diagnosis. You have to understand if the problem is more heat than damp, more damp than heat, and if it is damp heat is there a weakness in the metabolism of fluids, or is there simply over-accumulation from stagnant Qi. You figure this out from a combination of symptoms–what the acne looks like. Is the acne very red, are there a lot of whitehead, are they large with lots of pus that comes on quickly, is your skin red in areas without actual pimples, is your acne painful?
Tongue and Pulse Diagnosis
Then I read your pulse, paying attention to its quality. Is your pulse strong, weak, tense relaxed, deep or at the surface, choppy, slippery or taut like the skin of a drum. Next I observe your tongue. I look at its color, coat, and shape. Is your tongue red, pale, purple. Does the coating look thick, thin, light, greasy. Is your tongue swollen at the edges. All of this gives us a lot of information about what’s going on internally-what’s your central imbalance look like.
I also look at the rest of the person. What’s your sleep, digestion, elimination, mood, and above all, menstrual cycle like. The nature of your menstrual cycle and its bleeding gives me a quick and clear sense of your underlying energetic pattern, especially if your cystic acne worsens at a particular time of the month.
The Role of Personality Type In Crafting an Acupuncture Treatment
We even observe the person’s Qi–are you cheerful, intense, dour, impatient, sweet? Each of these personality or emotional states further helps guide my selection of points, my pattern of treatment, and my style of treatment. This is because your bio-energetics, the quality of your Qi, what Ayurveda calls Dosha, is a function in part of our innate personality.
Take two people with nearly identical acne and skin. They have similar menstrual cycles. But one is an impatient irritable person, and the other is chill and sweet. This difference between these two people’s personalities will definitely affect my acupuncture point selection. The first patient is going to get points to “relax the Liver Qi,” whereas the second may or may not. The second patient may get more points to stimulate the “Spleen Qi” to “transform dampness.” Acupuncture is based on observation and logic.
Styles of Needling
One of the decisions your acupuncturist has to make is what style of needling to do. Some patients who are tense, nervous, or anxious about needles, require a very delicate light needling that they barely feel and which is completely painless. Other people like myself, or like people with many tattoos, can enjoy and benefit from stronger needle insertions, and deeper insertions in areas of thick muscles, like the Quadraceps Muscle. These people may also prefer a thicker gauge needle.
Part of the skill of an acupuncturist is to work within the limits of what’s comfortable for the individual patient. You don’t try to impose a treatment on someone that they don’t want or that is unsuitable.
Circle the Dragon Acupuncture
One of the techniques of acupuncture for cystic acne is called “Circle the Dragon.” We use this technique to treat any kind of cyst in the body, from lipomas to ganglion cysts to boils. Its a very fast way to get rid of large, thick, hard, red, painful, inflamed acne cysts.
Chinese language is very imagistic. Hence, Circle the Dragon. The dragon is the red and angry acne cyst. The circle is the acupuncture needles.
How Its Done
Most of the time needles are inserted into the skin perpendicular to its surface. But in this case the needles are inserted in a circle surrounding your cyst, but at 45 degree angles pointed towards the center, so that they target the area underneath the cyst.
Why Do We Do Circle The Dragon for Cysts?
There is major Qi and Damp stagnation under a cyst and we want to try to move that Qi a little bit aggressively. We may even attach electrodes to the shafts of the needle and run a gentle wave electrical current from each needle to the needle opposite. We are actually running current through the cyst to try and break up stagnation. Finally we insert a needle smack dab into the center of the cyst.
Scientific research has been done by Ronald Melzack at McGill University demonstrating the positive effect of an acupuncture needle in situ, when placed into infected tissue, which is what acne is. He posits that there is some kind of molecular electrical charge in infected tissue that is reduced by the presence of a needle.
I can say that I have tested Melzack’s theory by placing an acupuncture needle into the red inflamed tissue around several ingrown toenails, into the tissue alongside several minor infections, and of course with scores of cases of cystic acne over the years. It works!
When I do Circle the dragon on an acne cyst usually the cyst comes down within 24 hours and gets smaller, less hot, less inflamed, less red, and less painful.
The photograph, above, is of a woman I had already been treating for about three weeks, so she was already quite a bit better. Then she went home for the holiday, got off of her healthy diet, and a new, but smaller cyst had arisen. That’s what i am treating in the photo. Below, is a photo of her when she came back a week later, much improved.