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Facelift... by Acupuncture

Pincushion beauties!

Facelift by Acupuncture Tad Reston, an editor for the New York Times went to China to report on then-U.S. President Richard Nixon’s historic visit. But he, Reston, suffered an attack of appendicitis and was rushed to a top Beijing hospital where he had an emergency appendectomy. However, the physicians did not put him to sleep with a general anesthetic for the operation. Instead, they used acupuncture needles to block the pain of his abdomen being opened. Ever since, Reston has written about acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Now, some 35 years later, some acupuncturists are saying that surgical facelifts and other cosmetic and plastic procedures should allow cosmetic acupuncture to restore more youthful appearances.

Practitioners of the ancient art – said to be about 5,000 years old – claim the tiny hair-width acupuncture needles inserted into certain places in the facial skin can cause fine lines to disappear, deep lines to get smother and broken capillaries, acne and rosacea to improve. And all it requires are several half-hour sessions during which your face resembles a pincushion.

You probably haven’t heard more about acupuncture because the explanation about how and why it works sounds like something from an ancient Egyptian or Sanskrit medicine man. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM,) the explanation is, there are pathways – known as meridians -- up, down and on the surface of the human body conducting a type of energy known as “Chi.” But if the energy is blocked at any particular point, the person becomes ill. Or, his or her face develops more wrinkles than normal. Anyhow, the theory says acupuncture unblocks the “energy” and returns the body to a more balanced state. Of course, TCM requires many years of study for a practitioner to learn exactly where and how to place needles.

Nonetheless, acupuncture seems to work. It’s been studied by Western doctors who have documented real results. Moreover, the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture was organized for U.S. medical doctors who study and use the ancient art. Additionally, major universities offer acupuncture training for licensed physicians.

“Actually, I think acupuncture works because it causes the skin to form more natural collagen,” says Patrick J. LaRiccia, M.D., a Philadelphia plastic surgeon who performs and teaches acupuncture. “An acupuncture facelift requires about 25 needles just slightly inserted into the skin. While most patients usually do not require pain killers, I think the needles also increase blood flow to the face and that causes good things to happen. Some studies show that acupuncture stimulates the body’s own pain killers, the endorphins.”

Increased blood flow means more nutrients are brought to the face while more waste matter is carried away and the muscles are invigorated. As we grow older, blood vessels tend to become smaller in all parts of the body.

“I find that middle age is the best time for an acupuncture facelift,” says Dr. LaRiccia who reports he can see facial a patient’s skin improve before his eyes as he ever-so-gently taps the needles into place. He also believes the needles stimulate the growth of collagen which gives human skin its radiance and youthful, healthy look.

Martha Lucas, PhD., an acupuncturist at the Colorado Center of Traditional Medicine in Denver says after a series of about ten treatments facial skin becomes more delicate, with fewer wrinkles.

“Acupuncture treatments can remove fine lines on the face and reduce the deeper folds, lift up droopy eyelids, clear age spots and firm up sagging facial skin,” says Dr. Lucas. “It’s also good for removing crow’s feet.”

Acupuncture lifts are largely desired by people who do not want incisions, scars or going under anesthesia. Results usually last three to five years. It would not, however, be able to change the shape of the nose.

“Traditional Chinese Medicine concentrates on the health of the whole person,” says Dr. Lucas. “So the concept would be insuring the remainder of the patient’s body – as well as the face – is healthy.”

Consequently, Dr. Lucas says some facelift patients have noticed, for instance, their digestion or arthritis, also improving after facial treatments.

“Many women are just afraid of surgery,” says Dr. Lucas who reports the number of patients seeking facial acupuncture treatment has quadrupled in the last three years. “They don’t want to take chances they might come out of an operation with not only an ice bag on their face but with some potentially more serious side effects.”

Some types of acupuncture place needles directly within facial wrinkles. Yet another type of non-surgical cosmetic rejuvenation applies electric current, ultrasound or radio frequency waves to the traditional acupuncture locations – but without the needles. And some acupuncture practitioners jab needles into the traditional places and then apply small amounts of electricity.

Many patients report yet another major reason why they chose acupuncture over knives for a facelift: Chinese Medicine is less expensive.

It just could be a case of needles being cheaper by the dozen.

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