Two Theories That Explain How Acupuncture Actually Works

Based on latest research dealing with Chinese medicine and acupuncture, a staggering 8.1 million Americans had tried acupuncture therapy at least once in their lives! Within the past year, more than two million of that humungous number had tried it. In 1971, a writer named James Reston published an article in the New York Times introducing the idea of utilizing needles to alleviate pain. Since then the media has been all over Oriental medicine. It goes without saying there’s a lot more to Chinese medicine than just consulting with an acupuncture practitioner in a clinic. There is a whole world of herbal remedies and herbal medicines out there to be considered.

How acupuncture actually works is still a mystery to a lot of Western medical practitioners which therefore causes them to question its validity. Actually, there are some theories that strive to explain the reason Austin Chinese medicine’s and acupuncture’s success at resolving certain health problems. One such theory is called the “Gate Control” theory that says pain signals moving slowly follow the internal highways of the body.

According to this theory, endorphins are produced and released into the bloodstream when an acupuncture needle is stuck into a specific acupuncture point. The endorphins move a lot quicker and shove the pain signals out of the way. The pain sensation, therefore, never actually reaches the brain, because the slow moving pain is obstructed in the shoving and pushing of signals.

The “Electrical” theory is another Chinese medicine theory that states that the body is constantly emitting weak magnetic waves and what Chinese acupuncture does is manipulate the electromagnetic fields of the body, in the process changing its chemical neurotransmitters. British physicians in 1999 discovered that collagen was actually a good electricity conductor. Researchers explain that collagen fibers have more or less the same electrical conductivity as water. These fibers match the so-called energy channels or meridians of acupuncture. So when one sticks a needle in your skin, you are given a local stimulation or electricity that then allows this positive electrical current to be conducted to certain distant areas of the body.

Each individual’s response to Chinese medicine and acupuncture is unique. There are people who experience no pain or minimal pain as the needles are inserted, some people may feel soreness. Some are calmed with Chinese acupuncture while others are invigorated. Over time, lots of patients come back for more than one treatment and discover that the treatment experience gets easier and easier.

If during a certain session, a patient starts to feel a little discomfort, then he knows that he pushed himself too hard during the past few days. If this occurs he just needs to slow down and take a moment to rest. This will help him be in much better shape – both physically and mentally.

Chinese Nutritional Therapy Provides People With Long-Term Health Benefits

For the past 5,000 years, documents show that the Chinese have been searching for the secrets of medical cures and wellbeing in food.

If we study ancient Chinese history, we will see that this is no exaggeration as there was a medical consultant assisting the chef in the royal kitchen of all the Chinese emperors.
Chinese food or nutritional therapy in Vancouver, which is quite identical to Chinese herbal therapy, is obviously not applicable in medical emergencies. Be that as it may, it is still the most effective way of giving an individual real long term health benefits. Mild stomach aches, for example, can be treated with drugs, but they can also be well-addressed by not eating certain types of food and following proper eating habits. So, stay away from medications if you can find a natural safe alternative type of treatment.

In China these days, it is trendy to bring back the ‘healthy eating’ from long ago. By ‘healthy eating,’ we do not mean having healthy habits or consuming healthy foods, what we mean is providing the body a needed boost in nutrition, or consuming specific foods to rectify health conditions.

Precious ancient ‘healthy recipes’ dating thousands of years ago are now being used in some restaurants in China. They specialize in this type of dishes; now, more and more ordinary restaurants have begun adding some of these recipes in their menus.

If you study Chinese nutritional therapy, you would probably encounter the phrase ‘Yang Sheng’. The Yang in this phrase can mean nourishing body, nursing problems, and maintenance while Sheng can mean growth, existence, and life. Yang Sheng is typically understood as preventing sickness in order to live a long health life, increase the strength of the body, or maintain a healthy life.

A few decades ago in China, most people were very poor. They did not have enough food to eat almost every day and therefore, working for food was the most important thing in their lives. Today, we now see all kinds of foods from all the seasons being sold in the markets at a reasonable price, and all the recipes of the Chinese emperors are now available to those who can afford them.

The recipes of the Chinese emperors are quite different to the recipes we use on a daily basis. The manner in which the ingredients are combined is very different as well as the manner the various dishes are combined in a single meal. Some of the ingredients can be occasionally quite expensive and very difficult to find, while some are easily found in the markets and sold at a reasonable price.

Some wild and rare mushrooms and other expensive ingredients require a unique way of combining with other ingredients and a special way of cooking, if not, they may produce the benefits anticipated. As for the less expensive ingredients, if combined with the right ingredients and cooked in the right way, can yield the same nutritional value as the more expensive ones. You might not get the best outcomes if the combination is wrong. Beef or land, for example, is known to have a nourishing effect on the blood, but after eating them, we then eat watermelon, then the benefits from the beef or lamb can be diminished.

Qi Gong Can Cultivate and Foster An Open Heart

If you want to identify a person with vibrant heart energy, you need to determine whether he has a nourishing quality whenever he interacts with others, has a charismatic smile, and possess a bright reflection in his eyes

A person with vibrant heart energies is one who causes others around him to feel happy and uplifted. This person has a heart energy that is fully nourished and very open.

We all have heart energies emanating from our heart center. When these energies are unblocked, we are able to receive love and can reflect it most fully.

When the heart center is open, we also have a higher sense of self awareness. We are compelled to actively share, and connect with others, and seek to know our emotional states that reside in this center. Opening up of ourselves enables us to interact emotionally and intimately with others, which is essential in fostering and maintaining deep friendships and romantic relationships.

For those who have shared their heart’s essence through words or actions and got back a negative response or a lack of acknowledgment or reciprocation of the gift you shared, it is very possible to derive certain pleasure in such interactions (as evidenced by a very large number of happy people who are living love-less relationships). In terms of vibration, there is a distinct difference in people who share love and embrace emotional intimacy.

People who have heart centers that are open also have a high level of acceptance and self-love that enable them to love and trust others deeply, and thus are able to receive more love in return.

We do not fear love given to be reciprocated when we have an open heart center as we have very strong faith in our abilities to love without any ulterior motive, for true love is neither connected to an ideal that aims to lead to a long-term relationship nor it is about what we expect to get back from others.

It is simply having the courage to open one’s heart to articulate the spirit’s essence absent any expectations, only acknowledgment.

Open hearted people can therefore love without selfish attachments. They are selfless in the sense that they admit they can always improve through the experience of love even if relationships are not forged or do not last.

If we allow our heart centers to be constantly open, each time we allow ourselves to love, our heart becomes more expansive. Conversely, if we choose to close our hearts after being disappointed with love, our hearts become less capable of love.

People usually have become adapted to living with a closed heart (although I would say that this has also very good benefits, one of which is extended longevity, but I digress) that they become unaware they are holding back heart energies from themselves and others and this becomes their default and natural state.

A blocked heart energy can manifest signs that include:

1. Difficulty in empathizing with others during sad moments in life: We are connected to feelings when challenges happen when we have an open heart center.

For people whose heart center is blocked, they are disconnected with their own spiritual and emotional aspects and this makes it hard for them to feel empathy.

People living with this type of disconnect usually attempt to solve problems through an intellectual approach and may not be able to offer emotional comfort or empathy to others.

Peter is distraught as his wife for 20 years has just passed away. His neighbor, Meg, wasn’t a person with an open heart center although she considers herself a compassionate and very giving person. She becomes uncomfortable with Ryan’s grief when she visited Ryan to console him. To “console” Ryan, she asked him if helping with other tasks around the house or cooking for him would “make him feel better”.

Although he appreciated Meg’s offer, Ryan experienced her offer as not soothing and empty. What he truly needed was a friend whose heart energies would give him words of empathy that recognized his feelings, Words like “Can I just sit with you in sadness or give you a hug?” or “I can only imagine how much you’re hurting and am so sorry,” would be more preferable to him.

When others are hurting, will you respond in an intellectual manner or in terms of feeling?

2. A long list of preconditions that should be met before one can extend love and trust to others: From time to time, you will meet people with a long list of demands that anyone must meet before they can fall in love or trust others fully.

This list or lists are etched in their hearts and deem it deal breakers or red flags if people do not meet their personal checklists.

Yes, in order to trust and feel safe around someone, it is good to identify the things one needs to experience in others, and to seek those qualities proactively.

But using a checklist in order to warrant not using your heart energies or extending trust to others becomes an act of avoidance and fear on your part.

Ivan had a list of lifestyle issues, habits, and qualities which he deemed preconditions for falling in love. He would adopt a style of interview during dates, probing his dates through a series of questions to see if they possessed these qualities. If a date showed she did not hold a quality on his list, he would be careful about reaching out his heart to her.

A lot of women usually would smile and say, “Thank you for the time,” and yet would refuse to date him further or return his calls. This is a sign of a closed heart. When one has an open heart, even casual contacts become more fulfilling and lively.

Some people have felt a warm heart sensation after having chatted with a total stranger. They may experience a new understanding about whatever was discussed with that stranger whom they know they will never see again.

This is essentially the things you can experience when your heart center/energy is open. It enables us to reach out to others in a deep and profound way that a soul connection occurs.

Over the course of time, you may notice the many times you require that certain conditions be met before you genuinely reflect your heart energies on others or give yourself the chance to be a recipient of the expressions of the heart from others.

3. Challenges with self acceptance and self awareness: When we develop a blockage in our heart energies, we usually create aspects of ourselves that are hidden. When we are disconnected from our heart energies we may not be aware there is sadness, anxiety, grief, or pain in our heart.

These unseen aspects are what often generate strife in relationships. For example, we may handle our relationships in a protective manner, not committing our hearts fully to the things we are experiencing (although we still can enjoy interactions and experiences with them) if we do not realize that we are carrying the aches and pains of long ago in our hearts.

If our hearts are not truly and fully in a relationship, we may lead the person to think that we are in love and express that love insincerely and cursorily. This causes a disconnection between our behaviors and what we really feel, and this path only leads to pain on the part of the ones meeting us with an open heart because it generates an energy of imbalance.

Fostering the Open Heart

According to Taoist philosophy, the heart center can be opened by performing certain movements in the Chinese medicinal therapy known as qi gong. Also, the circulation of Qi (energy) and the nourishment of the heart can be brought about by a series of movements of the five treasures.

Understand that as your heart opens like the petals of a rose, varied emotions may be felt. Therefore, never rush the process and take it easy and slowly but allow the unfolding to occur naturally.

In order to support your journey to the vibrational elevation of your heart center, make it a point to be around family and friend who have open hearts.

The spirit resides in the heart center after all, therefore every conscious choice and breath you make to eliminate blockages in your heart raises the vibration of your soul.

Once your heart becomes expansive and fully open, it will be a natural thing to give and surround yourself with love in its many variations. People who are not interacting with you with open heart energies may gradually move away from your life allowing you to create spaces for people willing to interact with open heart energy.

Whatever path you choose, whether your heart has been wounded so profoundly that you become happy being alone or seek out a relationship with an open hearted person, each one of us deserves to experience the blissful feeling of warmth and love in our lives.

Balance Within – Integrative Acupuncture
16200 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 478-9401
http://www.balancewithinyou.com/

Tai Chi Can Be Customized To Alleviate A Wide Range Of Acute And Chronic Musculoskeletal Conditions

Because Tai Chi gradually builds muscle strength and improves flexibility, physical therapists and physicians advocate it to individuals with a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions. The soft-velvety motions of this gentle Chinese exercise are customized for alleviating sore muscles and joints.

According to physician, Tai Chi master, and Australian family practitioner, Dr. Paul Lam, there is no question that if done appropriately, Tai Chi can be an exercise that generates benefits for arthritis sufferers. It is an activity that virtually any person who can walk can safely do. Dr. Lam started practicing Tai Chi almost three decades ago to relieve his own osteoarthritis. He believes Tai Chi gently takes the joints through their range of movement while its aspect of inner stillness and breathing addresses anxiety and stress.

According to California rheumatologist, Peter Stein, M.D., Tai Chi is especially helpful for people suffering from severe muscle pain and fibromyalgia. He says, “Yoga is very difficult to perform when you are in pain, you need something more soothing and milder, and Tai Chi is quite effective in alleviating pain.”

In a 1991 study that lasted ten weeks, the safety of Tai Chi for people with rheumatoid arthritis was evaluated. As the end of the study, researchers concluded that the exercise’s weight-bearing factors have the ability to strengthen connective tissue and spur bone development.

A study performed in 1991 that observed practicing Tai Chi patients with multiple sclerosis found that the exercise it played a key role in improving the overall quality of life for people with disabling chronic conditions.

Tai Chi is an excellent option for people experiencing symptoms of MS, fibromyalgia, and arthritis given its low impact and validation that it promotes balance and muscle strength, and provides overall relief of pain.

Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.

The NADA Protocol Relieves And Releases People From Addictions And Emotional Distress Issues

In the last three decades, Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture in Orlando, has become an increasingly popular modality for not only helping people with health problems but also with addictions and emotional distress issues. For people who are detoxifying from alcohol and drugs acupuncture has been quite a boon for their needs. It also has worked well for those who have gone through a high degree of trauma, like returning military veterans. The NADA protocol or the five needle protocol is one of the most commonly used and innovative ways of assisting these groups of people from their problems.

The NADA protocol involves the application of acupuncture needles in five points in both auricles (outer ears). This treatment is administered in groups. The patients comfortably sit in chairs while the needles are applied in both their outer ears where they remain stuck for 30 to 45 minutes. The impact of the treatment for most patients is an immediate and incredible feeling of relaxation and calmness. Individuals burdened with the symptoms of psychomotor agitation, restlessness, and anxiety usually sense relief and release from the severity of their symptoms.

In several locations across the country, the NADA treatment protocol has been adopted as an integrative type of treatment in prisons, hospitals, mental health and detox centers due to its powerful effects. It got its name from the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association which is the organization that primarily promotes this method throughout the country. While licensed acupuncturists usually provide this service, NADA also allows non-acupuncturists who have become Acu-Detox Specialists to administer this therapy to people in their community.

In major US cities, there are mental health clinics you can go if you are uninsured or poor. These are clinics that offer counseling, Qi Gong classes, and the 5 needle protocol. They often cater to homeless people who have drug addiction problems. These clinics usually have a soothing and cheery atmosphere.

The adoption and innovation of the NADA protocol as a plan of treatment for people suffering from emotional distress or those who are detoxifying was developed by a physician named Dr. Michael Smith. After founding this therapeutic procedure in the 1970s, he went on to help establish NADA in 1985. This standardized treatment continues to grow and has been adopted by a lot states across the country.

The five acupoints in the ear relate to specific acupoints that generate different effects. These points include the autonomic point and “Spirit Gate” or Shen Men that help bring about relaxation and calmness, the lung point that helps release grief and facilitates deep breathing, the liver point that promotes detoxification and reduces intense anger, and the “kidney point” which helps decrease fear.

From the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each person is unique and thus requires holistic care for both the body and mind. Practitioners of TCM usually provide acupuncture (including the NADA) and massage, and recommend sacred movement like qi gong, as well as lifestyle and diet modifications.

The efficacy of the NADA treatment approach has been validated by several clinical studies in recent years. Much of the studies have demonstrated substantive results in numerous types of settings. In Europe, the NADA protocol is being used in over 130 prisons throughout the continent. It is being used in several psychiatric hospitals and in many Indian reservations. A NADA training program has been established in the Yale medical school program for its residents. The Veterans Administration advocates the use of this treatment for people diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A lot of people suffering from intense, unsettled emotions and anxiety who have had the chance to try “the ear treatment” have reported a sensation of profound calmness and relaxation, as if a heavy burden had been lifted from their shoulders. Some of them avail of this treatment whenever they feel overwhelmed.

The NADA protocol can be a valuable tool for people who are in the course of weaning or withdrawing off psychiatric medications. The most common symptoms of drug withdrawal include insomnia, restlessness, agitation, anger, bouts of depression, and extreme anxiety. The NADA can also be an extremely useful therapy for people who are prone to emotional distress and big mood swings. One of this protocol’s strong benefits is that it is administered in groups and so can be a much cheaper treatment compared to a one on one or regular treatment. Getting acupuncture treatment in a group can also be an opportunity for you to develop a strong bond between people without the need of asking them to explore uncomfortable and/or deep emotions.

Some therapists who promote mindfulness often find it a bit challenging to persuade people to embark on a regular practice of meditation. They found that introducing these people to acupuncture is one of the most effective ways to help them get started. Acupuncture is a much better way to help people experience the benefit of increased somatic awareness and deeper relaxation that often occurs while meditating compared to the pressure of integrating meditative practice into a busy lifestyle. While the NADA protocol is definitely not a cure-all, it has become a progressively indispensible complementary therapy that can help enhance well being and emotional health.

Strengthening The Lung System Using Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments

Autumn is typically the time of year when a lot of people tend to catch the common cold. This jibes with the theory of traditional Chinese medicine that each organ system is related to a specific season; in the case of autumn, the organ it corresponds with is the lungs. But, it goes without saying that you can also catch a cold not only during autumn, it’s just that colds are more widespread during autumn more so if the person has an out of balance or weak lung system. Autumn, therefore, is a proper time to beef up the lung system.

Why do we need a strong lung system?

In Chinese medicine, the lung system is responsible for the function of breathing, the skin, and the nose. It also governs the flow of protective energy called Wei Qi, which in Western medicine is very similar to the immune system. The body is strong enough to ward off disease when this energy is strong, conversely pathogens that can cause the common cold may enter the body when this energy is weak.

How can we strengthen Wei Qi?

Lung qi can be strengthened and vital energy (qi) can flow properly through exercises, such as brisk walking for 20 minutes. Adequate rest and a proper diet can make certain that energy levels are restored and/or maintained. Some foods that can enhance Lung Qi include fresh ginger, yam, sweet potato, oats, carrots, garlic, tofu, honey, grapes, glutinous rice, and strawberry.

TCM healing techniques in Miami such as herbal medicine and acupuncture can also beef up the lung Qi. There are several herbal remedies in the form of tablets, tinctures, or tea that can be taken to boost immunity. They should used on a regular basis just before the onset of the cold season. Herbs usually included in those remedies are scallion, ginger, root of angelica, atractylodes, siler, ginseng, and astragalus. These herbs are also very effective in treating the common cold. Acupuncture should only be administered by a licensed acupuncturist.

How are herbs able to prevent or treat the common cold?

Traditional Chinese medicine sets about treatment from what is called branch and root, with the branch being the manifested symptoms and the root being the underlying cause of the problem. Hence, the herbs selected will have qualities that address cough, sore throat, body ache, headache, congestion, and sneezing. Herbs designed to strengthen the qi of the body are next used once symptoms are resolved. A popular immune tonic that is mild enough to be used every day is Reishi mushroom tea.

Other preventative measures that can be used daily include a neti pot to clear the nasal passages, the above mentioned 20 minutes of brisk walking, a diffuser with essential oils like cedar and eucalyptus, yoga breathing exercises, and stretching to open the chest.

Gua Sha Therapy Refreshes And Detoxifies The Body

There has been a steady rise in the popularity of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Jacksonville these past few years. A lot of people probably know acupuncture and Chinese reflexology, but one Chinese healing technique called “gua sha” may have never been heard by most. Gua sha therapy is sometimes called “spooning” or “coining” in the West. It involves scraping the skin surface in order to refresh and detoxify the body. Since its results are amazing and so quick and it’s so easy to use, gua sha is a popular treatment in Asia although it still remains relatively unknown in the West.

Muscle soreness and other ailments from the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine are essentially the result of obstructions in the flow of vital energy (chi) and blood. It is commonly known that muscle soreness can be relieved by rubbing the affected area to enhance the flow of blood. This is a fact regardless if you believe or not the existence of chi. Gua sha therapy begins with a sauna or warm bath. Next, massage oils are applied and your massage therapist will utilize a special scraping tool over the targeted area (you can use a simple spoon if you do this procedure at home). According to Chinese medicine practitioners, this releases chi, and medical science sees this as a removal of metabolic waste that accumulated in congested muscles and tissue. The scraping has the effect of intense exfoliation that leaves behind redness and marks that gradually diminish a few days after the treatment.

What exactly are the benefits of Chinese gua sha therapy?

1. PMS – Gua sha can be a great treatment for monthly menstrual pain and aches. Based on the principles of reflexology, your massage therapist will scrape various areas of the body to alleviate ailments and soreness in your lower stomach.

If you want to administer this procedure on yourself at home, talk to your local acupuncturist and then purchase a spoon or simple gua sha tool and perform per the instructions of your acupuncturist.

2. Head colds – At some point in our lives, we can be afflicted with certain types of upper respiratory illnesses. This is more likely to occur during the cold periods of winter. There is no better way to cure a cold than with a sauna or hot bath followed by gua sha. Your massage therapist can skim the scraping tool over your shoulders, neck, and upper back and to remove congestion and eliminate fluids that have accumulated in your chest. This will help bring about relief almost instantaneously afterwards!

3. Tired Muscles – Those who have an intense hard work out knows the awful feeling that is usually felt the next day – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS is an almost inexorable after effect of exercise especially when you’re attempting to get back in shape after a long break. If you want to avoid this severe muscle ailment, follow a thorough work out with lots of water, stretching, and a treatment of gua sha. This will help your body get rid of lactic acid and make room for the building of new muscles in your body! For muscle fatigue, stiffness, or soreness, Gua sha is a great and safe form of relief.

Gua Sha Facial Therapy To Rejuvenate and Revitalize Your Face

Gua Sha is administered to the torso, head, and limb as a type of detoxification treatment. But are you aware that Gua Sha can also be performed on your face?

Gua Sha has the same effects as acupuncture with the main difference is that it is performed without the use of invasive needles. Gua Sha procedures are designed to help restore, revitalize, and balance the body’s energy system to eliminate any type of pathogenic element in the body.

For over 2,500 years Gua Sha therapy has been practiced in China and like feng shui and acupuncture, it is known to help generate positive energy, as well having the capacity to resolve aesthetic issues.

What are the Benefits of Gua Sha Facial Therapy?

Gua Sha facial therapy is used to stimulate and warm the aging areas of the face. It is especially useful for energy depleted and weakened patients.

This procedure is an advantageous facial rejuvenation therapy and its benefits include the ability to:

• Produce healthy collagen
• Boost the immune system
• Eliminate wrinkles
• Cure rosacea, acne
• Increase metabolism and stimulate
• Produce radiant complexion
• Firm up sagging of neck and face
• Promote lymphatic drainage from neck and facial areas
• Eliminate dark circles and eye bags
• Reduce discoloration and age spots
• Produce youthful neck and facial contours
• Resolve blood stasis
• Activate Chi (vital energy)

How is Gua Sha Administered?

The scraping process helps remove blood stagnation and release toxins by boosting lymph drainage and chi flow. The toxins are eliminated and the supply of nutrients to the face is thereby increased.

Gua Sha facial therapy encourages skin rejuvenation from the inside out. Along with this method, one can also add firming creams and essential oils composed of juniper, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, ginger or just use olive oils or pure grape-seed to transport healing essences and nutrients directly to the skin. To cover the entire face, just a drop or two will suffice. Add more only if it feels dry.

Gua Sha facial therapy is a holistic type of beauty treatment to rejuvenate, restore, and balance your skin to resolve issues without the need for Botox drug injection, micro-dermabrasion, chemical acids, or painful cosmetic surgery. It is very safe to use and has not side effects whatsoever.

Predetermined holographic meridian points, meridians, and acupoints on the body and face are scraped.

According to the holographic meridian theory of traditional Chinese medicine, the face has direct energy channel (meridian) connections to 9 of the 14 energy channels of the body.

What Tools Are Used in Gua Sha Facial Therapy?

Gua Sha tools made of metal spoon, Chinese or jade soup spoons, or even animal horns are used to gently scrape the areas targeted for treatment. Even a coin or any rounded edged object can also be used for specific purposes.

Tips

1. To allow the toxins to seep out of the body, the patient needs to rest for one day at least.

2. Drinking warm water after the procedure and staying hydrated throughout the day is essential to maximize the positive effects of Gua Sha facial therapy.

Important Note

If you fail to follow the abovementioned after treatment steps, it may lead to illness because you did not give enough time to allow adequate amounts of fluid to enter into your body that can help flush out the toxins from your body.

Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.