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- What is Acupuncture?
- How Does Acupuncture work?
- How Can Acupunture Help?
- Acupuncture and Modern Medicine
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the gentle insertion of very fine needles at specific points on the body. This process stimulates movement of energy within the body, allowing natural healing to take place. These points are selected based on years of training acupuncturists receive. This training is based on over 3,000 years of experience in China.
Acupuncture helps to prevent or reverse illness by improving the overall functioning the body’s immune and organ systems. Acupuncture is helpful for:
- Treating existing illnesses and injuries.
- Preventing both recurrence of illnesses and new illness.
- Improving overall health.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Qi
Acupuncture is part of the holistic system of healing known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM looks at illnesses from a different perspective than conventional medicine. The basic tenet of TCM is that life force, or Qi (Chi), energizes all the metabolic activity in our bodies, and this life force is always moving and flowing. When Qi flows unimpeded, we are healthy. When various stressors in our lives cause the Qi to become blocked, we can experience pain or disharmony in not only the body but also the mind, emotions and spirit. The strategy of the Practitioner of TCM is to find the areas of blocked energy and help remove those blocks, which in turn helps the body return to its natural healthy state.
Qi flows in channels, called meridians, throughout the body and over its surfaces. Meridian pathways are like rivers of life-force energy flowing inside the body. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water that provides nourishment to the land, plants and people. Similarly, where meridian pathways flow, they bring life-giving Qi that provides nourishment to every cell, organ, gland, tissue and muscle in the body. TCM identifies 14 main meridians in the human body, forming a basic energy map for all people. Each of the major organs in the body is associated with its own meridian. Through the network of meridians the major organs are connected to certain areas and parts of the body including the muscles, bones, joints, and also other organs.
Acupuncture points are the specific points on the meridians where the Qi is both concentrated and accessible. An acupuncturist engages the Qi by inserting needles at these specific points, the goal being to restore the proper flow of Qi. (These needles are hair-thin, pre-sterilized, made of surgical steel and disposable.) As the Qi again flows smoothly, the body regains its natural balance and well-being returns.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
When the body is internally balanced and in harmony with the external environment, Qi flows smoothly through the meridians to nourish the organs and tissues (see How Does Acupuncture Work? ). An obstruction to the flow of Qi is like a dam: when Qi cannot flow smoothly, or is forced to flow in the opposite direction, or becomes backed up in one part of the body, the flow becomes restricted in other parts and the body’s innate balance is disrupted. This is the beginning of illness. Physical and emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise, overexertion, seasonal changes, poor diet, accidents, and excessive activity are among the many things that can influence the quality, quantity and balance of Qi.
When you first enter my acupuncture office, I will sit with you and do a comprehensive intake. I am interested in all your symptoms and medical history, which enables me to effectively diagnose and detect any specific imbalances of Qi that may have contributed to your health problems, and helps me to determine my treatment strategy. Once the imbalances of Qi are detected, I will place fine, sterile needles at specific acupuncture points along Meridian pathways. This safe and painless insertion of the needles unblocks the obstruction and balances Qi where it has become unbalanced. Once this is done, Qi can freely circulate throughout the body, providing adequate nourishment to cells, organs, glands, tissues and muscles. This can eliminate pain and restore balance and harmony, as well as the body’s ability to heal itself – ultimately resulting in health and well-being. Optimally, this will take only a few treatments. However, there are many factors that influence how many or how few treatments are actually needed. (For a more comprehensive description of treatment sessions, see What to Expect.)
Herbal medicine is by itself a powerful method of healing. Western drugs are usually used to control symptoms but do not alter the disease process. For example: antibiotics kill bacteria but do not improve a person’s resistance to infection; diuretics drain excess fluid from the body but do not improve the kidney function. While Chinese herbs can also rid the body of disease, they nourish and balance the body in very specific ways, thereby improving organ function and building up a person’s constitution and immune system.
Acupuncture and Modern Medicine
To the human body, acupuncture needles are a physical stimulus. In Western science, a stimulus is defined as a detectable change in either the external environment or within the body itself. When the body detects change, it produces a response. Although acupuncture is not yet fully understood by Western science, with modern technology scientists can now actually begin to “see” the body’s response to acupuncture. For example, using an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), researchers have shown that when a needle is inserted at specific acupuncture points on the body, corresponding changes occur in the brain.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is often very effective at treating hard to diagnose problems since it does not rely on having to know the biochemical reason for your condition, which is not known in most cases, particularly where blood tests and MRIs are normal. Even when blood tests show imbalances, it is not usually known why this is happening. The Chinese medical model perceives health as a manifestation of balance, both within the body itself and between the body and the external environment. This difference in perspective means that TCM can often make sense of illnesses that Western medicine has difficulty treating. In cases where Western medicine may be limited to prescribing medication for symptom management, acupuncture may be able to intervene and encourage the body in a self-healing process. Acupuncture/TCM is currently the fastest growing healing modality in the country.
Acupuncture removes blocks to the natural flow of energy throughout the body and stimulates the balanced flow of that energy. This improves the body’s overall organ and immune systems thus restoring, and helping to maintain, the body’s natural state of health.
Practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine have used this non-invasive treatment to help millions of people become well and stay well. Acupuncture can enhance recuperative power and immunity, support physical and emotional health, and improve overall function and well-being.
Acupuncture/TCM is an effective form of medical treatment that has been around for thousands of years and has evolved into a complete, holistic health care system for the prevention and treatment of disease. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems.