About Acupuncture

ACUPUNCTURE is one branch of an ancient comprehensive system of medicine that also includes herbal medicine, and massage. The earliest acupuncture texts were written in China over 2,000 years ago and today, worldwide, there are over three million practitioners.

Although primarily known in the U.S. as an effective alternative treatment for back pain and headaches, acupuncture can be a highly effective complimentary modality for a variety of conditions. Throughout China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and even in many European states, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is mainstream medicine with departments in hospitals and active members integrated into medical teams.

In the U.S., acupuncture has been popularly mischaracterized as being good only for specific conditions, such as back pain or weight loss. In fact, acupuncture can be helpful for a variety of conditions due to its power to stimulate our own healing response.

About Meridians

The Chinese use the term “jing luo” which means, channels, conduit, meridian. According to acupuncture, these are the invisible channels through which qi circulates throughout the body. The acupuncture points (or holes as the Chinese term xue is more aptly translated means) are the locations where the qi of the channels rises close to the surface of the body. There are 12 main meridians, six of which are yin and six are yang and numerous minor ones, which form a network of energy channels throughout the body.

In acupuncture, each meridian is related to, and named after, an organ or function, the main ones are: the lung, kidney, gallbladder, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder, san jiao (three heater) and pericardium (heart protector/ or circulation sex meridian).

There are also 8 extraordinary channels in acupuncture that are considered to be reservoirs supplying qi and blood to the twelve regular channels. These are believed to have a strong connection to the kidney. The meridians are shown in the figures.

Dotted along these meridians are more than 400 acupuncture points, classified by WHO. (There may be as many as 2000 points in use for different treatments.) These are listed by name, number and the meridian to which they belong.

When Chi flows freely through the meridians, the body is balanced and healthy, but if the energy becomes blocked, stagnated or weakened, it can result in physical, mental or emotional ill health. An imbalance in a person’s body can result from inappropriate emotional responses such as: excess anger, over-excitement, self-pity, deep grief and fear. Environmental factors such as cold, damp/humidity, wind, dryness, and heat can also cause imbalance so as factors such as wrong diet, too much sex, overwork and too much exercise.

To restore the balance, the acupuncturist stimulates the acupuncture points that will counteract that imbalance. So, if you have stagnant Chi, he will choose specific points to stimulate it. If the Chi is too cold, he will choose points to warm it. If it is too weak, he will strengthen it. If it is blocked, he will unblock it, and so on. In this way, acupuncture can effectively rebalance the energy system and restore health or prevent the development of disease. The points that the practitioner chooses to stimulate may not necessarily be at the site of the symptoms.

Acupuncture Needles

The needles employed by acupuncturists today are stainless steel, solid (unlike standard needles used for drawing blood which are hollow) and vary in size or width gauge. Acupuncture needles consist of a stainless steel shaft and a handle made out of copper or steel. There are nine types of needles used in acupuncture; however, only six are commonly used.

Needles are inserted at points from 15 to 90 degrees in relation to the skin’s surface. Once the needle has been inserted there are a variety of techniques that aid in the stimulation and sensation. The technique used by the acupuncturist will depend on the ailment that is being treated. Acupuncture is essentially pain-less, some people may experience a slight pinch as the needle is inserted. Once inserted, the needles remain in place for approximately 20-30 minutes.

On March 29, 1996, the Food and Drug Administration bestowed the Class 2 status of “medical tools” to acupuncture needles. Acupuncture needles were previously listed under Class 3, or “experimental devices.” The change of classification means that needles used for acupuncture will be subject to FDA approval to ensure quality control and “single use only” labeling. Most significant, the ruling could make acupuncture treatments eligible for coverage under insurance policies which exclude alternative medicine.

The FDA ruling indicates that acupuncture is a safe and effective medical treatment. Because modern acupuncture needles are disposable and used only once, there is no risk of transmitting infections from one person to another.

In the U.S., acupuncture has been popularly mischaracterized as being good only for specific conditions, such as back pain or weight loss. In fact, acupuncture can be helpful for a variety of conditions due to its power to stimulate our own healing response.

About Balance

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited, or active principle.

TCM likens the human body to a highly complex electrical circuit. Like any electrical circuit it must be kept in good working order if it is to function effectively, and if the circuit breaks down the result is illness. Among the major assumptions in TCM are that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a “balanced state” and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”, meaning vital energy) along pathways known as meridians.

TCM theorises that it is essential for qi, as well as blood to circulate in a continuous and unobstructed manner for good health of the mind and body. Acupuncture meridians or channels are the pathways through which the energy flows throughout the body. Acupuncture points lie along the meridians and are the holes that allow entry into the acupuncture meridians. The acupuncture points provide gateways to influence, redirect, increase, or decrease body’s vital substances, qi (energy) & blood, thus correcting many of the body’s imbalances.

Acupuncture restores the balance, thus allowing for the normal flow of qi throughout the body and restoring health to the mind and body.

Scientific Proof of Acupuncture

Of all the branches of complementary and alternative medicine, acupuncture has without doubt the most credibility among doctors and health officials.

BREAKTHROUGH STUDIES at the University of Vermont, Massachusetts General Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospial using functional MRI’s and comparable brain imaging during an acupuncture treatment have revealed that different acupuncture points stimulate different areas of the brain to prompt the body to heal itself. A Wall Street Journal Article from 2010 offers an understandable overview of these studies, click here to read.

National Institute of Health on Acupuncture:

World Health Organization on Traditional Medicine:

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