What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the most commonly practiced forms of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin sterile needles into certain points on the body or ear in order to influence the body’s Qi (life force energy). The aim is to urge the body to self-regulate and heal itself. Although the way in which acupuncture works may seem mysterious, it is a time tested therapy that continues to be validated today.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Disease?
The Chinese Medical model uses several types of diagnosis to assess the flow and functioning of Qi within the body and determine the nature of the imbalance. This is a lot like a western doctor monitoring the flow of blood through the vessels or messages traveling along the nerves. Once a Chinese medical pattern of imbalance is identified, it is treated by inserting needles into specific “acupoints” along the affected meridians.
Meridians are distinct channels that traverse the surface and interior of the human body, carrying Qi, or life force energy. Acupuncture channels often follow the pathways of nerves and blood vessels, and along these pathways there are over 1000 distinct points where the Qi can be influenced. Acupuncture modulates the flow of Qi by guiding Qi where it is needed and dispersing it from where it is obstructed. There is a saying in Chinese medicine that states where there is no free flow of Qi, there is pain or disease. Acupuncture seeks to restore the free flow of qi.
What is Qi?
The most basic and all pervasive concept of Chinese Medicine is that of Qi. There are many interpretations of this term, but in its most basic sense, it is energy in all its permeations—from ethereal to dense. It is the energy that moves within our bodies: it is what is alive in us. Qi is also around us in nature, movement, heat, thunder, and so on. It is often referred to as “life force energy,” or “vital energy.”
In health, our Qi is harmonious on all levels. In sickness the Qi is adversely affected by being blocked, insufficient, misguided, and so on. When the Qi mechanism within the body is out of balance, other mechanisms of the body are also in turn affected. For example, if we use an analogy of a river, which flows smoothly along its course when it’s not obstructed by too many braches or rocks and when there is sufficient water. This metaphor applies also applied to Qi. If the course is blocked, it can lead to buildup, obstruction and stagnation. This can lead to a festering of unhealthy fluids and other pathogenic states. Similarly, if there is not enough qi, the flow is also affected and body organs don’t get the nourishment they need to be vibrant and healthy.