How does acupuncture work?
There are two main ways to describe the mechanism in which acupuncture works, one is to look at it from a Western Medical perspective and the other is to look at it from a traditional view point.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the body is viewed as a system that’s linked together via a network of channels, also known as meridians. The channel system is like a set of pathways that connect with the internal organs and the external environment .
What circulates within these channels is known as “Qi” in TCM. The quality and flow of Qi that moves within these pathways has an effect on the areas and organs that the channels connect with. The Qi that flows in the channels also conveys information about what’s happening in the internal environment of the body as well as the external environment so that the body can react in a way to maintain balance and prevent disease from occurring.
When the Channels are in a healthy state they will be open, the Qi and blood will flow freely and the person will be in a state of health.
When there is a disruption in the circulation of the channels this will affect ones mental and physical health. This disruption can result from poor diet, stress and excessive emotions(or suppression or inability to express emotion) over work, injury, poor posture, environmental factors and other causes. A trained acupuncturist uses various diagnostic techniques to detect changes in the channels and organs, such as pulse diagnosis, visual examination, questioning the patient about their specific symptoms, tongue examination and channel examination. The channels are said to be located in the spaces between the muscles, tendons, blood vessles and bones.
Acupuncture points are like junctions of concentrated flow along these channels. When the flow of Qi is affected in these channels material manifestations can be felt by the acupuncturist such as lumps or nodules which are often tender for the patient.
With all this information the acupuncturist will determine the most effected channels and organs and determine which channels and points are most appropriate to stimulate in order for the body to regain it’s optimal state.
During an acupuncture treatment, other methods may be used as well such as moxibustion, cupping, Qi gong and Tuina massage. These methods can and often are used on their own.
A brief description of each is listed below:
This involves burning a herb called artemesia close to an acupuncture point or area of the body or by burning very small cones the size of a grain of rice directly on the skin (which isn’t painful).
The heat warms the point or area of the body and aims to improve circulation.
A vacuum is created in a glass or plastic cup and is then placed on an area of the body such as a tight muscle. This draws the muscle in to the cup and stretches the surface area and breaks down the capillaries which are the smallest blood vessels in the body. This is used to promote fresh blood flow to the area. It is used for many problems such as colds but is most commonly used for injuries and problems in the muscles
Tuina is a therapeutic massage based on Chinese medical theory involving a wide range of techniques such as pressure point stimulation or acupressure, gliding, kneading, tapping, rotations and stretches. For more information please visit my Tuina massage site.
Qi gong can be described as a meditative exercise system static postures or movements that are designed to strengthen the mind and body, improve health, relaxation, self awareness and the functioning of the senses. For more information please click on Qigong.