What is Acupuncture?
The practice of acupuncture originated thousands of years ago in ancient China and expanded into other Asian and European countries prior to becoming a well known modality in the United States. While remaining rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the process has steadily evolved to include other techniques such as cupping, qi gong, herbal medicines and the introduction of essential oils and various mind and body practices. While maintaining the Traditional Chinese Medicine core practice, TCM is considered a complimentary health approach to western medicine.
From a survey done in 2007, The National Institute of Health disclosed that at least 3.1 million people had tried acupuncture during that year and that participants who viewed the use of complementary and alternative medicine remained at a relatively stable rate (36–38%) over the past 10 years with the number of acupuncture treatments tripling between 1997 and 2007. ( National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 2007 )
What Does Acupuncture Feel Like?
The first and most common assumption is that acupuncture is going to hurt since it does involve being stuck with needles. Fear or pain from the needles is one of the most common reasons that people discard acupuncture as a viable option actually.
But to the surprise of most who try it for the first time, acupuncture is not a painful experience. In some instances, acupuncture needles are inserted without the recipient feeling a thing due to the extra thin needles used in the procedure. The sensation created by the needle in acupuncture is known as de qi and it is a good thing.
Another way to think about de qi is that the acupuncture needle has awaken energy within the channel associated with the needle point and that it has produced movement throughout the body. When the channel is activated, change is initiated to removed the energy blockages that create discomfort in the body.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The body has a series of acupuncture meridians or channels that flow through the body like a network of railway tracks. These meridians connect with all the major organs as well as with each other. On these railway tracks (meridians), there are railway stations (acupuncture points). Each acupuncture point has a special purpose; to treat a particular problem.
Imagine if a railway station was blocked for some reason. People wouldn’t be able to reach the station, nor pass through the station to their destination. Slowly, business would be disrupted. If the tracks were repaired and the trains began running again, order would resume. It’s the same with acupuncture points, if there is a blockage at one of the points, the problem is seen further along the meridian. This is why an acupuncture point in the hand or foot can treat a headache, because the channel flows to the head.
Often, there are numerous blockages at many acupuncture points. Some acupuncture points lie deeply in the body and others closer to the surface. Over the centuries, the Chinese have accumulated diagnostic theories associated with the meridians that belong to specific organs. For example, headaches might be attributed to the liver and other times to the spleen; different points will be selected for different people. Acupuncture also balances yin and yang. (Acupuncture Clinic)
Acupuncture points, or “acupoints,” are specific locations on the body that are the focus of acupuncture treatments. TCM explains acupuncture as a technique for “balancing the flow of energy or life force,” and that energy can be reached by stimulating small specific channels on the body.
TCM practitioners believe that there is a flow, known as “qi” or “chi,” that is located in certain “meridians” throughout the body. Chi is thought to be what separates the sick from the healthy — and when chi is not balanced, illness, pain, poor sleep, and fatigue can all occur.
There are 14 major energy-channel meridians on the body, with hundreds of points located along each meridian where acupuncture needles are inserted.
These include some 360 different points on the hands, arms, feet, head, back and over the major organs. The belief is that by inserting needles lightly into certain points on the body, the chi flow can be tapped into and the patient’s energy can be rebalanced.
Acupuncture points tend to be located where nerves enter a muscle, the midpoint of a muscle, or at a point where muscle joins with bone.
Some of the major acupuncture meridians include:
Large Intestine Meridian
Small Intestine Meridian
Urinary Bladder Meridian
Is Acupuncture a Viable Therapy Option?
One of the most popular uses of acupuncture is to reduce chronic pain throughout the body in a natural way, without the need for medications that can cause unwanted side effects.
Most of the studies investigating acupuncture to date have examined whether acupuncture can safely reduce pain. However, it’s expected that in the next several years, researchers will continue to study whether or not it might help with other conditions, too – including anxiety, depression, inflammation, hot flashes, side effects of chemotherapy and insomnia.