The first known writing on acupuncture is found in the Huangdi Neiijing, a tradition Chinese medical book written over 2,000 years ago. This book revolutionized the treatment of disease by looking at how the nature of one’s diet, lifestyle, emotions, environment, age, and heredity effect health.
The second part of the Huangdi Neijing is called the Lingshu and describes acupuncture in great detail. Acupuncture was and still is a major mode of treatment for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. A direct translation from this early text describes acupuncture as putting holes in the body to regulate qi. It is a direct portrayal that can use further explanation. My hope is that this blog will provide you with an understanding of how and why acupuncture works.
What is Qi?
The literal translation of qi from Chinese means “breath,” just as our English word “spirit” comes from the Latin “spiritus” or “breath.” Qi can be understood as your life force or vital energy. You can imagine pathways of qi flowing through your body as streams, rivers, irrigation systems, canals, and oceans flow interdependently. Qi operates like these water ways. If a river is dammed by animals, water will not flow to where it is needed; if a canal is flooded by rains, there will be damage to homes and the land. Both circumstances causes imbalance to surrounding environments.
“No pain, no blockage; no blockage, no pain.”
The pathways where qi flows are called meridians. Dysfunctional flows are thought to be caused by blockages. If qi cannot take its normal course, excess qi will accumulate at the impasse and other areas of your body will not receive the vitality needed to be well. Improper flow manifests as pain or sickness, be it a tummy ache or insomnia.
Acupuncture Diagnosis and Treatment
Acupuncture is used to regulate the flow of qi by inserting thin metal needles at specific points along the meridians where qi flows. Acupuncture performed by a well-trained, experienced professional is painless. The major diagnostic modes utilized are:
– Inspection of the face, particularly the tongue. The size, shape, tension, color, coating, and whether or not there are teeth marks around the edge will be inspected by the acupuncturist.
– Auscultation or listening to your body for sounds like wheezing.
– Olfaction or smelling breath and bodily secretions.
– The Seven Inquiries are seven concerns the acupuncturists will want to ask you about: chills and fever; perspiration; appetite, thirst, and taste; defecation and urination; pain; sleep; menses and leucorrhea.
Information gathered during the diagnostic process will inform your acupuncturist where qi is imbalanced. Then, he or she will work along meridians where qi flows to problem area. For example, problems associated with the kidney are treated by inserting needles in the foot. This placement strengthens the flow of qi to the kidney if it is deficient or to drains qi if there is excess.
The depth of insertion is also considered by the acupuncturist. Depth is determined according to the degree of imbalance. Needles are inserted at lesser depths when treating diseases of the skin or of the muscles. Disease of the internal organs and bone marrow have a severe impact on health. For this reason, acupuncture needles must penetrate deeper in the meridians’ flow to remove blockages of energy and to promote free flow.
The Arrival of the Qi
Some patients say that they feel a pleasurable sensation when a desired point is located. We call this “the arrival of the qi.” Studies show that acupuncture can significantly improve symptoms of many diseases from fibromyalgia to tinnitus to addiction.
Feel free to contact my office to learn more about how you can use acupuncture to promote health. My staff is happy to answer any questions you may have about acupuncture treatment and our other therapies. And, as always, comments, questions, and discussion are welcomed here on the IMS blog!