Commenly Asked Questions Concerning Acupuncture
Q: What is acupunctureA: Acupuncture is a complex branch of ancient Chinese medicine that is based on principles developed in China over the past 2000 years. The foundation in which these principles are set is that there is a subtle life energy, called Qi (pronounced chee), circulating though all parts of the body via energy channels, called meridians. These meridians connect our head, torso, arms, hands, legs, feet, and all internal organs. According to Chinese medical theory, pain and illness results when the smooth, cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes blocked or unbalanced. An acupuncturist uses acupuncture needles to stimulate specific points along the meridians. This stimulation helps restore balance and the smooth flow of Qi so all parts of the body can work together in harmony as intended. This harmony allows the body to repair itself and maintain health.
Q: What is Qi?A: In English, Qi is often translated to mean energy. This energy flows through the meridians in the body in a manner similar to, but not identical to the nervous system or circulatory system. The presence of Qi is important in the organs and bodily systems that require large amounts of energy. However, to the Chinese, Qi not only powers a function, but it is inseparable from function, so there can be no function without Qi and no Qi without function. Qi is also known as the life force, or the vital force, because the total absence of Qi is death. Therefore, the importance of the presence of Qi is obvious, but just as important is the proper flow and distribution of Qi throughout the meridians in the body. When Qi flows smoothly and harmoniously throughout the meridians, every organ and bodily system are in harmony and there is health, but when Qi is blocked or unbalanced there is pain and illness.
Q: What are meridians?A: Over 2000 years ago Chinese physicians discovered that Qi circulates throughout the body along fourteen major channels. Today, these channels are commonly referred to as "meridians". Meridians make-up an intricate and invisible network transporting and directing Qi to every part of the body. Over centuries of trial and error and meticulous observation, the Chinese accurately mapped the locations of the meridians and identified 361 regular acupuncture points on the major meridians where Qi can be accessed and stimulated when there is an abnormality of flow. Over time, many more points have been discovered, as well as so-called extra meridians.
Q: How does the flow of Qi become blocked or balenced?A: The smooth and balanced flow of Qi can be affected by any noxious substance, both external and internal, including poor nutrition, impure food, toxic air or water, infectious or contagious diseases, malfunction of an organ, and traumatic or overuse injuries. Excessive dampness, wind, cold, heat, and emotional responses to life such as worry, anxiety, stress may affect the flow of Qi through the meridians.
Q:What happens when the flow of Qi becomes blocked?A: In order to properly reach and serve all parts of the body, Qi needs to flow smoothly and freely throughout the meridian network. This free flow also allows for all the body·ö organs and systems to communicate and function harmoniously. That leads to sound health. But any sustained blockage or other disruption of a smooth, balanced flow of Qi may lead to pain, ill health, or a weakened immune system. It is necessary to realize that a blockage not only causes diminished Qi in one organ or part, but it may also cause excessive buildup of Qi in another area. This phenomenon can be understood by visualizing a meridian carrying Qi as like water flowing down a river. If a dam is constructed on a river, there is not only less water down the river, but there is a pooling of water up the river. A blockage may cause a deficiency of Qi beyond the blockage and a buildup of Qi before the blockage, which may mean diminished activity of some organs and accelerated activity of others. Either way, if there is a blockage then Qi is unbalanced, so its flow must be normalized for health to return.
Q:What are Yin and Yang?A: The interplay of yin and yang in the human body is a very important concept in Oriental medicine and thought, but it is a rather foreign concept to the Western mind. In Chinese culture and philosophy, every entity in the universe has both yin and yang influences within. Yin influences are seen as dark, cold, passive, night, and negative. Yang influences are seen as light, warm, active, day, and positive. A common example of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy is the image of a hill where the shady (yin) side is balanced by the sunny (yang) side. The most important ideas of the yin yang theory is that yin and yang are indivisible, never static, always fluctuating.They are the opposing balancing influences of every entity, however it is important to note that there is always a little yin in yang and a little yang in yin. In Chinese medicine, yin and yang are supposed to be in a harmonious balance in every aspect of the body and acupuncture is used to attain this goal.
Q:How do practitioners know which acupoints to treat?A: Since the primary treatment goal is to unblock Qi and achieve balance within the meridians, so the body can heal itself, an acupuncturist must access and stimulate the correct meridians and acupoints. The practitioner knows how to do this through repeated experience in similar cases, which provides the acupuncturist with many tried and proven formulas. In addition, traditional formulas fitting each diagnosis are learned or readily available in books. These are formulas, which have worked through the ages for billions of sick men, women, and children.
Q:What is involved in acupuncture diagnosis?A: Since the beginning of this 2000 year old art, acupuncture diagnostic procedures focus on finding blockages and imbalances of Qi. The following methods give only a glimpse into some ancient diagnostic procedures that, at first, may seem strange to Western patients, although for untold centuries these procedures have proven reliable. * Pulse diagnosis: An intricate expert evaluation of the radial pulses reveals excesses, deficiencies, disharmonies of Qi and what organs are involved. * Observation of the patient: Noting color and condition of the tongue, texture and condition of the skin, of the hair, and quality of the voice. These answers confirm many health issues. * Questioning of the patients: Seeking a history of the illness, the patient·ö feelings, lifestyle, diet. All of those, as well as emotional problems may contribute to Qi·ö imbalance. * Physical examination: Feeling for tender acupoints is a reliable diagnostic tool because certain acupoints are related to specific areas and functions of the body, and tenderness may relate to a specific problem.
Q:Do all acupuncturists work the same way?A: Acupuncture originated in China, but over the years as it spread, many styles of acupuncture have been developed in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, and the United States. These styles vary in diagnostic methods, selection of acupoints to be treated, and needle techniques. Even though these styles have differences, the basic theoretical principles remain constant with all practitioners: balance Qi within and among the meridians so the body can achieve harmony and heal itself. Currently, there is no evidence that one particular style is more effective than another. Some styles are: * Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is most common form of acupuncture in the US. * Japanese Acupuncture is subtler with fewer and thinner needles. * Korean Hand Acupuncture believes points on the hand correspond to areas of the body and certain disharmonies. * Auricular Acupuncture believes points on ear correspond to areas of the body and certain disharmonies. * Medical Acupuncture is the term used when a Western Medical Doctor performs Acupuncture. The requirements for an MD are more lenient so try to choose an MD that is a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, which requires 200 hours for membership.
Disclaimer:All the material presented in this article is for informational purposes only and should not take the place of a consultation from a trained medical professional.