Acupuncture: It’s Origins and How it Works

6461577407_3502a7a5f0_bAcupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine is the first Chinese medical text and is dated at approximately 350 BC. Being a complete medical system, Chinese medicine has a treatment approach for nearly every health concern. Chinese medicine is born out of the Taoist tradition. Central to both Chinese medicine and Taoism is the necessity of balancing yin and yang (opposing but complementary properties) and living in harmony with one’s environment.

Acupuncture heals by balancing the flow of “qi,” (pronounced “chee”), which is most commonly translated as “energy” or “life force”. Every living thing has qi! It flows throughout the body in a network of channels (also referred to as meridians). There are major channels associated with the organ systems, as well as many smaller connecting channels. Together, they create an interconnected system, similar to a system of interconnected roads and highways. The channels run on the surface of the body and also branch into the body’s interior where they connect with organs, bones, tendons and joints. The channels on the surface of the body have points where the qi collects. These are the acupuncture points and when needled, they have the ability to influence the flow of qi in the whole channel. Acupuncture points have far-reaching effects. For example, there are points on the tips of the fingers that excel at treating headaches.

Qi is manifested on the physical, mental, and emotional levels. When qi gets stuck, or stagnates, the result is physical pain, disease and mental/emotional unrest. There are several causes of qi stagnation: emotional stress, physical trauma, poor diet and lifestyle issues to name a few. By inserting acupuncture needles into the acupuncture points, the blockages are removed allowing the qi to flow smoothly and the body to heal. In a sense, the needles activate the body’s innate system of healing.

Acupuncture is a cumulative therapy, meaning that the treatments build on each other. Almost every condition requires a course of treatment that varies depending on the individual. It is important to receive acupuncture frequently enough for it to provide the full benefits. Treatments spaced too far apart will not be as effective. Frequency of treatment also varies depending on the condition of the individual.