Acupuncture 101

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is a component of Chinese medicine (also called East Asian Medicine), which is a type of healthcare that looks at the body holistically. This means that all aspects of health (symptoms + diet + activity level + mental health + energy) are considered in care and treatment. Chinese medicine looks at the flow of energy, or Qi (prounounced “chee”), through a number of systems of the body– like the spleen/stomach system for example.  The energy travels through channels called meridians, which are all interconnected.

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points along the meridians to directly stimulate and restore balance to any body system and its corresponding Qi. Others tools of Chinese medicine include cupping, electro-therapy, gua-sha, Chinese medical massage, Chinese herbs and dietary and lifestyle advice.

A Chinese medicine practitioner evaluates the health and functioning of the entire body by carefully assessing each system and their corresponding levels of Qi.

MORE ABOUT QI–OUR LIFE’S ENERGY

We have two different sources of Qi: constitutional and daily. Constitutional Qi is the Qi we were born with–the overall health picture you came into this world with. Daily Qi is what we acquire each day for our basic daily functions through the food we eat and the air we breathe–it can be increased and used each day. However, if we fail to adequately nurture our daily Qi with healthy food and fresh air, if we overexert ourselves, and/or run ourselves down with stress, poor habits, and inadequate sleep, then we start to tap into our constitutional Qi. This chips away at our very life energy and makes us vulnerable to serious health conditions.

The imbalanced use of Qi is the cause of breakdown in the body–it is not the “inevitable” process of aging. When we take care of our bodies and ensure they have the proper energy, we use daily Qi rather than constitutional Qi. This is the key to living a long and healthy life.

HOW DOES CHINESE MEDICINE WORK?

Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. Drawing on all the combined knowledge and wisdom accumulated over that time, practitioners have learned how to read the signals of the body for each energy system (shown in the pulse, the tongue, palpation of channels, questions, etc) to determine whether daily Qi or constitutional Qi is being used and their impact on overall health. Treatment is a custom blend of acupuncture, herbs, and suggested lifestyle changes in order to restore both types of Qi to the body and improve overall health.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM MY “REGULAR” [ALLOPATHIC] DOCTOR?

Chinese medicine was designed thousands of years ago around the living active body–those of soldiers, farmers, masters of martial arts, and families.

Chinese medicine is true battlefield medicine; medicine for the living active body.

It focuses on the flow of energy and how that energy manifests in the physical body. In contrast, “western medicine” was developed primarily around the study of cadavers and laboratory animals and looks at treating symptoms.

AN ANALOGY OF CHINESE MEDICINE

Think of a car.

A mechanic, through diagnostic testing, isolates the problem, and then fixes it, perhaps replacing certain parts to keep the car functional. This is akin to the relationship western medicine has with the body, seeing it as a set of isolated components.

To continue the analogy: No matter how talented a mechanic, a car will never run without oil and gas. If you run out of gas, your car stops. If you run out of oil, you can damage major components of the car, forcing an emergency replacement of parts. In Chinese medicine, bodily health is seen more like car maintenance–regular oil changes, tune ups, and filling up with gas (where blood and Qi are the “oil” and “gas” of our bodies) is what keeps things going.