How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture is an ancient healing art and is one of the primary modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine. People in the western world have long recognized that acupuncture has been successfully practiced in Asia for thousands of years. The theory of acupuncture is based on the idea that the human body contains energetic pathways called channels or meridians through which life force circulates. The Chinese call this life force “Qi” (pronounced chi). The meridians run along the same pathways as the circulatory and organ systems, evenly distributing Qi flow through the body to maintain normal, healthy functions. However, if the energy flow becomes congested or diminished in any region of the body, a state of imbalance will occur, creating an environment for ailments to manifest.
Acupuncture uses hair-thin needles that are inserted into specific points of the body. These needles are stimulated to facilitate Qi flow and unblock congested channels, thus reconnect the meridians. As a result of the needling stimulation, endorphins and other body chemicals are released, promoting the normal healing process and a deep sense of relaxation. This process will bring the body back to a state of homeostasis and health.
In recent years, PET scans have been used to visibly see the effects of acupuncture during treatment. When a person is hooked up to a PET scan, areas of the body that are healthy appear as bright yellow, orange or red in color; in contrast, areas of the body where stagnation, ailments, and blockages are present appear to be void of color or dark blue. Upon receiving an acupuncture treatment, we are immediately able to see, on screen, the hue shift from no color or blue, to a bright yellow, orange, or red; thus indicating that the free flow of Qi is once again becoming balanced.
Today, acupuncture is a widely accepted alternative to conventional health care, and many people use it for pain relief. However, the benefits of acupuncture extend far beyond pain management.
The beauty of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that acupuncture and herbal medicine therapies are catered to the individual. The treatment of a disease will vary with each person, place, time, pathogenesis, and type of disease, and the treatment will be tailored accordingly. We call this “treating the same disease with different methods.” For example, the common cold can be treated a variety of ways using different acupuncture points and herbal formulas. Each person’s unique physical constitution, mental state, daily activity, dietary intake, etc., varies, thus the diagnosis and treatment plan will reflect this individualization. The treatment can also change depending on the seasons. This is mainly due to the fact that weather plays an important role in how disease manifests. Migraine headaches are yet another example of an illness that can be caused by several factors, thus the treatment will utilize different channels, points, acupuncture techniques, and herbal formulas.
Conversely, a principle for treatment in which the same therapy is applied to treat different diseases with the same pathogenesis, is called “treating different diseases with the same therapy”. For instance, rectum prolapse, diarrhoea, and uterine prolapse, can all be treated by the therapy of nourishing the middle warmer and enhancing the vital energy. We emphasise more on the individual’s root of pathogenesis regardless of the Western name of the disease or the symptoms.
Lastly, practitioners have their own unique quality of care and energetic sensibility to a patient’s presenting illness. You may find that if you see several acupuncturists for the same illness, each one will approach your treatment differently, and you will also experience varying results. It is important to find an acupuncturist who is able to understand you, as well as well trained and experienced. If you have a difficult desease, your acupuncturist should do research on your condition and learn form other acupuncturists’ experience and reports. Once you find the right doctor, trust and communication are key to creating an optimal healing environment.
Treating the whole body (holistic point of view)
In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the practitioner looks at the entire body instead of at its parts, and to a larger extent, also views the body in accordance with the natural world. For example, a chronic low back muscle strain that causes pain is not only due to weakness of the local muscles, but can be attributed to congested energy flow in the kidney channel, large intestine channel, or even urinary bladder channel.
Also, one must look at the emotional state of the person to evaluate the roll of too much tension and stress in the muscles, the type of activity the person has, and other factors which may be influencing the flow of energy in that area. If the meridian energy flows properly, an increase in blood flow will have a positive impact on the low back region. When Qi and blood circulation are optimal, there is less chance of injury or strain to the muscles and tendons.
Therefore, analytical thinking is required in understanding and treating each disease: that is, regarding the viscera and other organs and tissues, activity, and emotional state as an integrative whole. At AcuBalance Center, all this information is being considered for your treatments, and when appropriate, you will be receiving recommendations from your practitioner that will help you to recuperate your health faster.
Minimal side effects
Acupuncture treatment is very gentle with almost no side effects and helps to balance the Qi, blood, and body fluids. The effect of the treatment depends on the current stage of illness, the acupuncture technique, and the combination of points chosen. Occasionally, you may feel soreness or tenderness in the area treated, or you may have a bruise from a small vessel being punctured unintentionally. Sometimes you may have strange sensations due to the Qi being moved around the meridians. However, this is the body’s natural healing process taking effect, and the sensations will reside soon.
Long lasting results
The acupuncture treatment stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanism to speed up recovery. Therefore, the results can take longer than Western medication, as the effects are an increment to the body’s own natural processes. Once the acupuncture takes effect, the results are typically long-term and in some cases, without relapse, because the body’s homeostasis mechanism is restored. Some studies show that after 12 regular consecutive treatments, the results remain more stable. This is why you should finish the recommended treatment course, even when you may feel better or when the pain has gone away.
Acupuncture treatment is health care instead of disease care. The first book of Traditional Chinese Medicine called The Yellow Emperor Internal Classic states:
“…the best doctor helps you prevent disease not only treat the disease…”
Most people believe that if you do not have any disease, then you are healthy. This is not true. Everyone, at one time or an other, has experienced a feeling of being more vulnerable to invading pathogens and has a hard time fighting off illness, but at other times, feels fine.
Even though you may be feeling healthy now, a majority of people have some form of weakness (imbalance) in a certain area due to their genetic constitution.
Acupuncture can help you repair this weaknesses to prevent any illness or imbalance in the future. Regularly checking your energy flow is the best way to prevent sickness and keep you physically and mentally balanced.
Expectations of Acupuncture
• It supports your self-healing system. You can expect to feel better after your treatments. – If after a reasonable amount of treatments you do not feel any improvement, talk to your acupuncturist. a) It may be that acupuncture is not for you, b) that you have reached a plateau in your therapy and need to change direction, or c) that you need a different acupuncturist or treatment modality.
• Do not look for miracles. Healing takes time depending on your own level of energy and your condition.
• All situations are unique. You may have had a similar symptom in the past and received relief after one or two treatments, but this may not be the case the second time around because your condition and energy level may be different.
Source: Traditional Chinese Medicine Healing Center (some modifications have been done to clarify or expand some of the concepts).