What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an effective form of medical treatment that is just one part of a larger system of holistic care known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Practitioners trained in this art have been using this non-invasive treatment method to help people get well and stay well for thousands of years.
Acupuncture helps an individual’s body heal itself naturally. It can enhance recuperative power and immunity, support physical and emotional health, improve the overall function of the body, and foster an innate sense of well being. It is safe, painless, and effective in treating a wide variety of medical problems.
The needles that are used are small and flexible, about the size of a cat’s whisker, and are single-use disposable. Many people barely feel the needles and the insertion and manipulation of the needles themselves is a skill that acupuncturists devote much time to.
After performing an intake and diagnostic evaluation, an acupuncturist can determine where your specific imbalance of vital energy is, and choose acupuncture points that will bring balance back to the body. (see What to Expect) Sometimes we need to remove an obstruction along the energetic pathways of the body, and other times certain pathways need to be infused with more energy. After the appropriate techniques are applied, the energy can circulate throughout the body providing adequte nourishment to cells, organs, glands, tissues and muscles. This can eliminate pain, restore balance and harmony, and allow the body to heal itself, leading to an amazing feeling of health and well-being.
Traditional Eastern Explanation of Acupuncture
At the core of the Oriental philosophy around acupuncture is a concept called ‘Qi.’ Qi is the vital energy that animates and protects our body from pain and disease. A person’s health is determined by the quantity and the quality of this energy.
Qi flows through specific meridians in the body; of which there are fourteen. These meridians interconnect with each other and the major organs and glands in the body. Much like the way a river brings water to the plants, this energy and its pathways brings nourishment and life to every cell, organ, gland, tissue and muscle that we have.
When this free flow of energy is disrupted, much like in the real world, the flow backs up into other parts of the body. The blockage and obstuction of Qi can be detrimental to a person’s health because it cuts off the nourishment to a person’s cells, organs, and tissues. We can also see this in a limited range of motion in a persons joints and the pain that comes from pushing an injury too far or too much. There just is not sufficient Qi for everything to operate well.
Physical trauma, stress, lack of exercise and movement, changes in the season, inadequet nutrition, accidents, or excessive activity are just a few of the things that can influence the quantity and quality of our vital energy.
Once these imbalances are determined, an acupuncturist can choose points that will supplement the patient’s energy, clear blockages that impede free flow, soften tight muscles, and restore normal movement so that the body is better equipped to heal itself.
Current Western Medical Theories On Acupuncture
1. Neurotransmitter Theory: Acupuncture effects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of these neurotransmitters influences the immune system and the antinociceptive receptor system.
2. Autonomic Nervous System Theory: Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and several other types of opiods, effecting changes in their re-uptake, normalizing the Autonomic Nervous System and reducing pain.
3. Vascular-interstitial Theory: Acupuncture effects the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circut transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by enhancing cellular communication and the material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues.
4. Blood Chemistry Theory: Acupuncture affects the blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids, suggesting that acupuncture can both raise and diminish peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body toward homeostasis.
5. Gate Control Theory: Acupuncture activates non-nociceptive receptors that inhibit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn and ‘gating out’ painful nerve responses.