The traditions and techniques of acupuncture date back to the early fourth century and much the same philosophies and practices continue today. Acupuncture is based on the following major concepts:
In Western terms, there are three main goals of acupuncture:
The acupuncturist aims to find out where the flow of qi is blocked. There are several different techniques for doing this, some of them incredibly sophisticated, such as the use of electronic diagnostic tools in the Ryodoraku and similar methods. Traditionally though, the following techniques have served acupuncturists for centuries in diagnosing where the flow of qi has become impeded in some way:
There is still a great deal of ignorance about acupuncture in the West and often the people who could benefit most are the ones who know least about its therapeutic effects. The best way often to introduce acupuncture is to talk about your own experiences and explain how it has helped you. There is no need to get technical – simple descriptive explanations are the most effective, particular if you explain the difference in how you felt before and after your acupuncture treatment.
Let your friend know that acupuncture is about restoring a sense of balance, harmony and well being so that you can live and enjoy life to the fullest. Word of mouth recommendations like this are what bring most of our clients to our Best of Chinese Medicine clinic.
Meridians or channels are the invisible paths along which qi – our vital life energy – flows. The existence of the meridians was realized many thousands of years ago by ancient Chinese doctors who discovered that there are 12 meridians symmetrically arranged on the right and left sides of the body and another two that flow up the center front and center back, along the spine. Modern acupuncturists also recognize the existence of numerous secondary meridians that interconnect between these principal 14.
The role of the meridians is to transport qi to every body cell in order to maintain balance and harmony between all these mutually dependent and interacting parts. After millennia of trial and error, and astute and painstaking observation, the ancient Chinese sages were able to map the general position of the meridians and to pinpoint the vast number of different points where qi can be stimulated so that blockages are removed and it can flow smoothly again.
The absence of qi is death so qi is often translated as vital life force, energy, essential life energy, etc. One way to understand the qi concept is to think of it as both an intrinsic part of each individual organ and cell, and at the same time as a separate force, linking everything together so that the system as a whole can function. But just as the organs and body systems need qi to be able to function, so qi needs the organs and function in order to exist. So physical form and being and life energy are intimately interrelated and mutually dependent – without one there can be no other.
Good health is dependent on the smooth flow of qi between all body systems and organs – muscles, skeleton, glands, digestive tract, lungs and heart, urinary tract and kidneys, nervous system, reproductive organs, within the blood and lymph, etc – no part is left out or untouched by qi. When we feel healthy and have a sense of well being it is because qi is flowing smoothly along all the meridians interconnecting the body parts and systems and promoting harmony and balance in the entire organism.
When we feel unwell it is because qi is not able to flow smoothly and the body is out of balance. The practice of acupuncture aims to unblock the points where qi is impeded or misdirected so that it can flow normally again, and so the body will be able to self heal.
The concept of yin and yang is still quite foreign to Western schools of thought but it is a basic premise in Oriental philosophies. Luckily, this in no way affects the ability of acupuncture or other forms of traditional Chinese healing to work their magic. However, understanding the Chinese school of thought is an enlightening experience and will help you further benefit from your therapy.
According to Chinese culture and philosophy, everything in the universe has both positive (yang) and negative (yin) influences. Yin can be summed up as dark, yang as light; or yin as night, yang as day, etc. Like qi, yin and yang cannot be seen and are constantly in motion. So everything is always a little yin or a little yang, never totally one or the other – they oppose and balance each other within every element of our universe.
The yin and yang concept is a fundamental concept of Chinese medicine and the familiar symbol is an excellent image of the never-ending balancing act that is constantly taking place within our bodily systems and organs, right down to the tiniest cell level and even within qi itself.
In Chinese medicine, well being and good health can only exist when yin and yang are in harmony and balanced throughout our being, both physically and mentally.
The first mentions of acupuncture in the West were in the early 1970s after USA president Richard Nixon visited China and our newspapers started to write about miracle cures and healing arts that were virtually unknown in our society.
These reports wrote that Chinese surgeons inserted needles into specific points in their patients; bodies in order to block pain, and that their patients were able to remain conscious throughout their procedures without experiencing any discomfort. Other reports discussed the numerous human illnesses and diseases that acupuncture appeared to have cured.
This appealed to the Americans and so acupuncture caught on and its popularity has been steadily growing ever since, even more so as Western science started to investigate for itself and is finding that much of acupuncture claims it can do is backed up by rigorous scientific evidence.
An estimated 15 million Americans try acupuncture for the first time every year and find out for themselves that it can be truly helpful and healing.
Contact us with questions or to schedule an appointment.