Information About Acupuncture
- What is Acupuncture?
- How does Acupuncture work?
- Acupuncture and Modern Science
- Related Links
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture, part of the holistic system of healing known as Traditional Chinese Medicine ("TCM"), originated in China over 3,000 years ago. It is the gentle insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body. This process stimulates movement of energy within the body, allowing natural healing to take place.
Acupuncture helps to prevent illness by improving the overall functioning of the body's immune and organ systems. It is helpful for:
- Treating existing illnesses and injuries.
- Preventing both recurrence of illnesses and new illness.
- Improving overall health.
How does Acupuncture work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory
The Classical Chinese explanation is that energy (Qi) flows in channels (meridians) throughout the body and over its surfaces. These channels are rivers of energy which are referred to as meridians. The Chinese have identified 71 meridians in the human body, which is a basic energy map for all people. The meridians are often compared to a series of interconnected highways. Each of the major organs in the body is associated with its own meridian. Through the network of meridians the internal organs are connected to certain areas and parts of the body including the muscles, bones, joints, and also other organs.
The Chinese believe that health is a manifestation of balance, both within the body itself and between the body and the external environment. When the body is internally balanced and in harmony with the external environment, Qi flows smoothly through the meridians to nourish the organs and tissues. If an obstruction occurs in one of the meridians, the Qi is disrupted and cannot flow properly. When the Qi cannot flow smoothly or is forced to flow in the opposite direction, the body's innate balance is disrupted and illness results.
Acupuncture points are the specific points on the meridians where the Qi is both concentrated and accessible. Acupuncture engages the Qi by inserting needles at these specific points, the goal being to restore the proper flow of Qi. As the body regains its natural balance, well-being returns.
Acupuncture and Modern Science
To the human body, acupuncture needles are a physical stimulus. In Western science, a stimulus is defined as a detectable change in either the external environment or within the body itself. When the body detects change, it produces a response. Although acupuncture is not yet fully understood by Western science, there is increasing interest in its outcomes and benefits. More resources are being invested in studying the clinical outcomes and mechanisms of action in acupuncture. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has funded rigorous studies showing the effectiveness of acupuncture for conditions such as:
- chronic low back pain
- knee arthritis
- post-traumatic stress disorder, and
In the West, acupuncture is most well-known for its ability to relieve pain, so the majority of research thus far has been done in this area. Through the use of functional MRI technology, scientists can now actually begin to "see" the brain response to acupuncture when a needle is inserted at a specific acupuncture point on the body. Current research is being conducted to better understand how acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), effects pain and mood-enhancing hormones, and influences the self-regulating systems of the body.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Chronic low back pain
- Knee arthritis
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Foundation for Research into Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Society for Acupuncture Research
- Peoples Organization of Community Acupuncture
- Integrative Therapies of La Crosse
- Hugh MacPherson Acupuncture and Research
- Samueli Institute
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine have been around for thousands of years, providing us with a unique and holistic approach to help prevent and treat disease. Western biomedical science and Traditional Chinese Medicine both ultimately rely on the body's natural healing ability to maintain health and protect against disease. Both have the same goal of helping a person stay healthy.