Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical tradition, believed to date back to around 200BC. The earliest written reference to acupuncture is in the Yellow Emperor’s book of medicine, the Nei Jing.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into different parts of the body. These are believed to influence the Qi, or ‘life force’, that runs through invisible channels throughout the body. Acupuncturists must place the needles into specific points, known as acupoints. The acupoints are thought to form patterns in the body like constellations in the night sky.
Drawing on classical Taoist philosophy, acupuncturists believe that illness is caused when the body’s yin and yang elements become imbalanced. The word Yin refers to material substance, while the word Yang signifies formless energy. According to acupuncturists, the body should create a natural balance between both yin and yang, but if an imbalance does occur, acupuncture can help to re-work the balance.
Does Acupuncture really work?
Yes. In the past 4,500 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the former Soviet Union, and in Europe. It is now being used more and more in modern society.
Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time that other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions.
Does the patient have to believe in acupuncture for it to really work?
No. Acupuncture has been used to successfully treat cats, dogs, horses and other animals in a number of well-documented veterinary acupuncture studies. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better.
The classical Chinese explanation is that there are channels of energy (qi or ch’i) that form regular patterns throughout the body. These energy channels, called “meridians,” are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others. Needling or otherwise stimulating the acupuncture points can influence the meridians. The needles help unblock the obstructions and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. By harmonizing the flow of energy in the meridians, acupuncture can help correct imbalances in many of the body’s systems, including the internal organs.
Gallery of Ancient Chinese Acupuncture Charts:
How Acupuncture Works on the Brain
Acupuncture stimulates points on the body that send bioelectric signals to the brain. This is known as the cortical model for understanding the function of acupuncture. The electrical properties of acupuncture points are measurable with electrical metering devices and the corresponding changes to brain function are measurable with two types of MRIs (PET scans, fMRIs).
Signals at the acupuncture points are known to create specific bodily reactions. Using this knowledge, an acupuncturist can stimulate the endocrine system (the body’s biochemical production system) to produce substances to address a wide variety of conditions. For example, some points create reactions that prevent certain types of parasites and viruses from reproducing. Other points stimulate endorphins to create an analgesic effect while also stimulating other bodily chemicals to engage wound healing. This is one of the ways an acupuncturist stimulates the process of nerve and tissue repair.
Take a look at the image above. The chief radiologist at the University of California, Irvine measured the effects of several points. This MRI image is of the brain upon stimulation of point SJ5 that has known to benefit hearing for over a thousand years. SJ5 is located near the wrist. The image compares the brain’s reaction to sound with the brain’s reaction to the stimulation of SJ5. As shown in the image, the reactions are strikingly similar. This experiment has been repeated at many other points and shows that acupuncture points engage the brain’s response systems to engage in specific healing processes.