There are several different treatment modalities within Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture is just one of them. Chinese medicine also provides healing through herbs, muscle manipulation called Tui Na, diet and nutrition, and breathing and exercise with practices such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi.
What is Acupuncture by itself?
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific points along channels just under the skin to balance the flow of energy, or qi, through these channels. There are over a thousand known acupuncture points on the body. The connections between the acupuncture points ensure that there is an even circulation of qi, a balance between Yin and Yang. When illness or disease occurs, it points to an imbalance between Yin and Yang. Acupuncture needles access acupuncture points to help guide qi to areas where qi is insufficient and disperses qi away from areas where qi is stagnant, thus re-balancing the body’s natural Qi.
Acupuncture is more than just needles
“Qi” is roughly pronounced “chee”, and is the Chinese name for a concept that exists not only in Chinese medicine, but in other types of eastern whole medicine systems as well. Qi is what makes up our body’s fundamental consitution. We are born with a basic, inherited qi that forms and grows in our body. This energy can never be replaced or restored, however, it is possible to conserve it. The other type of qi is energy we acquire from outside that affects our constitution, which includes the food we eat and the air we breathe. This is why the traditional Chinese medicine system includes attention to breathing and movement techniques like Qi Gong and Tai Chi, a focus on viewing food as integral to our health, and sometimes uses food as medicine to heal the body and restore the systems back into balance.
Whereas a Western medical practitioner might apply a diagnosis of depression, for example, an acupuncturist’s first diagnosis comes from a different perspective. An apuncturist will always take into account fully a Western medical diagnosis, but when considering symptoms of, for example, fatigue, insomnia and a lack of appetite in a patient, these might coincide also with the patient’s heat and cold patterns, the way her pulse moves, the appearance of the tongue, and what the patient eats as well as her emotional states. An acupuncturist might make a diagnosis, for instance, of “Qi Deficiency,” and devise a treatment plan to include focus on strengthening the patient’s consitutional “kidney qi.”
The Yellow Emporer’s Classic of Internal Medicine dates back almost 5,000 years, and is considered to be one of the oldest texts pertaining to medicine in the world. It contains theories on the mechanics of the heart and circulation that pre-date any conception of them in European medicinal practice. As an interest grows in Western culture in whole medicine systems that treat the body, mind and spirit together, it is important that research is being done to coincide the findings and practices of Western/ conventional medicine systems with the ancient working knowledge of Eastern medicine. Over the past three decades, electromagnetic research has confirmed the existence and location of many acupuncture points. It is clearly to our advantage that more research continues to be done to prove the effectiveness of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine within the Western scientific paradigm.