What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one piece of a complete medical system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which dates back over 3,000 years. Acupuncture is the insertion and manipulation of sterile, single-use, flexible, hair-thin needles at specific points along energetic pathways of the body called meridians. This is done to improve physiological function and promote the innate healing ability of your body.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body's vital energy (qi) flows in a regular pattern, along energetic pathways known as meridians, that are similar to the blood vessels that carry nutrients to all parts of the body. Qi, similar to blood, nourishes all systems of the body and mind and promotes optimal communication among the organs and body systems.
Traditional Chinese Medical theory is a holistic model, where nothing is seen in isolation, but in functional relativity to the whole. Disease is treated by treating the root of the problem, or the origin of disharmony, and by doing so restores health to the person as a whole.
In a healthy person, all systems of the body and mind work together to function smoothly and there are no symptoms of illness or discomfort. Pain and illness arise out of imbalances or blockages within the system. A blockage is like a boulder in a stream; prior to the boulder being there, water flowed smoothly. Once a boulder blocks or impedes the flow of water it is altered and can be stopped, creating stagnant pools or an altered flow of water. It is the same in our bodies, when the flow of energy is blocked or altered, stagnation, pain occur and nutrients may not reach parts of the body they are needed. I like to tell my patients that in Oriental Medicine, we move boulders!
There are many ways that the body can have an imbalance created as a result of the various physical and mental stresses of daily life such as trauma, overwork, inadequate rest, improper diet, environmental pollution, bacteria, viruses, and excess emotional stress and worry. Acupuncture addresses this by stimulating different points on the body to restore the smooth flow of qi, (or water for those who like the analogy).
From a western standpoint, acupuncture points stimulate the nervous system to release endorphins and other chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals can change the experience of pain, will trigger the release of hormones which then influence the body's own internal regulating system. Ultimately acupuncture stimulates the body to return to a state of homeostasis and promotes the body's ability to heal itself.