How does acupuncture work? According to traditional Chinese medicine (or TCM), the human body is comprised of five organ networks – heart, spleen, kidney, lung and liver. The heart network maintains blood circulation and governs the mind and spirit. The spleen system is responsible for digestion and clarity of thought. The kidney network controls growth and reproduction. The lung system allows for ventilation of oxygen and transports life force energy, or qi. The liver network dictates mood and directs the flow of qi.
There are 12 main meridians through which qi flows. These meridians correspond to the major internal organs of the body. In each of these meridians, the qi can become stagnant or deficient. Stagnant means there is a blockage or excess of energy, while deficiency means there isn’t enough functional energy within a given organ to perform its necessary duties.
With this understanding of the TCM model of the body, we can better understand the healing process. Health is seen as harmony between inner forces in the body. These forces, Yin and Yang, are central concepts in Eastern thought. They are two opposing but complementary aspects, symbolizing the cyclic, ever-changing nature of the universe. In the body, Yin and Yang are manifested as blood and life force energy, or qi, respectively.
When Yin and Yang are unbalanced, the qi, or life force energy, is stagnant. The result is illness and pain. Acupuncture is the art of inserting very thin needles into key energy channels along the body. The needles release the blocked qi, activating its circulation. This restores the Yin and Yang balance and eliminates the source of the problem.
What can acupuncture treat? Acupuncture can treat everything from infertility to back pain to the side effects of chemotherapy. It is not directed towards a particular disease or condition. It works by activating the body’s self-healing ability, allowing the body to heal itself. Acupuncture is not only an effective treatment for a diverse range of conditions, it’s also an excellent way to prevent illness and maintain health and wellness.
How many treatments will it take to get better? Most people should see some sort of change within the first twenty-four hours following their first treatment. The change may be small, but noticeable nonetheless. If no change is seen, the acupuncturist may need to make a change to the needle pattern. Honest communication and patience are very important, expressed both by the patient and the acupuncturist.
The number of treatments needed to get better will vary from person to person. Some of the deciding factors are the nature and severity of each person’s complaint, as well as the general health of the individual. Two treatments per week are usually recommended as a starting point. After that, the frequency of treatments is up to the recommendation of the acupuncturist and the comfort level of the patient. Remember, keeping appointments is absolutely critical to the success of the treatments. Every appointment builds off the one previous to it.
Do the needles hurt? Contrary to a popular association with needles and getting shots or giving blood, acupuncture needles do not hurt and should not be met with fear. The needles are very fine, thinner than a human hair. There should be very little or no discomfort with needle insertion. Although there are times when the initial insertion will be felt by the patient, there is never an occasion where the patient should be in pain for the duration of the treatment.
Acupuncture should be a calming, relaxing experience. Some of the positive sensations the patient will feel are tingling, a feeling of numbness or heaviness in different parts of the body and a general sense of well-being. Most people even fall asleep during treatment!
Why should I try acupuncture? Acupuncture offers a proven, safe alternative to traditional Western treatment. Most patients want to eliminate their dependency on medication or avoid more drastic solutions to long-time issues. Some patients are just tired of dealing with illnesses or symptoms they have had all their lives and want to do something about it or they want to make sure they maintain their health into the future.
Having originated in China more than 3000 years ago, acupuncture is a very well-established medical system that is practiced worldwide. Since its introduction in the United States in the early 1970s, it has seen exponential growth throughout the country. Best known in the United States for pain relief, acupuncture is recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective means to treat hundreds of conditions. Through the skilled application of a trained acupuncturist, balance can be brought to the body, mind and soul bringing health and harmony to most patients.