When it comes to acupuncture, many folks think of some mysterious Eastern medicine that involves needles in various places on the body. While this is partially true–it does originate in Ancient China–this Eastern medical practice follows precise philosophies and methodologies to correct imbalances, treat diseases, and prevent illnesses within the body.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
An acupuncturist is highly trained in the movement of Qi (pronounced as "chee"). This refers to a type of energy that naturally flows throughout the human body along specific meridians, or channels. If Qi becomes blocked or highly concentrated in one area or one meridian, perhaps due to stress, injury, or poor nutrition, then this imbalance can cause troublesome symptoms and illness.
The goal of acupuncture therapy is to restore the free flow of Qi through the meridians. This is accomplished by carefully stimulating certain points along these meridians or along paths that correct two meridians. Since particular points offer access to various organ systems, the acupuncturist must provide the correct amount and type of stimulation to the correct point(s) in order to bring about the desired effect. While needles are most often used, this tool may be combined with tiny amounts of electrical stimulation or heat application for optimal results.
When Qi flows more smoothly within the body, it dissipates areas of overly-concentrated energies, such as heat or dampness, and relieves deficiencies in other areas.
Some acupuncturists and scientists believe that this method may also stimulate nerves and muscle tissue, thus causing beneficial effects.
How Do We Know Acupuncture Works?
This technique has formed a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine for over 4,000 years. During this time, skilled acupuncture practitioners have honed this practice based on experience and passed on this knowledge to newer generations. Common sense would suggest that if this method didn't work, then it would have been discontinued long ago.
On a more objective scale, scientific studies are currently being conducted to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating certain diseases. Thus far, existing scientific evidence indicates that acupuncture can successfully treat conditions such as back pain, migraines, post-operative nausea and more.
What Else Should I Know about Choosing Acupuncture?
When selecting an acupuncturist, look for a fully qualified practitioner who follows high safety and hygiene standards.
Acupuncture-Points.org (2012). Wondering Just How Does Acupuncture Work?
United Kingdom National Health Service (2012). Acupuncture.
Community Acupuncture Works (2013). About Chinese Medicine.