Although it is only recently getting attention in the United States, acupuncture is actually one of the oldest known systems of medicine in the world.
In fact, to this day, more people are treated with acupuncture than any other medical system... Including pharmaceuticals.
So how does Acupuncture work?
The theory can be broken down into a couple of basic, easy to understand concepts:
1. You were born with a certain amount of energy. Think of this as your genetic material.
2. Every day you bring more energy into your body in the form of air, food, and drink.
3. All of this energy (the genetic, the air, the food and the drink) gets mingled together and is distributed to every part of your body.
4. That energy does not travel randomly. It follows a prescribed course to make sure that every body part gets the energy it needs to function.
5. Scholars throughout history have broken this course of energy down into different segments, called meridians.
6. Along these meridians there are specific points where energy tends to collect. These are the points an acupuncturist uses.
7. Inserting fine needles into these points will have various effects on the energy as it travels through the meridians.
A quick word on "energy":
The truth is I cringe a little every time I have to type that word. It instantly make me sound like a ponytailed wanna-be guru, and I'm not one (Actually, I wish I still had enough hair to rock the ponytail, but that ship sailed loooong ago).
The Chinese, who invented acupuncture, used the word qi. It's pronounced, "chee." Qi is an interesting word, and there isn't really an English equivalent. We use the word "energy" because it has the most in common with qi. Whatever you call it, the point is that it's in every living thing, and it can change forms very quickly. It is also NOT supernatural. In fact, acupuncture only works because qi/energy is perfectly natural, and it's actions can be predicted.
Seeing "dis-ease" in an acupuncture way
Ultimately, all diseases and disorders can be traced back to this energy (or qi) of the body. There is a certain way energy is intended to move. When it doesn't, the body is sick or in pain.
This isn't just mumbo jumbo:
When you eat (take energy into the body), the food is chewed by your teeth and broken down by enzymes in your saliva until it is ready to be pushed down into the stomach. The stomach is basically a bag filled with acid.
When food enters the stomach, the acid breaks the food down further into a soupy liquid that can be passed into your intestines.
The intestines are a long, continuous tube running from the stomach to the anus. As the soupy liquid makes it's way through the intestine, all of the usable nutrients and water are taken out, until you are left with the waste, which you excrete (ahem. Poop. Let's just say it).
As you can see, the energy is following a prescribed course. For the most part it is going down (the stomach is below the mouth, the intestines are below the stomach), but there is also a long while in the intestines where the food (energy) has to go every which way through that wormy-looking tube.
And what happens if the energy goes the wrong way?
Well, either the food goes up out of your mouth (vomiting), or your stomach acid comes up into the throat (acid reflux), or the soupy liquid doesn't go through the intestines easily (diverticulosis), or waste doesn't pass out of the intestine (constipation)... I think you see the point. There is a certain way energy is supposed to move. When it doesn't, pain or illness occur.
So why needles? How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture needles are teeny tiny bits of stainless steel, about the width of a human hair. Steel, like all metals, is a conductor of energy. By placing the needle in the correct spot, our highly skilled acupuncturists can tap into the energy of the body and subtly manipulate it until it moves in the proper direction.
And that's the basic principle of acupuncture. Of course, there is a lot more to it than this - subscribe to the City Acupuncture blog to keep informed!
We here at City Acupuncture have made it our mission to bring acupuncture to the American mainstream. One of the primary ways we have done this is by lowering the cost. Another way is by explaining how it works to anyone who will listen, because we know that the key to making people more comfortable with acupuncture is in making the medicine less exotic and strange.
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