According to the NIH “Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body via the insertion of thin metal needles through the skin. At least 3 million adults nationwide use acupuncture every year.
Acupuncture is a component of the health care system of China that can be traced back for at least 2,500 years. There are both modern and traditional explanations for how acupuncture works. Let’s first consider the traditional explanation according to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
In TCM theory, there are many pathways or channels (sometimes called meridians) of energy that run through the body. The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health. The sustaining life force or energy that runs through them is known as Qi (pronounced “Chee”). The channels exist synergistically, each of them contributing to the health and vitality of the others as well as the whole body’s function.
Acupuncture points are found along these channels (or meridians) and are gateways for regulation. Disease comes from an imbalance that leads to a blockage or disruption in the flow of qi—the vital energy or life force thought to regulate your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.
Each channel connects with the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, bones, and internal organs and glands. For instance, the Small Intestine channel starts in your pinkie finger and flows through your arm, shoulder, neck, and into your inner ear. It affects these muscles ( supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and major, levator scapula) and flows through the internal pathways which affects your ears, eyes, neck, heart and digestive system. All the channels affect different parts of the body but they are all connected to each other.
Consider that allopathic medicine uses EEG and EKG (ECG) tests. In the simplest of terms, ECGs and EKGs are used to measure electrical activity and collect data on the health of your heart while an EEG is a test that detects abnormalities in the electrical activity of your brain.
Channel energy (Qi), likewise, is a measurable phenomena. This Qi can be blocked or deficient. Acupuncture helps restore the balance and function correcting for imbalances in the flow of energy. Treating for these imbalances allows your body to heal and thrive naturally leading to a decrease in symptoms and improved health and well being. Acupuncture is intended to remove blockages in the flow of Qi and restore and maintain health.
“Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects.”
Modern approaches to acupuncture and its beneficial effects are described under Orthopedic Acupuncture.