What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture - one of the principle therapies used in Chinese Medicine - involves the insertion of hair-thin needles (at an average depth of ¼ to ½ inch) into specific points along energy-channels called “meridians.” The insertion of the acupuncture needles at these specific points supports a balanced flow of qi (life-force energy) through the meridians. When the qi is flowing in this balanced way, the bodymind is able to regain, maintain and improve its health and vitality.
According to Chinese Medicine, it is a blockage or imbalance in the flow of qi that is the root cause of dis-ease. When the qi associated with a particular organ system is in a condition of excess, deficiency or stagnation, negative emotional states such as fear, anxiety, anger, sadness or worry tend to manifest. If left unresolved, this imbalanced emotional energy will begin to produce physical symptoms. Similarly, if one of the five shen (spirits) of the organs is disturbed, the energetic imbalance produced by this disturbance will also, in time, manifest as physical dis-ease.
By affecting the flow of qi through the meridian system in specific ways, acupuncture is able to resolve spiritual and emotional imbalances before they manifest as physical dis-ease. For an acupuncturist, this is considered to be the highest form of practice: to detect imbalance at these more subtle levels, before they become physical diseases. If the disease process has already made its way into the physical body, acupuncture is able to alleviate its symptoms by resolving the energetic imbalances that are its root cause.
What Does It Feel Like?
Acupuncture needles have very little resemblance to hypodermic needles, i.e. the kind used to draw blood. While acupuncture needles do come in a variety of lengths and gauges, in general they are hair-thin and – for most people – relatively painless upon insertion. There may be a slight pricking sensation (similar to a mosquito bite) as the needle is inserted. The sensation of qi gathering or being dispersed at the acupuncture point is often experienced as a feeling of heaviness, or warmth, or fullness. If you’re sensitive to energy-flow, you may also feel a tingling sensation along the course of the associated meridian. Japanese-style needle technique tends to be even more gentle, or subtle, than Chinese-style needle technique.
Local And Distal Points
An acupuncture treatment will typically consist of points located at or near to the affected area of the body (called “local points”) in addition to points located in parts of the body completely separated from the affected area (called “distal points”). Oftentimes, it is the distal points which are the most important part of the treatment. Why is this? Because the most powerful acupuncture points on the majority of the meridians are located at the end of the meridians – between the toes and the knees, and between the fingers and the elbows. (For instance: Yuan Source Points, Luo Connecting Points and Xi Cleft Points.) To treat a stomach-ache, for example, an acupuncturist might choose a couple of points along the midline of the abdomen (in the general area of the stomach) in addition to points along the outer or inner lower leg, foot or toes – since the Spleen and Stomach meridians travel down the inner and outer legs, respectively.