The theory and practice of acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (also known as Oriental medicine), a comprehensive natural health care system that has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years to preserve health and diagnose, treat and prevent illness. Acupuncture treats health conditions by stimulating “acu-points” found at specific locations on the surface of the body. Acupuncturists stimulate the acu-points by inserting very thin needles through the skin to produce physiological effects. Other methods are also used to stimulate acu-points, such as heat or finger-pressure.
The general theory of acupuncture is that proper physiological function and health depend on the circulation of nutrients, substances and energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”) through a network of “channels” or “meridians.” This network connects every organ and part of the body, providing balance, regulation and coordination of physiological processes. Pain and ill-health result when the flow of Qi through the body is disrupted or blocked by many things, including disease, pathogens, trauma/injuries and medication (side-effects), as well as lifestyle factors such as overwork, poor diet, emotions, lack of rest and stress. Stimulation of the appropriate acu-points through acupuncture treatments helps to restore sufficient, continuous and even flow of Qi and other nutrients throughout the body, thereby restoring health and balance to the body, while relieving pain and other symptoms.
The acupuncturist uses a sophisticated and complex system of diagnostic methods that take into consideration the person as a whole, discerning the body’s pattern of disharmony rather than isolated symptoms. The aim is not only to eliminate or alleviate symptoms, but more importantly to treat the underlying cause, increase the ability to function and improve the quality of life.
Modern acupuncture needles are stainless steel, between one-half and three inches long, ultra-fine and quite flexible. They are pre-sterilized, nontoxic and disposable (single use). When the needles are tapped into the skin, there may not be any sensation. Patients may feel a dull or slightly tingly sensation in the area where the needle is inserted. Needles are typically placed in several acu-points and are usually left in about 20-40minutes. Most patients find treatments to be relaxing and meditative experiences. The goal is to normalize the circulation of Qi and blood by stimulating the energy point, which encourages the body’s natural healing process. Stimulation can be done by rotating the needles manually or attaching electrodes to send a weak electric current through the needles (electro acupuncture).
Patients of acupuncturists range from infants to senior citizens. They may be seeking an alternative to Western medicine or it may be their last hope for relief, having exhausted other methods of treatment for a chronic condition.