What is Acupuncture?

by in Acupuncture, Five Element Treatment November 3, 2018

Acupuncture is an ancient system that has evolved over thousands of years, and is just one branch of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture theory views the whole body as a living ecology that requires care and attention to maintain a healthy balance. This integrative approach allows Acupuncture to to address many illnesses, both physical (such as back pain) and emotional (stress or anxiety) by resolving the root cause – without causing further side effects.
The simple and subtle intervention of an acupuncture needle upon a point often has profound and far-reaching impact. Not only are symptoms often alleviated, but your immune system is strengthened, and a solid investment in your long-term health and wellness is made.

With regular treatments, many people find they are sick less often, and recover more quickly when they do come down with the seasonal cold or flu.

Acupuncture points, carefully chosen according your needs and delivered with intention, serve as your body’s reminders as to the proper movement of qi, or vital life force. As weekly treatment progresses over the course of just a few months, it is likely that you will have an embodied experience of what constitutes a balanced state of health for you. The need for any intervention from your acupuncturist will diminish, and seasonal treatments – “scheduled maintenance” are all that is needed to sustain a healthy working balance.

Acupuncture Facts

  • Acupuncture is one branch of Chinese Medicine, designed to prevent and treat illness.
  • Inherent in Classical Chinese culture is the search for the meaning of existence and humanity’s purpose; Chinese Medicine arose from this search.
  • Acupuncture was developed thousands of years ago, based on observing the principles of life and death in nature (Taoism).
  • Achieving longevity and health is a form of honoring one’s spirit and life – to tend to the body in Taoist culture is to make a better home for the spirit to thrive.
  • Acupuncture is an elegant and minimally-invasive approach to illness that treats the whole person.
  • An acupuncturist seeks to treat the root of an imbalance or disease rather than addressing symptoms in isolation.
  • Acupuncture is a gentle, effective medicine that promotes the body’s innate healing capacities without harmful side effects.
  • Most people experience acupuncture as fairly painless and very relaxing, similar to meditation or sleep without drowsiness.

A Western Perspective

It is possible to achieve health without side-effects. Dr. Vincent Pedre explains the contemporary western understanding of acupuncture as such: “needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system through peripheral afferent fibers (nerve fibers that carry signals to the central nervous system) to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals (such as endorphins and enkephalins) and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities, thus promoting both physical and emotional well-being with minimal side-effects.”

There is also new evidence that acupuncture regulates pain by increasing the availability of certain opioid receptors in the brain. This effectively dampens pain signals, and works in the same way that opioid painkillers such as morphine and codeine would work, but without the dangerous addictive element and side effects. (Source: University of Michigan Health System via Science Daily, “Chinese Acupuncture Affects Brain’s Ability To Regulate Pain”, Aug. 11, 2009.)

Contemporary Chinese Medicine

With its roots in classical texts dating back several thousand years, contemporary Chinese Medicine is the primary health care system for one-third of the global population. Today, this ancient healing art has stood the test of time, and has evolved as a medicine of global relevance. Sustainable, holistic approaches such as Acupuncture are much needed in our American healthcare system, where patient costs are soaring and personal care is not often primary.

What is qi?

The Chinese character for qi is a picture of a rice pot cooking over a fire; the lid is bobbing up and down, and a bit of steam is escaping from the pot. The rice is not under-cooked and the pot is not overflowing, everything is moving in perfect harmony: life is moving.

Acupuncture helps qi move in the proper direction in your body. Just as a network of rivers, seas, and oceans run throughout the earth to sustain life, your body contains a circuitry of pathways called meridians. Meridians carry qi. The uninterrupted flow of qi in your body is essential to good health. Pain, whether it be physical or emotional, is often the result of the stagnation of qi. Acupuncture is just one way to move qi; exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, deep breathing, creative expression, and even lifestyle coaching all contribute to healthy movement.

What happens when qi stagnates?
When the waters of an ocean are polluted or a fallen tree obstructs the course of a river, steps must be taken to clear toxicity or to remove obstructions and re-establish the flow of movement. When you receive an Acupuncture treatment, your practitioner assesses the how qi is moving within your body, and determines the cause of stagnation or disease. She does this by assessing bodily phenomena, taking your pulses, and asking questions.

More information on the tradition of Five Element Acupuncture and its benefits can be found at the Worsley Institute Website.

Also, check out an interview held at Sunrise Ranch, in Loveland, Colorado with Judy Becker Worsley from the Worsley Institute regarding 5 element theory of acupuncture and the spiritual dimensions of the points.

MaryFatimah Weening, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
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About MaryFatimah Weening, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
MaryFatimah has practiced acupuncture for over 10 years, and is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, and nationally board-certified by the NCCAOM. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, and a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Maryland University of Integrative Health.