ACUPUNCTURE AND CHINESE MEDICINE
Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice that some historians believe dates back as far as 5,000 years ago in China. It is based on the assumption that the human body consists of 20 energy meridians (12 major and 8 secondary meridians), which are pathways of energy. In Chinese medicine, this energy is called "Qi" (pronounced "chi".)
Chinese medicine is also based on Yin and Yang, which are opposite energy forces that need to be balanced in order for us to be healthy. Neither of these energy forces is better or worse than the other, any more than the sun is better than the moon or vice versa. Just as the sun and moon are both necessary for the health of the earth, both Yin and Yang are necessary for the health of the body.☯
When an imbalance or block occurs in any of these meridians, pain, discomfort, and/or illness results. Along each of these meridians are acupuncture points (more than 2,000 on the human body in total), and when these points are stimulated, the energy of the meridians can be balanced. Acupuncture strives to stimulate the body's own healing abilities by promoting the balance of the meridians. It treats the root of the problem rather than the symptoms of the problem. This balancing effect has been known to increase relaxation, reduce pain, improve the function of the endocrine and immune systems, improve the function of the organs, and more.
The meridians have pathways that are both internal and external. The internal pathway of a meridian moves through the organs and body cavities. Acupuncture treats the external pathways directly, but the treatment affects the internal pathways by balancing the Qi through the stimulation of the acupuncture points.
Acupuncture utilizes very fine, thin sterile needles from 0.007" to 0.020". The needles are so fine, in fact, that many people report barely feeling them at all. The needles are usually individually packaged, used only once, and discarded. They go into the skin so superficially that only on occasion does a small drop of blood result. Some people are frightened by the idea of needles in their body, but acupuncture needles are significantly smaller than sewing needles and injection needles and are almost as thin as a hair.
In many countries, acupuncture has been considered a valid form of treatment for centuries. Jesuit Monks brought it from Asia to Europe in the 1600's and it wasn't brought to the United States until the 1970's. However, in the United States, western physicians have been reluctant to embrace the treatment because they have been unable to prove how or why it works. As more studies have been conducted showing positive results from acupuncture, western doctors are beginning to accept it as a viable treatment. Acupuncture has especially increased in popularity and acceptance in the U.S. during the last 20 years, as evidenced by the fact that many health insurance programs now include it in their coverage. Whether or not mainstream physicians believe that acupuncture is beneficial, they all seem to agree that it is very safe, as long as it is administered by a trained professional.☯
A few scientists are developing theories as to how acupuncture works. Some believe that the central nervous system is affected by stimulation of the acupuncture points, which alters the body's temperature and flow of blood in a positive way. Others believe neurotransmitters and hormones are released during acupuncture treatments, which help the body to heal itself. Most would agree that acupuncture releases endorphins, which helps to reduce pain and promote relaxation. They have discovered that the acupuncture points seem to have a higher temperature, metabolic rate, and concentration of calcium ions than other parts of the body.