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Acupuncture originated in China in prehistoric times (see “About Chinese Medicine”), and is one of the worlds oldest healthcare technologies. Acupuncture is based on the understanding that the mind, emotions, and spirit exist within the body as one integrated whole and that within the human body there is a system of communication networks known as "Meridians". These Meridians are used to balance and harmonize the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being.
Meridians are channels or pathways that travel throughout the body. They link the physical structures of the body (bones, muscles, organs, tissues, hormones, endocrine system, etc.) with the emotions and feelings, and with the psyche and mind. Meridians are the interface, or communication network, that connects the mind, emotions, and body together, forming the "body-mind connection."
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Meridians are considered a part of the physical anatomy of the body, containing both physical substances such as; blood, cells, electrolytes, etc., and non-physical; psyche and emotions. The Meridians are the “structure,” or system, in our bodies where the physical and non physical aspects of our being meet. There is no complete explanation in western science for this phenomenon. However, treatment of certain Acupuncture Points is known to effect changes in other areas of the body. The affects of Acupuncture have been observed and studied with such technologies as infrared photography, brain scans and electro-dermal testing.
One way to understand the Meridian system is like this: According to modern anatomy, the adult human body is 55-60% water by weight. This water is comprised not only of the fluids that are held within the blood and lymph vessels, but it also permeates all of the tissues of our bodies, from the bone marrow, to just below the surface of our skin. The chemical and mineral makeup of this “fluid matrix” within our bodies is in many ways very similar to seawater, hence the use of saline solution in emergency cases of severe blood/fluid loss. Therefore, some researchers refer to humans as sacks of seawater that have figured out how to get up and walk on land.
Because our physical bodies are such a fluid environment, we can use an oceanographic model to help understand how the Meridians manifest in our bodies. The worlds oceans are basically all one interconnected body of water. Within the oceans of the world, there are many ocean currents. There are surface currents, such as the Gulf Stream, and there are deep currents that flow along the ocean floor. These currents are ultimately all connected, from the surface to the depths, and from the depths to the surface. These currents flow within the oceans, creating the global currents which flow continuously around the entire planet.
Within the fluid matrix of our bodies, there are also currents which flow from the surface to the depths, flowing globally around our entire bodies. These currents are the Meridians, which flow within the soft tissues. In our bodies there are locations where the flow of the Meridians can be accessed, called "Acupuncture Points". These treatment points are used to adjust the quality and harmony of the physical and nonphysical substances which flow within the meridians. And, as the Meridians connect to every aspect of our bodies, minds and emotions, Acupuncture treatment is able to effect healing within our body-mind, whether it is a physical, emotional or psychological condition.
Another way to understand Acupuncture Points, is to see them as radio communication stations. Radio waves are invisible, yet they can be transmitted and picked up by stations that are tuned to the correct frequency. The Acupuncture Points are like radio stations that communicate with each other. In this way Acupuncture Points change the electromagnetic field of the body, which has a direct effect on the physical structure and the emotional and psychological processes as well. Acupuncture Points are specific "events" located within the body’s soft tissues. There are hundreds of Acupuncture Points located all over the body. Based on centuries of observation, study and clinical use, the locations are clearly identified, and their actions, indications, and contraindications are well documented.
The effects of treating the body-mind with these Meridians and Acupuncture Points can be likened to tuning a fine musical instrument. Not only the physical structure, frame, strings etc., must be in place, but the functioning must be optimal as well, i.e. the instrument needs to be tuned. Acupuncture treatment tunes the body by balancing the body’s physical functions, such as those of the cellular, immune, hormonal and endocrine systems, with the psyche and emotions. When these systems are operating in an optimum state and they are working in harmony with each other, the body, mind and spirit are at maximum potential. In this state, the body’s own innate healing abilities will manifest health and well-being, and the elimination of disease and disharmony. In modern medicine this is referred to as “psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology,” or the science the body-mind.
Acupuncture treatment is the gentle insertion of very fine, surgical quality, stainless steel needles into the Acupuncture Points. Acupuncture needles are so small, they can fit inside the hole of a hypodermic needle. Though some people will feel little to no discomfort with the insertion of the needles, most people will feel some sensation. The quality and level of sensation felt varies widely from person to person. Common sensations include tingling, dull achiness, and pulsations.
Acupuncture Point prescription is based on a complex process of diagnosis. In treatment, points are used based on the individual, and the condition being treated. Though points can be chosen from the limbs, torso, head, or ears, in any one treatment, only a few needles are used. During each treatment, as few as one or two needles, or in certain complex cases, as many as 15 needles may be used.
The intention of Acupuncture treatment is to activate the Acupuncture Points. This can be likened to flipping a switch. In order for the treatment to have a good effect, the switch must be flipped, the Acupuncture Point must be activated. In most people, after the needles are inserted there is a brief peak of sensation, and then the level of sensation drops to little or nothing. Most often, the patient will then sink into a relaxed and comfortable state, while the Acupuncture needles effortlessly do their work.
Though Acupuncture theory and methods were developed in ancient times, Acupuncture treatment has survived the test of time. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of symptoms and diseases. Today Acupuncture is used and studied around the world in a variety of modern medical settings. Acupuncture is used to treat everything from asthma and allergies, epigastric reflux and IBS, hypertension and cardiac disorders, to the negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. By harmonizing the multidimensional aspects of our body-mind, Acupuncture is able to treat disease and disharmony in our physical body, emotions and psyche.
Acupuncture needles are FDA Approved Medical Devices, they are factory sterilized under internationally recognized standards, used only one time, and then properly disposed of as medical waste.
NIH National Library of Medicine
NIH National Library of Medicine acupuncture article.