About Acupuncture

 

What is acupuncture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Western world, Acupuncture is the most widely used, recognized and taught among the different treatment modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which comprises also dietetic, pharmacopeia (herbal medicine), exercises (Qi Gong) and massage (Tui Na).

Acupuncture is a unique therapeutic method that enables us to influence and treat the interior by using a synergy of points on the exterior aspect of our bodies. These points are stimulated by means of needles in order to improve health or relief pain.

 

An acupuncture treatment can also comprise other methods, such as:

  • Moxibustion, which involves burning an herb called mugwort on the end of a needle or near an acupuncture point; today, there are also electric moxasticks.
  • Ba Guan Zi, which is the use of suction cups applied to an acupuncture point or moved along a meridian;
  • Pi Fu Zhen, also called plum blossom, which is a small hammer-like took inlaid with seven very fine needle tips that is lightly tapped on the skin;
  • Contemporary methods include the use of mild electric stimulation applied to the needles to enhance the acupuncture treatment and the laser as an option to replace needles.
  • Tui Na: a TCM method of treatment that uses specific massage techniques to stimulate points, meridians or regions of the body based on the inherent principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupressure is one of the techniques, amongst many others, used in Tuina.

Chinese Medicine

presupposes the existence of a vital energy, or “Qi” (pronounced “chi”), that is essential to life and that flows throughout the body. This energy is transported by a system of channels called meridians. These meridians represent a large network of superficial and deep pathways that enable a connection between the inner and outer aspects of our bodies.

Acupuncture points are found on the surface of your body and at very specific locations along the meridians. Mapped and documented for thousands of years by Asian societies (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, etc.), these points have their own characteristics and indications.

Point selection

The selection and method of stimulation of these points are determined by the acupuncturist and based on Traditional Chinese Medicine energy and pattern diagnosis, which is the synthesis of observation, an interview taking into account your medical history and examination. By selecting a combination of points, the treatment will have an effect on one or more bodily organs, areas or functions, and therefore act on a set of varied symptoms related to the initial cause of the imbalance.

It is possible to detect the points and channels electrically. In addition, research about bioelectrical, electrophysical and electromagnetic properties of points and channels support the hypothesis of the existence of the meridians as an information transportation network (Source: Website of the AAQ – www.acupuncture-quebec.com/en/acupuncture-information/2-acupuncture-beyond-belief.html)

What are channels of acupuncture

As explained above, Qi travels through the body in channels, called Meridians. Until recently, despite extensive research by Anatomists, no structure in the human body could be found to match the channels described by the Chinese Medical texts and therefore they have always been dismissed by Western medicine.

But, there is a structure in the human body that explains these internal pathways of Qi as well as the Qi itself: Fascia

Fascia is the type of connective tissue that is made of a protein called collagen which is found everywhere in the body. Collagen keeps things connected but it also conducts and resist electricity and it even creates its own! Due to its semi-crystalline structure, collagen creates piezoelectricity each time the collagen fibers are being flexed. This characteristic of collagen has been detected in bones and it is used today by orthopaedic clinics for bone healing, for each time, an electrical charge is being created by the flexed collagen fibers, bone cells detecting the charge start laying down new crystals in bone and thereby strengthen it. It is also collagen that provides the tensile strength to the other, soft tissues like tendons or muscles. Fascia wraps every muscle, organ or body part thus creating compartments inside de body that share a common purpose. Between the layers of facia lies a vacuum that may not be seen because the planes of fascia lay close together. Even though almost transparent and invisible, Fascia is very strong and impermeable to bodily substances like water, blood, pus – and also electricity.

The way how fascia lines the body’s components and is able to create and conduct electricity explains how Qi can travel along these pathways.

But what is Qi?

There are several translations for Qi and none of them is doing justice to the intrinsically complex meaning of the Chinese Character Qi.

One possible translation of Qi is AIR, which provides us with clues to part of its meaning: The gases in air, like oxygen and carbon dioxide, lead us to our metabolism which depends on them to function. But this translation is still incomplete for we cannot live from air alone.

By having a closer look at the character Qi, we can see that it is comprised of a radical depicting steam – or air above another one showing rice being cooked. Melted down into a formula, it would turn out like combining sugar (glucose) with oxygen turning into water, carbon dioxide and energy

C6H12+6O2=6H2O+6CO2+ Energy1

which comes already closer to our human metabolism and, especially its product, energy, which is another frequent translation for Qi. But this is still not the whole story, for Qi is much more than just metabolic energy.

To quote Daniel Keown:

“Qi is the energy produced by each cell, the binding force between those cells and the work they produce: the sum of all metabolism […] Qi is more than merely cellular metabolic energy, it is developmental energy, cooperative energy.”2

In fact, Qi is the first spark in the development of life, the intelligence and the driving force and the organizational intelligence behind its development.

My personal favorite translation for Qi for far is Life force.

 1,2 Keown, D. (2014) The Spark in the Machine, London, UK, Singing Dragon, p. 25 and 31

Blood  – the dynamic moving principle

We often talk about blood in Chinese Medicine. When we assess the pulse, its strength and quality may indicate blood heat or deficiency. When we examine the tongue, we may see blood stagnation or deficiency. We may even “diagnose” blood deficiency. It is not always easy to explain the Chinese concept of blood in its complexity, since blood is not only the red substance that warms and nourishes our bodies, but it is part of the body itself. Blood has been created from the mesoderm, the very germ cells that build the muscles and the bones, the blood vessels and blood, the muscles around the gut, in the diaphragm and those of the heart. They also create the facia. They all have in common that they allow movement, be it the movement of blood, of our inner organs or of Qi.

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