What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient therapy for restoring balance to the body's energy system. Acupuncture theory is based on the concept of qi (pronounced “chee”) and states that the life force energy in our bodies - Qi - circulates through energy channels or meridians. Acupuncture works by inserting very fine sterilised disposable acupuncture needles into meridians (the channels of energy). An acupuncturist can stimulate the body's own healing response and help restore its natural balance/homeostasis. The Qi (electromagnetic energy) generated in each organ (heart, lungs, pericardium, stomach, spleen, liver, kidneys, large and small intestines) travels in respective meridians and affects different areas of the body through them. Meridians not only connect all parts of the body, but also coordinate their function. There are twelve regular meridians and eight extraordinary vessels. Specific points on meridians are called acupoints. There are approximately 365 acupoints on one side. An acupuncturist may needle an area apparently unrelated to the location of the symptoms. By leaving the needles in for around 30-45 minutes, a blockages from a meridian can be relieved or a specific function of a specific internal organ can be stimulated or suppressed to restore the balance(homeostasis).
Currently, Western Medicine seems to be mainly focused on biochemistry - a chains of chemical reactions happening in the body. The medications used in western medicine affect specific chemical reactions happening in different ways. Some are blocking them, some are stimulating them, etc. For example non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (Aspirin, Nurofen, etc) are blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). By doing so they reduce the level of prostoglandins which promote inflammation, pain, fever, support the blood clotting function of platelets and protect the inner lining of the stomach from the damaging effects of acid.
In the body there is electricity (electromagnetic energy) in the brain (measured by EEG - electroencephalogram), in the heart (measured by ECG - electro cardiogram), muscles and nerves (measured by EMG - electromyogram and NCS - nerve conduction studies).
Energy Medicine is focused on the function of the body from energy perspective (biophysics). Traditional Chinese Medicine is a major representative of energy medicine.
Biochemistry and biophysics do not contradict each other. On the contrary, they compliment each other!
Types of Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (Five Elements Acupuncture) is the form of acupuncture in which the plurality of practitioners are trained, and it remains the most widely practiced form. In my experience it is by far more efective than western acupuncture not only for muscular skeletal conditions, which is the main focus of western acupuncture, but disorders of internal organs.
Trigger point Acupuncture/Western Acupuncture is a form of acupuncture that targets tight or knotted muscles, also known as trigger points. The practitioner uses touch to locate muscular tightness, then inserts an ultra-thin, single-use acupuncture needle into the suspect muscle and gently probes. This produces localized involuntary twitching, which fatigues the tight muscle and reduces tightness.
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It also includes Chinese Herbal Medicine, Tuina - a theraputic massage, Qi Gong - Energy exercises. TCM is a traditional medical system that is several thousand years old. Its 'understanding' of the Human Being is mainly from biophysics point of view whereas Western Medicine's 'undestanding' is mainly based on biochemistry. They both compliment each other very well.
Clinical research has shown that Acupuncture initiates multiple biological systems and processes. Below are the current main scientific theories regarding Acupuncture’s effects. It is probable that several or all of these mechanisms are collectively responsible for the beneficial results produced by Acupuncture treatment.
Neurotransmitter Theory, Autonomic Nervous System Theory, Gate Theory, Vascular-Interstitial Theory and Blood Chemistry Theory.
All of these theories highlight the most fascinating component of the Acupuncture mechanism: Acupuncture’s effectiveness is the result of the body’s own intrinsic power to heal itself. The Acupuncture needle is simply a stimulus to initiate certain biological processes that are already innate within the patient. It is a natural and drug-free means of stopping pain, reducing inflammation, improving circulation, decreasing stress, and promoting overall health.
One should also be aware that even with all of today’s impressive technology, there is much that is not yet understood about the human body and how it is affected by various influences, including pharmaceuticals. For example, scientists can’t fully explain the mechanism of action of the very commonly used drugs aspirin and ibuprofen. This is likely because even the mechanism of pain is not yet fully understood from a scientific standpoint.
Though the research into exactly how Acupuncture produces its effects is still ongoing, the important conclusion is that it is an effective, non-invasive, inexpensive, and safe method of treatment for numerous conditions.