Acupuncture is a therapy that uses needles to manipulate the flow of Qi (pronounced: chee) within specific channels (meridians) along the body. Qi is a term used for a form of energy that is responsible for the proper functioning of cells and organs in the body. If a blockage occurs in the flow of Qi or it becomes depleted in some way, disease is formed. Acupuncture points are areas along body meridians that can affect the flow Qi. These points can also affect the flow of blood in a certain area, the chemicals involved in inflammation and pain, neurological impulses, and other mechanical functions in the body.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a form of medical practice that focuses on treating symptoms of illness based on an underlying pattern of disharmony. This concept of treating the whole person rather than individual symptoms has been a common form of medical care in China for more than 2,000 years. Emphasis is placed on creating a balance between the dynamic forces in the body to improve function and promote a healthy state. Different practices used in traditional Chinese medicine include:
- Acupuncture: An ancient therapy that uses needles on the outside of the body to create changes on the inside of the body. It is described in more detail above.
- Moxibustion: The plant mugwort is burned close to the skin to create heat and promote the movement of Qi and blood in the body.
- Chinese Herbal Medicine: Loose herbs, or herbs made into pills can be formulated to create an individualized treatment for every condition. Herbs are chosen based on their ability to effect disease, minimize side effects and reduce reactions with other medications.
- Cupping: A vacuum is created between glass cups and the skin to promote blood flow, relieve pain and release tension. Cupping is most often used for sore muscles or acute illnesses.
- Tui na: A form of Chinese massage, Tui na can release muscular tension, move Qi and blood, and relieve pain.
- Dietary therapy: Specific dietary recommendations are made to promote health.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is best known for treating musculoskeletal complaints that involve pain, but in combination with western medicine, it can treat a variety of complaints. Ask your doctor if acupuncture and Chinese medicine is an appropriate therapy for you.