The principle and technique of acupuncture involve a knowledge of how qi and blood flow through the meridians and organs and how to improve flow using the insertion of needles at certain points. When qi and blood become stagnant, pain occurs. If too much qi and blood are in a certain area, a syndrome of heat and excess can occur; too little qi and blood in an area results in a deficiency syndrome.
During an acupuncture treatment, the body undergoes a normalizing process. Areas with too much qi and blood transfer these vital substances to areas that are deficient, and vice versa. The end result is a kind of homeostasis in which the body's innate wisdom brings about a self-regulatory effect.
For example, the same acupuncture point can be used to treat either high or low blood pressure; similarly, another point is needled to treat both a rapid or slow heartbeat. This is one of the reasons acupuncture rarely causes side effects. It doesn't force the body to do anything; it only assists the body in performing its normal functions.
Many people are surprised to learn that acupuncture is relatively painless. Unlike hypodermic needles, which are hollow and much larger, acupuncture needles can be as fine as a human hair. Many times, a patient is not even aware a needle has been inserted, especially when it is placed in areas with relatively few sensory nerves, such as the back.
In a typical acupuncture treatment, the patient lies down, and the practitioner inserts needles in points that have the desired effect on the body. The patient senses heaviness, movement, or an "electrical" impulse that signals the "arrival of qi." After a few minutes, the patient typically feels a sense of calmness and well-being; many people fall asleep. After a period of 20 minutes to an hour, the practitioner removes the needles and advises the patient to avoid strenuous activity for a few hours to let the treatment settle in.
Depending on the individual and the condition, one treatment might be sufficient, or the patient may need to return a number of times. Results can range from mild improvement to seemingly miraculous recovery. In almost all cases, however, the patient feels calmer and more peaceful after receiving acupuncture.
Those who think acupuncture's success is merely a placebo effect or the patient's imagination should consider that acupuncture is exceptionally effective in animals. An increasing number of veterinarians specialize in acupuncture, and their results are quite dramatic. In certain situations, acupuncture is inappropriate. It should not be performed if the patient is extremely hungry or full, intoxicated, or extremely fatigued. In these cases, the treatment may not be as effective or the person might experience dizziness or exhaustion.
People with bleeding disorders such as hemophilia should also avoid acupuncture therapy, although careful application of acupressure or moxibustion is safe. A number of points should not be used during pregnancy due to their tendency to induce labor. Acupuncture is generally not used in children younger than 6 years of age. Although acupuncture originated in China, a number of different branches of the field have evolved in other countries. Sophisticated systems have evolved in Japan and Korea, and development of new techniques has also occurred in Western countries such as France and England.
Although extensive research has been conducted all over the world, two conclusions are commonly reached: First, acupuncture definitely works. Second, nobody is exactly sure how and why it works. This is certainly a testimonial to the brilliant clinicians who developed this miraculous healing practice over the past 2,000 years!
"Great Pouring" (Taichong, Liver 3)
The point is located on top of each foot, between the big toe and the toe next to it. To find the point, press down on the web between the toes, slide the finger toward the ankle, following the depression between the two bones (metatarsals). The point is located at the junction where the two bones meet.
Often tender when pressed, it can provide immediate relief to the pain and irritability associated with liver imbalances.
For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:
- How Traditional Chinese Medicine Works
- How to Treat Common Ailments with Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Coughs, Colds, Flu, and Allergies
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Digestive System
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Pain Relief
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Overall Health
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Bill Schoenbart has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since 1991, when he earned a Masters degree in TCM. He teaches TCM medical theory and herbalism at an acupuncture school in California, and also maintains a clinical practice.
Ellen Shefi is a licensed massage technician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered dietician. She is a member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herb Association, and the Oregon Acupuncture Association.