How Acupuncture Works


Does just thinking of the word acupuncture raise the hairs on your arms or send shivers down your spine? Probably. You aren’t the only one. Sure, getting a bunch of needles stuck into you does sound a bit intimidating.

However, if  you knew how acupuncture works, it might not be so frightening. A skilled acupuncturist can insert the acupuncture needles into the skin so that the patient does not feel any discomfort.  Further, the needles that are used in the practice of acupuncture are extremely thin, sharp, and flexible.

Learning how acupuncture works and where itis the key to losing the fear of treatment and feel confident to try this ancient, yet very progressive procedure.

History of Acupuncture

History of AcupunctureFirst, lets get into a little history. An ancient Chinese practice, acupuncture has been around for centuries, dating back to the earliest Ancient Dynasties that existed during the stone age!

Yes, stones were considered the first acupuncture tools. These “needles” were referred to as bian stone, and were more like sharp stone knives or pointed rocks. Considering the lack of manufacturing tools in that time period, they were an art form in and of themselves.

They were eventually replaced by needles made of bamboo shoots or animal bones. Eventually, during the Shang Dynasty (1760 BC – 1030 BC approx.) bronze casting emerged allowing the development of metal needles.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), China was flourishing, both economically and culturally. During that time the practice of acupuncture also flourished. Continuing into the Ming Dynasty (1271 – 1368), the study of acupuncture was further refined and accepted as a prominent part of Chinese medicine.

However, it was during the Manchurian Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) when acupuncture was actually banned outright. Rulers were influenced, and impressed, by western medicine being introduced through contact with western civilization. Acupuncturist teachings were forced underground and practiced in secret, mostly for the wealthy and educated. Coincidentally, western societies began to adopt acupuncture into their cultures as a result of the same contact.

In modern times, acupuncture has gained a new popularity in both eastern and western cultures.  In the early 1900s China’s long-standing ban on traditional medicine practices caused a great need for medical care within the population.

Because of this need, acupuncture spread through the common folk and once again became a respected practice where acupuncturists began institutes, published books and embarked on studies.  They were able to integrate different ways to teach acupuncture, causing a blend of eastern and western medicine techniques and practices.

How Acupuncture Works – Let’s Talk Needles

It is safe to say that today we would not want to use the original acupuncture needles, which were formed and fashioned from stone, or even the ones made of bamboo, bone, or bronze.

Today, acupuncturists use needles are comprised of very thin metal wire. They are extremely sharp and are set into the skin of a patient with a quick tap of the finger. When properly administered, the patient feels very little discomfort, if anything at all.  It is nothing like getting pricked by a common sewing needle or even a hypodermic needle by a trained nurse.

One sensation that you may feel is a spike of energy in the area where the needle is inserted, almost like an electrical shock. Keep in mind, needles are made of metal, a conductor of electricity. This shock is a good sign as it means that the specific location where the needle is inserted needs some stimulus. This sensation is often very brief, lasting only a second or two.

It must be noted that the placement of the needles is not random. They are placed along the body’s meridians. Body meridians are a concept formed in Chinese medicine and are not widely accepted in western medicine. Meridians are energy channels that allow Qi to flow throughout the body. Let’s discuss them for  a minute.

The Meridians and Their Associations in the Human Body

One reason the idea of body meridians is not commonly accepted in western medicine is that they do not exist in a physical sense. They are not something that are seen, like veins and arteries. In essence, they are invisible.

An acupuncturist practicing meridian acupuncture uses these invisible lines as location points for needles. The energy within the meridians, or Qi, flows in a continuous motion throughout the body’s core and limbs.  There are twelve meridians each corresponding to twelve different parts of the human body:

  • Heart
  • Small Intestine
  • Bladder
  • Kidney
  • Circulatory and Reproductive Systems
  • Gall Bladder
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Large Intestine
  • Stomach
  • Spleen
  • Triple Warmer

These twelve primary meridians flow in a circular/elliptical pattern throughout the body. Each of the meridian lines have offshoots that run out of the main line as branches.  There are specific points along the lines and their branches where the flowing energy can become blocked.  Meridians that are blocked cause issues in their corresponding organ.

A blockage is caused by the opposing forces that make up the Qi, Yin and Yang. These two opposing forces flow in harmony and balance with each other. When that harmony is disturbed, when one force is greater than the other, blockages occur and illness arises.

It is the job of the acupuncturist to help remove these blockages and keep the Qi flowing in a smooth and contiguous manner. Their expanse of knowledge includes knowing which organ or disease corresponds to each acupuncture point.

The acupuncturist learns the placement of the meridians and where the critical points are along those lines. They are able to make the association of what is energetically deficient in a person and force the energy to balance by the specific placement of the needles.

The acupuncturist places the needle along the meridian point corresponding to the organ causing the issue. Once inserted, the needle stimulates the opposing forces and brings them back into harmony allowing the Qi to flow smoothly once more.

How Acupuncture Works – Let’s Talk Healing

How Acupuncture Works

In Chinese, Japanese and other eastern cultures, acupuncture is used as preventative medicine.  Visits to acupuncturists are a regularity and seen as a way to stay healthy. Conversely, western medicine techniques are reactive and treat disorders as they arise. It is reactive rather than proactive.

Western medicine has become very effective at curing disease and illness with prescription medicines and fancy procedures, whereas the eastern culture and their philosophy believe in trying to keep the disease or illness from forming in the first place.

Looking at medicine in terms of a combination of prevention and treatment, we can see where a blend of eastern and western techniques may be effective long term strategy.  Energy medicine has a place right along side western medicine and when used in combination, they are very efficient and effective in preventing and curing physical ailments as well as emotional distress.

Using alternative healing practices such as acupuncture, Reiki, QiGong and Therapeutic Touch, helps a person to combat disease and illness.  Then, when prevention is not enough, and illness occurs conventional western medicine techniques including prescription medications may be used.


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