Our post this week is brought to us by acupuncturist and yoga therapist, Shayan Landrum. This week, Shayan talks about the definition and roots of acupuncture.
Chinese Medicine is an ancient system of medicine and healing, originating from the Far East thousands of years ago. While there are different branches to the medicine, including nutrition and herbal medicine, the branch of acupuncture is one of the most important aspects of the field and it has become particularly well-known in the West.
The theory behind Chinese Medicine is that we all have qi or ‘energy’ flowing through our bodies. Qi moves primarily through a system of meridians that covers the whole body and has both superficial and deep pathways. While there is not an exact replica of this model in Western medicine, there is significant overlap with the Chinese meridian system and the circulatory and nervous systems. In Chinese Medicine, an imbalance in the proper flow of qi is the cause and the indicator of disease, which is similar to the idea of homeostasis in Western medicine. When we are healthy, qi moves freely, while ill health occurs when qi is not flowing smoothly through the meridians. The type of malady or the location of injury are related to which meridian is affected and where along the meridian the qi is stagnant.
The meridians run the full length and breadth of the body, and they flow seamlessly into one another. This aspect of the system allows for affecting change in one part of the body by treating a part of the body that is distant from the affected area. Acupuncture points are locations along the meridians where qi can be powerfully impacted, and qi can be manipulated. Acupuncture is the insertion of very thin metal needles into these points in order to bring about a healing effect.
Stimulating acupuncture points affects the circulatory and nervous systems, encouraging the body to return to a state of balance, or homeostasis. Acupuncture is an excellent tool to treat pain, insomnia, menstrual irregularities, side effects of medical treatments, stress, anxiety and many other ailments.
In the initial treatment experience, the acupuncturist spends a significant amount of time listening to the patient, asking questions, and gathering information. It is through this interview process that the acupuncturist learns about the whole person, not just the patient’s chief complaint. Then the acupuncturist makes a diagnosis, places between five and 20 needles, and leaves the patient to rest quietly alone in a room for 20-30 minutes. Sometimes adjunct therapies are used, such as cupping, heat therapy, electrical stimulation, and ear seeds. Group acupuncture is similar, except patients relax in reclining chairs in a quiet room with others. Most people find acupuncture to be calming and rejuvenating, and they find that it reduces stress, improves sleep, and increases energy.
In the U.S., acupuncture is a licensed profession, and practitioners must complete a minimum of three years of education, followed by national board exams, and maintained through yearly continuing education.
In modern times, there is an understanding that acupuncture most likely works by affecting the nervous system, and subsequently the brain. Many research studies have been conducted in the U.S., often run by the National Institutes of Health, proving the efficacy of acupuncture for a variety of conditions. The World Health Organization also lists numerous conditions that are benefited by acupuncture.