Ancient healers have spent centuries working in tune with the body and its energy, discovering and refining methods to improve and heal the body, mind, and soul. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the philosophy that there is a flow of energy, called qi, that happens within the human body that can be worked with to create balance and health. When our qi is flowing through states of yin and yang, remaining balanced and continuously moving throughout our bodies, it has been proven to have major effects on disease and pain relief and so much more.
Acupuncture is one of oldest healing practices in the world, originating in China over 3,000 years ago. The practice works to help the qi flow through the body in even states of yin and yang by stimulating specific points on the body. The earliest documentation discovered that refers to acupuncture is a book from 100 BCE called The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. In this book there are detailed descriptions about the meridians and acupoints. In the centuries following this, acupuncture became a standard practice throughout China, along with massage, heat and herb therapy, and working with diet.
With the rise of Western medicine in the 20th century, acupuncture and similar practices became less commonly practiced, and was even outlawed in China in 1929, but was revived along with other forms of traditional medicine in 1949. With the revival, the practice spread across the world and became more popular in other countries and was eventually accepted by the U.S. through a consensus by the NIH that proved its effectiveness. Scientists found that specific neurons that trigger an anti-inflammatory response only occur along defined areas of the body. These studies helped confirm the effectiveness of what ancient healers have been doing for thousands of years and as well as assisting acupuncture, and other traditional forms of healing, in becoming more accepted in the Western world.
How It Works
Acupuncture works by stimulating certain points on our bodies, or acupoints. These points fall along specific pathways that are called meridians. The meridians that flow through our bodies are like a highway system that controls our energy flow. There are over 400 acupoints in the body that all fall along meridian lines. Majority of these points run along the 12 primary meridians. Each point is located at different parts of our bodies and holds properties of yin or yang. The qi that flows through these meridians can get blocked due to injury, stress, or trauma, which can lead to pain or poor system functioning. By stimulating these acupoints with needles, pressure, heat, massage, and other methods, it allows the qi to continue moving and breaks down whatever may be blocking this energy.
Acupuncture affects the nervous, endocrine, immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems of our bodies. Many studies done on the benefits of acupuncture show that it can successfully treat conditions ranging from bodily pain/tension to nausea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, migraine relief, and more. It has also been shown to relieve the symptoms that many experience from chemotherapy. By working with the energy flow, acupuncture has proven itself to be able to improve system functioning and overall well-being, as well as relieve chronic pains and symptoms of long-standing conditions.
In the ancient times when this practice was being developed, practitioners used sharpened stones and bones as needles to hit the acupoints. Modern acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into specific acupoints on the body. The location of where these needles will be placed depends on what you are being treated for, but common places include the ears or the face.
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To begin the process, the practitioner will ask questions regarding what is currently bothering you, as well as a medical history. They will likely do a physical examination, checking things like your pulse, the color of your skin, and the color and shape of your tongue. By doing this, they are able to more clearly define what your needs are.
During the process, 5-20 needles will be inserted at various depths. The practitioner may move around the needle to adjust the depth. This may sound scary or even painful, but the needles are extremely thin and generally cause little to no discomfort. The needles will be left in for about 10-20 minutes while the patient lays still and relaxes until they are taken out.
Some people report feeling energized and relieved of their ailments, while others report feeling unwell after a session. Feeling unwell can be an indicator of your body releasing its blockages and needing more time, or maybe more sessions, to adjust to this energy release. It is recommended for treating chronic conditions to continue these sessions 1-2 times a week for a couple months. For treating more immediate issues, it is recommended to visit between 5-10 times, depending on your condition and your practitioners opinion.
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Each practitioner will have a style that is unique to them and may fuse aspects of Eastern and Western medicine in their practice. Be sure to do your research to find a person and the practice that is right for you. If you have a fear of needles or another reason that you may not think acupuncture is right for you, but still want to reap the benefits, it is still beneficial to have an appointment with a practitioner. They are trained to work with your needs and may be able to offer other options, like acupressure, which is when they massage the acupoints instead of using needles. It is always a good idea to consult a professional before diving in to make sure that you are working with the right parts of your body, especially if you have chronic conditions or are pregnant.
You can also look up points for issues that you deal with regularly, like anxiety, headaches, and nausea, and massage them on your own body to test it out for yourself the next time you are experiencing one of these issues. Let’s try it together, all you need are your hands! The acupoint we are looking for can help relieve nausea, digestive issues, and headaches. Find the highest spot on the muscle in between your thumb and index finger, where your thumb connects to the rest of your hand. This point is approximately half an inch down on the back of your hand. Apply pressure to this point on both hands. It may be slightly uncomfortable, or even painful, but try to continue applying pressure and slightly massage until you feel like the tension has been released. Check out this blog post for more self-acupressure points!
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There is constant energy flowing through our bodies at all times. Connecting with this energy and finding ways to release trauma can make a huge difference in our quality of life. With a new perspective on energy flow, we can pay more attention to how it affects our bodies and learn how to work with it. Finding our qi can be as simple as paying attention to what our bodies need. Maybe acupuncture will be the method to help you find your qi!