Acupuncture is a method of treating injury or illness that involves inserting fine needles into specific acupuncture points on the body. These points are located on a system of channels called “meridians” that circulate Qi (energy) throughout our body. The circulation of Qi in the meridians is similar to the way in which blood circulates in our blood vessels. The acupuncture points are areas in which the flow of Qi can be acted on either to increase or decrease its flow to various systems in the body. Therefore, systems that are out of balance can be brought back into balance and the body’s natural ability to heal itself can be reinforced. Needles represent only one way in which the Qi is affected. Acupuncturists use many other treatment methods.
What is Qi?
Qi is a concept that is central to Oriental Medicine, but it goes much farther than that. In ancient China, Taoist philosophers and monks who were very interested in the natural world and man’s relationship to it found that behind all natural phenomenon there were unseen forces at work.
Even though these forces could not be observed, their effect on the natural world could. The Taoists called this unseen force Qi. It is often translated as energy but the true concept of Qi is more than energy. The Chinese character for Qi is a stylized drawing of a pot of rice with steam coming out. Qi is believed to exist in all things and is both the energy that gives rise to the substance as well as the substance itself. Interestingly, as western science has advanced in the study of quantum physics, it seems that this paradoxical combination of energy and matter may well be the foundation of the physical world that we know. In oriental medicine, we focus on the function of Qi in the human body to make the changes necessary to bring the body back into a healthy balance.
Cupping involves using special cups that are placed on body. Either flaming alcohol placed inside the cup (the alcohol is removed before being placed on the body but the heat removes the air) or a hand-held pump is used to create a vacuum inside the cup. This treatment is often used in cases of injury because it helps the body clear out residual inflammation. It leaves a small circular bruise for about a week but it often relieves the pain and stiffness that are so common after an injury. The bruising that occurs is due to the residual inflammation, which is drawn to the surface where our lymphatic system is able to clear it away.
Infrared Therapy uses special deep infrared lamps. These lamps gently warm the body at a deep level. They can be used to strengthen areas of weakness, increase circulation and mobility, and to re-invigorate the body’s ability to heal when it is has been weakened. Traditionally, acupuncturists have used moxa for these purposes. Moxa is a Chinese herb that is burned, usually on the handles of needles during acupuncture, to provide warmth and healing. Infrared therapy has a similar effect, without the noxious smoke.
Guasha (gwah-shah) uses a special tool to scrape along the meridians. This is used to treat many different conditions, including colds and flu, injury, and headaches