Acupuncture – How does it work?


Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. It is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy, called “qi”, that circulates through twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of qi throughout a meridian is how disease begins.
During an acupuncture treatment, tiny needles are inserted into specific points along meridian lines to restore balance to the flow of qi. There are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body.

A creative explanation…
To further explain the concept of acupuncture, think of meridians as rivers inside your body. Wherever a river flows, it carries water that provides nourishment and sustenance for life. In your body, the water in this river is qi, which flows through meridians as an invisible current, energizing, nourishing, and supporting every cell, tissue, muscle, organ and gland.

When qi is balanced and flowing freely, the body’s natural self-healing abilities are activated, enabling internal stability and harmony to occur. On the other hand, the flow of qi can become unbalanced throughout life when your body is exposed to certain stressors (for example, improper diet/nutrition and overwork). Different stressors affect meridians in various ways, disrupting or blocking the flow of qi.

Now, think of your typical garden hose. If a garden hose is kinked, it can’t provide an adequate supply of water to a plant. Eventually, the plant will be unable to thrive and grow. Likewise, a blockage in the meridians will restrict the supply of qi required to nourish your body’s cells. This blockage can manifest into various signs and symptoms. Over time, the body as a whole becomes weakens, and its self-healing abilities compromised. It then becomes susceptible to pain and illness.

How Acupuncture works from a Western perspective:
In North America we really like to break things down to determine how they work. Interestingly enough, acupuncture has local effects that can be measured through the reductionistic model. Some theories about how acupuncture achieves its effects include the following:
• Acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins
• Acupuncture influences the release of neurotransmitters, substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain
• Acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system
• Acupuncture stimulates circulation
• Acupuncture influences the electrical currents of the body


No matter how acupuncture is explained, the bottom line is that it works. It is rarely painful and most people find it quite relaxing. Since it addresses the body as a whole it can be used for virtually any health concern.

I hope this shines some light on the mystery – and fascination – with the powerful and wonderful ways acupuncture can heal.

Yours in health,
Sarah Oulahen, HBHSc, ND.

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