So, What is Acupuncture Really?

by Brandon Linker | Apr 13, 2016

In today’s modern world, we enjoy a number of different health care treatments for a wide array of conditions. Having to pick which treatment would suit one’s condition can be difficult. Some treatments are age old treatments like acupuncture that date back more than 2000 years, and some are ground breaking, using cutting edge technology. As Americans, we are blessed with having access to many different treatments for our health conditions, but it is often difficult to know what treatment to put your trust in. In the United states, Allopathic Health Care (Medical treatment) is the prevailing standard for healthcare, and everything besides Allopathic care is considered “alternative.”

In spite of this standard, many Americans are starting to shy away from traditional medicine in favor of alternatives. Some popular reasons for this I hear in my office are that people no longer believe that taking medication is going to cure their problem, only hide it or “manage” it. Or the person doesn’t want to have surgery and would like to treat their problem without cutting into the body. Whatever your reason, I figured it’d be good to take a look at one of my favorite “alternative” treatments, acupuncture.

Acupuncture is one of the many misunderstood ancient healing arts. Most people know that acupuncture is about sticking needles in your skin all over your body, and magically you will feel better. What they don’t know is the “how” and “why” part. That is what I wanted to discuss today. Ancient Chinese medicine revolves around the idea of balance. If your body is in perfect balance, then your body will function correctly and you will express good health. If your body is out of balance, you will suffer from disease. The main aspect that becomes imbalanced in this system is your body’s energy or its “chi.” This subtle energy or “chi” flows through the body along pathways called “meridians.” The acupuncturist will place needles in specific points along these meridians to help funnel energy into that pathway or out of that pathway to help balance the energy therein.

Now this all sounds well and good, but how does the acupuncturist know what energy needs to be balanced and where? This is where it becomes complicated, but stay with me. There are two primary types of energy in Chinese medicine. Yin energy and Yang energy. Yes… this is where the Yin Yang symbol comes from, and its origin has nothing to do with karate. Yin energy and Yang energy are for the most part opposites of each other that co-exist beside and within each other (this is why there is a dot in the middle of each side of the yin yang symbol). Some of the qualities that are associated with yin energy are feminine, restful, cool, moist, contracting, inward, front of the body, and solid organs. Some of the qualities of yang energy are masculine, heat, dry, active, expanding, outward, back of the body, and hollow organs. Based on the qualities of the symptoms that the acupuncturist detects and records in your exam, they can determine which energy is out of balance, based on the qualities listed above. The acupuncturist then can use micro thin needles placed at specific acupuncture points along these energy pathways to help introduce more energy into or take energy out of the pathway to help restore balance. They also may recommend various herbs or other traditional Chinese treatments to help influence the balance of your chi. It’s also important to note that the acupuncturist isn’t treating your pain or disease. They are treating the balance of your energy. When the energy is in proper balance, then your body will have all it needs to heal itself. If this sounds familiar then, you are right. It’s very similar to chiropractic.

Chiropractic has a very similar view on treating the body. At its core philosophy, chiropractic doesn’t treat disease or health conditions either. Chiropractors adjust imbalances in the spine to restore proper joint function and nervous system function. It’s important that nervous system function correctly because any interruption in the communication between the brain and the body can lead to dysfunction in the body. This dysfunction can lead to disease. So, if your brain is able to communicate with your body without any interference then you will be able to fully express your body’s innate ability to heal and have the best chance to overcome many of the health conditions that you are confronted with.

Like chiropractic, acupuncture is rarely a one time cure all type treatment. Often people will say they tried chiropractic or acupuncture and it didn’t work for them, but with a little questioning you’ll find that they only went one time. I usually ask those people how many things in their life that changed their body only needed one time to make the desired change. When we want get a fit body we have to work out more than one time. When we want to lose weight we have to diet more than one day. And when we take medication, we even have to take that more than just once. It’s important to keep the right perspective and adhere to the treatment schedule that your practitioner sets to get the best results.