What Exactly is Acupuncture?

As a nurse, I’m very familiar with the fact that there are people who are alive today because conventional medicine was able to control their life-threatening condition through the use of diagnostic technology, blood work, medications, surgical procedures, or extreme treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. These incredible advancements in the medical world have been able to significantly increase the average life expectancy. 


However, most people fall under a category that does not necessarily require a life-saving intervention. Most people suffer from milder, yet broader symptoms like stress, dietary sensitivities, allergies, hormonal imbalances, sleep issues, or aches and pains. These and many other health concerns require a solution that works with the body’s natural ability to heal itself in order to reconnect with optimal well-being.


At a time when symptom management has become the norm, it is important to note that an approach to health that focuses on prevention not only alleviates some of the strain that has been placed on an overtaxed medical system, but it also allows individuals to enjoy the best version of themselves on a daily basis. And who doesn’t want that?


So, what is the solution to this present-day predicament? The solution does not require new technology or groundbreaking discoveries, but rather involves an ancient, holistic approach to health that is geared toward detecting and correcting subtle imbalances in the body before they become full-blown disease. 



Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been focusing on preventing disharmony in the body for over two thousand years through the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine. 


Today, acupuncture has been found to provide relief from dozens of modern-day ailments with very low risk of side effects or adverse reactions. Every day, more and more people are discovering the effectiveness of acupuncture to improve their quality of life and to maximize their health. 


How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is performed by inserting very thin needles (the word needle is an overstatement, they are hardly thicker than a few strands of hair) into various points all throughout the body. Each point carries out a specific action, and each point is chosen based on an individual’s symptoms as well as their body constitution. 



An acupuncturist will choose a certain combination of points to maximize the effectiveness of each one. The acu-points themselves are located along meridians, or pathways, that travel along the skin’s surface and are associated with corresponding internal organs. 


A well-known example of this phenomenon is the upper arm pain associated with heart attacks. Our bodies are constantly signaling imbalances in the body with other, seemingly unrelated, symptoms, and it is up to the TCM practitioner to learn how to read these signals, interpret them, and incorporate their findings into a treatment that brings the client back to balance.


What is Qi?

The word “energy” is the most synonymous English word to what the Chinese refer to as Qi (pronounced chee); however, the concept of Qi should not be limited to that simple definition. Qi is the life force that enables your body to function all day, every day and allows you to do anything you set out to do. The amount and quality of Qi determines your ability to connect with others, accomplish your goals, think clearly and rationally, and maintain positive physical health throughout your life. 


Because your body’s Qi is derived from the food you eat and the air you breathe, the quality of each is very important in giving you the most refined form of energy, or Qi, to be utilized by your body each and every day. 


When one receives acupuncture, their Qi is better able to circulate through the meridian system and therefore you should leave your acupuncture treatment feeling more energized and connected. 


In fact, many people feel both deeply rejuvenated and relaxed after having an acupuncture treatment. In a way, acupuncture needles are able to break up blockages that build up over time and disrupt the natural flow of energy in the body, thereby allowing people to feel more fluid and perform everyday tasks more effortlessly.

Interested in learning what acupuncture can treat and how it works alongside western medicine? Look out for Part 2 of this blog series, “Yes, Acupuncture Can Treat That,” coming at you next week!

Author: Katie Shea