Basics of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that is part of a philosophy of medicine known as Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years. The purpose of acupuncture is to stimulate and balance the flow of qi along meridians to properly nourish the organs for good health.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body. These points are known as acupuncture points or acupoints. There are hundreds of acupuncture points all over the body that are grouped together into what are known as meridians. There are 12 primary meridians and 8 extraneous meridians that run along the body, each of which govern a group of bodily functions known as organs, which should not not be confused with the anatomical organs in Western medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that sufficient flow of qi and blood along these meridians is necessary for good health.

The bust of a figurine showing most, but not all, of the acupuncture points and meridians all over the body.

In English, meridians are commonly referred to by the group of bodily functions that they govern. Traditional Chinese Medicine organ names should not be confused with Western medicine anatomical organs. These are the primary and extraneous meridians used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture.

Primary Meridians

  • Lung
  • Heart
  • Pericardium
  • Triple Burner
  • Small Intestine
  • Large Intestine
  • Spleen
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Gall Bladder
  • Urinary Bladder
  • Stomach

Extraneous Meridians

  • Conception Vessel
  • Governing Veseel
  • Penetrating Vessel
  • Girdle Vessel
  • Yin Linking Vessel
  • Yang Linking Vessel
  • Yin Heel Vessel
  • Yang Heel Vessel

Qi and Blood

Qi can be described as the life force or energy that is needed live, grow, and be healthy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that sufficient and free flow of qi throughout the body is necessary for good health and wellness. Blood is needed to carry qi throughout the body, and qi and blood are almost always talked about together and in some cases blood is simply not stated because it is redundant.

Qi can be obtained in 3 primary ways: birth, breathing, and ingestion. We are born with a finite quantity of qi, this qi is passed to us from our mother. Then, through breathing, eating, and drinking we obtain more qi necessary for growth and maintenance of good health. However, not all foods, drinks, and air carries the same quality or quantity of qi. Junk food, sugary drinks, and polluted air carries far less and far poorer qi compared to fresh food, clean water, and clean air. The idea of qi in our environment influencing our health and taking actions to manipulate and correct qi is core to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

How Acupuncture Works: signal stimulus, central effect of acupuncture, acupuncture needle insertion, acupuncture points, what you really need to know.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a framework of medicine rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy. TCM focuses on balancing the mind and body as a whole through a set of lifestyle, dietary, exercise, and medical guidelines. The philosophy of TCM heavily favors preventative and maintenance care over relief and corrective care.

Just like acupuncture, TCM's various lifestyle, dietary, and exercise suggestions all depend on the person's particular imbalances or conditions at the time. Although there are general guidelines that may be applicable to most people like, avoiding cold drinks and foods as they can degrade digestion overtime; getting enough sleep because it is the core of good health; and keeping warm during winter as even short exposure to wind and cold and bring on cold like symptoms.

One of the key principles of TCM is looking for patterns in people's health. While Western medicine is concerned with individual symptoms and conditions, TCM looks at the culmination of a person's health and lifestyle and finding patterns within them to explain imbalances, and then providing treatment or making lifestyle changes to correct any imbalances.

Long term treatment following the philosophies of TCM will always include dietary and lifestyle suggestions along with acupuncture and other modalities of treatment to alleviate acute or chronic symptoms.