14 Apr Does Acupuncture Work?
As an acupuncturist the question I hear most frequently is, “Does acupuncture work?” To which I answer, “Yes…. acupuncture does work, but it works differently than Western Medicine.”
In acupuncture the body is seen as a system of interconnected organs and meridians. Qi (pronounced “chee” and also referred to as energy) flows through the interconnected organs and meridians to enable functions of the body and preserve health. Disruption of qi or energy flow can cause unhealthy symptoms to appear and if not corrected could eventually lead to disease.
Organs, from the Chinese medicine perspective, are described as energy hubs that perform certain functions. They do not however describe the health or function of the anatomical organ. For example, an imbalance of the Chinese Liver or Spleen will typically not correspond to any medical problem in the Western Liver or Spleen.
There are twelve main organs in Chinese Medicine – the Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestine, Urinary Bladder, Kidneys, Pericardium (Heart Protector), San Jiao (Triple Heater), Gallbladder and the Liver. Each organ has distinct functions. The Liver, for example, is said to store the blood, and rule the smooth flow of qi. The Liver makes sure that our energies and emotions adapt to the many changes we encounter. This feature of the Liver keeps our emotions, qi and blood flowing smoothly in the body. When the Liver is out of balance, symptoms like irritability, depression, anger, difficulty sleeping, menstrual cramps or pounding headaches may occur.
The twelve organs are connected to the corresponding twelve meridians which distribute energy throughout the body. Organs function deeply in the body but meridians are closer to the skin’s surface where they are easy to touch or palpate and easy to access for acupuncture needling.
When organs or meridians do not function as they should, symptoms will emerge. An acupuncturist will evaluate not only what the symptoms are but where they are located. For example, cold hands and feet may indicate that Liver qi is not flowing smoothly or a one sided headache indicates a Gallbladder imbalance.
Imbalances in an organ or any of their functions can occur for a number of reasons. External factors such as harsh weather or invading viruses can cause an imbalance. Emotions, chronic poor nutritional choices or insufficient rest can also cause the body to be out of balance.
Organ and meridian imbalances are treated at specific acupuncture points on the skin. These points are meeting places where the energy of the organ and its matching meridian are accessible. Each point has a predictable effect upon the energy passing through the meridian. Acupuncturists use these points to correct the flow of qi by inserting disposable, sterile, thin, stainless steel needles into the specific points along the meridian to bring balance back to the body. Most patients find acupuncture treatments very relaxing and many fall asleep during the treatment.
Not only can acupuncture help bring the body back into balance but acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can also be utilized as preventive medicine by maintaining organ and meridian health before the flow of qi is disrupted.
So, back to the original question: “Does acupuncture work?” Yes! It does work – it just works differently than Western medicine. You may be experiencing neck or back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, anxiety or insomnia. You may be frustrated with your current course of treatment. I frequently ask people, “if you do the same thing today that you did yesterday, how can you expect a different result?” It might be time to try something new. It might be time to try acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.