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What is Acupuncture?


Acupuncture is a system of healing based on the understanding that a continuous network of energetic flow lines or channels, runs through the body, connecting the internal organs and functions with the body surface. In the west, these channels have popularly become known as ‘meridians’. The Chinese describe influences that circulate through these channels or meridian pathways. These influences are collectively referred to as Chi (pronounced ‘chee’). The Chinese consider the free and unimpeded flow of this Chi to have a powerful relationship to health and wellness.


In the West, Chi is popularly translated as energy. This is a poor translation. It is clear that, to the Chinese, depending on context, it can be almost as immaterial as spirit, and as material as blood! It is perhaps more helpful to understand Chi as a blanket term for a large array of physiological functions observable in the operation and interactions of life.


Chi can be manipulated at certain locations, called ‘acupuncture points’, along the channels. This is typically done by inserting needles, applying heat or applying pressure. This manipulation of the chi stimulates physiological changes in three ways: locally (at the site of needle insertion); distally (along the course of the channel) and internally (within the organ systems contacted by that channel pathway).


There are twelve main channels that traverse the surface of the body and connect internally with organs, glands and other internal anatomical and physiological systems. In English translations, most of the channels bear the name of the internal organ to which they primarily connect. So there is, for example, a Kidney channel, a Stomach channel, and so on. There are also a number of microsystems; parts of the body on which the whole body is reflected (probably the best known being the ‘reflexology’ system). Acupuncturists routinely use ear, hand, foot and scalp microsystems to support their work.


By employing the many techniques available to the acupuncturist, the flow of Chi (all circulating influences) can be affected along each channel and, by extension, all aspects of the body, mind and spirit associated with that channel.


Acupuncture is only one part of the extremely broad and comprehensive system of Traditional medicine of China