From the Oriental medicine perspective, health is maintained by the smooth flow of life energy- or Qi-through pathways in our bodies called channels or meridians. These channels or meridians act as conduits, much in the same way that the water or heating pipes function in your home, to maintain balance and health throughout our body’s skin, muscles and organs. The Chinese believe that health is a manifestation of balance, both within the body itself and between the body and the external environment. When the body is internally balanced and in harmony with the external environment, Qi flows smoothly through the meridians to nourish the organs and tissues. If an obstruction occurs in one of the meridians, the Qi is disrupted and cannot flow properly. When the Qi cannot flow smoothly or is forced to flow in the opposite direction, the body’s innate balance is disrupted and illness results.
In our bodies, injuries, emotions, disease, stress, or poor lifestyle choices can clog the circulation or flow of qi, blood, lymph and other fluids in your body. This disruption in flow may occur where you feel it, or may be the result of a problem “upstream” in another part of your body. The acupuncturist determines the origin of the blockage and goes about “unblocking” it. They do this by placing needles in acupuncture points they have chosen along the meridians.
If you have never experienced acupuncture you will probably have one overriding question: will the needles hurt and what will I feel when they are inserted? It is estimated that 12 million Americans made visits to acupuncturists in 1993; this number has most likely tripled by now. How could that be if it hurts so much? The truth is it doesn’t hurt at all. When you go in for your first acupuncture treatment, you’ll soon realize (as have all of our patients) that the insertion of the hairlike needle is either completely unnoticed by you, or you merely feel a slight pinch. For those who cannot tolerate needles, cold laser techniques or acupressure are used.
You should also know most American acupuncturists use sterilized, single-use disposable needles. This eliminates the possibility of transmitting communicable diseases by a contaminated needle. Acupuncture is mostly risk-free as a therapy. There are no side effects such as we find with drug therapy and the safety records in this country and internationally help to explain why these methods have become so popular.