Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Clinic

About the Practice of Acupuncture


Acupuncture has been practiced as a medical treatment for over 5,000 years. The first record is found in the 4,700 year old Huang Di Nei Jing ("Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine") from China. This is said to be the oldest medical textbook in the world, based on even earlier theories from the legendary father of Chinese medicine, Shen Nong.

At the foundation of acupuncture theory is the concept of qi (pronounced "chee"), which is described as the energy force that circulates throughout the body and enlivens all essential life activities, including the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of life. Health is dependent on the smooth and balanced movement of qi throughout the body. This flow of Qi can be disturbed by a number of factors such as poor nutrition, heredity, weather conditions, infections, toxins, and trauma, as well as emotional states such as anxiety, anger, fear or grief.

There are fourteen main meridians, or channels, of energy that run vertically up and down the surface of the body, and two unpaired midline meridians. Qi constantly circulates through these pathways. When the pathways become obstructed, deficient, or excessive, yin and yang are said to be out of balance, which leads to illness. Acupuncture points are specific locations where the meridians come to the surface of the skin and are therefore are easily accessible. By inserting very fine needles into specific points along the meridians, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body's own healing response and help restore its natural balance.

Although often described as a means of pain relief, acupuncture is in fact used to treat people with a wide range of illnesses. Its focus includes improving the overall balance and well being of the patient, as well as the treatment of specific symptoms. Traditionally, acupuncture is a wholistic approach to the maintenance of health as well as the management of disease. The skill of an acupuncturist lies in their ability to make a traditional diagnosis from what is often a complex pattern of disharmony, and treat the patient accordingly. The exact pattern and degree of disharmony is unique to each individual and with traditional acupuncture will be treated as such with a personalized treatment plan.

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Yin and Yang

The concepts of yin and yang are integral to the discussion of acupuncture theory and treatment. According to Chinese medicine philosophy, all phenomena consist of two opposing forces, yin and yang, that work together to maintain balance. The movements and changes of yin and yang can be seen in all aspects of our lives as well as in the environment around us.

Yin is described as the opposite of yang and represents classically feminine qualities. It corresponds to the passive, dark, receptive, cool, and moist principles. It is most dominant at night and directionally moves down and inward. In the environment, this energy is expressed in the roots of plants and their ability to take nourishment from the ground. It is embodied in the winter season, the hibernation of animals and dormancy of plants. Yin is the tendency to slow down, to go inward and to reflect, and in the 24-hour cycle represents the quiet, dark qualities of nighttime.

Yang is the opposite of yin and is signified by masculine attributes. It is represented by the active, light, creative, warm, and dry principles. It is most dominant during the day and directionally moves outward and upward. In the environment, it is expressed by the warmth of the sun, the growth of plants above the ground, and creative movement. The yang is said to rise in the spring and is at its height in the summer. It is the tendency to activity, to go outward and create, and in the 24-hour cycle represents the dynamic, bright qualities of daytime.

Nothing is completely yin or yang. Each contains, and constantly transforms into the other, as night into day, and winter into spring and summer. For example, day is yang and night is yin and they cannot be separated as one turns into the other. And within the yang of the day, there is shade, which in yin. And within the yin of the night, there is the light of stars, which is yang. This interdependent relationship is reflected in the universal symbol of yin-yang, which represents the constant flow and interaction of the two opposite but complementary forces.

Our health also reflects the relative balance or imbalance of yin and yang. When the flow of qi is insufficient, unbalanced or interrupted, yin and yang become unbalanced, and illness may occur. According to the Su Wen ("Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic Questions and Answers"), "When yin keeps balance with yang and both maintain a normal condition of qi, then health will be high-spirited. A separation of yin and yang will lead to the exhaustion of essential qi."

Techniques Commonly Used with Acupuncture

Acupuncture may also be used in conjunction with moxabustion (or moxa), a technique using heat produced by burning a dried herb, usually Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) to stimulate specific acupuncture points. Burning moxa in a very slow, controlled way produces a penetrating heat directly into the points and meridians to influence the flow of qi and blood. Moxa has the smell of strong incense as its smolders rather than burns

Cupping is another type of treatment whereby suction is applied to certain regions of the body through a metal, wood or glass jar, in which a partial vacuum has been created. This technique draws blood congestion to the surface in order to stimulate circulation in deeper tissues. Cupping may be used for various problems such as low backache, sprains, soft tissue injuries, and helping relieve congestion in some respiratory conditions.

Tui-na and other forms of traditional acupressure are commonly used techniques in Chinese medicine. Acupressure is a non-invasive method of massage therapy, which employs the theory of meridians, points, and qi circulation, with the intention of balancing the qi flow and interaction of yin and yang. Tui-na methods include the use of hand and arm techniques to massage the soft tissue of the body, stimulation of acupressure points to directly affect the flow of qi, and manipulation techniques to realign the muscles and fascia.