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Acupuncture - how does it work?

I am often asked in the clinic how does acupuncture work? What am I doing when I place these fine needles into some one's arm?

We must first look at how Traditional Chinese Medicine developed Acupuncture. No one is sure how acupuncture was discovered. One of the theories talk of the warrior who got shot by an arrow and his back pain was cured. But I prefer the longer version of thousands of years of examination, observation, meditation, clinical trails, trial and error.

We know from ancient Yoga texts that the Indian mystics had already discovered the Chakra pathways called Nadis. That through years of deep meditation the mystic where able to feel, sense and even see these pathways of light flowing through the body.

Any massage student can tell you that each client has tender places through out the body. And that these points change depending on the health of the client, After a while with practice you begin to recognise the patterns of painful places on a person. Someone with a lung problem is going to have pain and tender places different than someone with digestive problems. Coupling the knowledge of energy flows with the symptoms wasn't a big jump in understanding.

There was a theory that the Acupuncture points came first then the pathways of energy. But in the last few years ancient manuscripts have been discovered raveling that the pathways where know at least 500 years before the points where placed upon them.

The Ancient Chinese were natural scientists. What I mean is that they looked at nature to understand how the body worked. They didn't separate the body from the environment it lived in. They used nature to describe the types of energy that flowed through the body. They placed the body/mind right in the center of the world energies. What do I mean by world energies well how about the seasons.

How many people wear a fur coat in summer? How many people go around in their underwear in winter?

It is so simple the busy western mind misses the direct relationship we have with the weather. And yes I bet it is one of the first things you do in the morning ,you check the temperature outside to decide what you will wear. Because your internal environment needs to be kept at a perfect temperature to allow life to exist. Step out this fine temperature range and your body will malfunction and eventually you will die.

As an example lets look at Fire energy. Fire is hot or heating, it flares up quickly and can die away just as quickly. It can burn and destroy or it cooks or restores life. Anything that you could say about fire you could used to describe how fire energy could work in the body. As a physical example let us talk about a high fever in the body, the body heats up, the colour is red, the temperature is raised, the cells are active, the immune system is working hard to change the situation, the body will die if the extreme temperature continues, cells can't survive at high temperatures. What is the quickest way to stop a fire, throw water on it, what does that look like in the body? simple- sweating. Doesn't it feel great when a fever breaks and your body sweats all that heat a way.

So the Chinese talk about the 5 Elements of nature or as I prefer to call them the 5 Actions. Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. The 5 Actions are only one of many ways that the Chinese use to describe how the energy works within the body matrix. There are many books written on the subject so I am not going to spend much time on how it works. The diagram below will show you the inter play of each energy with each organ of the body.

Let me say here, in 27 years of practice I have used this system many times with great success, it works.

To understand this diagram place Earth in the center and see the 4 seasons rotating around the earth. Fire becomes Summer, Metal Autumn, Water winter and Wood spring.

Now we begin to see and understand the type of energy in each organ and how each organs energy controls of supports the other organ energies. As an example: The Kidneys are water energy, cooling and winter. They are fed energy by autumn/lungs and controlled by Spleen/pancreas/earth. Kidneys feed energy to the Liver/spring and they control the Heart/fire.

This mightn't mean much to you until we see a client who has liver problems and a weak heart. In Chinese Medicine we would be having a serious look at the kidney energy to see if it is the cause of the clients problem. This is what makes Traditional Chinese Medicine so successful in areas of medicine where western medicine is still struggling to find a cause to the illness let alone a cure.

In physics there is a basic law that states that 'energy must exist before matter is formed' In Chinese terms this means that the energy called Qi(chi) must exist for the physical body to function. If we can understand what is happening to the Qi in the body, is it strong, is it weak, is it built up in one area staving another area, do we need to add energy or do we channel it away? These are some of the questions that the practitioner is constantly asking himself as he conducts his examination.

A Traditional Chinese Doctor will use two wonderful diagnostic tools that have been thoroughly tested over 4000 years of clinical trials, called The Chinese Pulse and Tongue Diagnosis. Both these diagnostic procedures have been developed over countless centuries, so that the practitioner can determine the energy flow within the organs and energy channels of the body.

Article by Robert Kendall

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