Acupuncture is more than two thousand years old and is rooted in Classical Chinese Medicine. It works with a different view and paradigm of the body and the natural world. The ancient Chinese observed nature and noticed the integration of all life rather than the separability of it as put forth by modern science. Due to seeing the world in this integrated and connected way, Chinese Medicine is considered a holistic medicine whereby the body and mind are treated as one whole and connected system that is symbiotic and dependant on the environment around it. This means that how we live in our natural environment and how we choose our lifestyle to be are very important for our state of health.
As acupuncture views the body holistically, the mind and body are intertwined with each other. Psycho-emotional and physical disorders are often linked and are both treated on channels or meridians that run throughout the body. These channels link the vital organs, bones/marrow, interstitium, connective tissue, muscles, tendons/ligaments and the various systems of the body including digestive, nervous, immune, circulatory, renal, lymphatic and endocrine.
Qi and connection in the body
These channels are all connected by what the Chinese called qi which isn't necessarily a current of energy or electricity but means more simply that there is connection and movement. Our body needs to be in communication and flow with itself for there to be health. In other words the flow of qi around our body needs to be unimpeded. When this flow becomes blocked, symptoms start to appear. The blockages can happen throughout any of the channels depending on the external or internal stress. If a blockage isn't resolved, the problem can make its way over time deeper into the body and become more greatly habituated into the life of that individual moving from an acute nature to a more chronic and serious one.
Unblocking and establishing flow
As the channels connect the whole body, all of the body's systems and counterparts can be affected by stimulating points along the channels. Such stimulation can be done through acupressure, moxa or massage, however acupuncture works primarily and most effectively with fine needle that are inserted into points along the channels. Insertion of these needles in the correctly diagnosed acupuncture points manipulate the qi of the channel and bring about the action of unblocking and smoothing the flow that may have become impeded from physical or psycho-emotional events. A timeless analogy is the removal of debris in a stream or river that was causing stagnation and is now able to move and flow once more. When things are moving well there is health, when there is stagnation there is sickness.
How disease and illness occur
Disease, both physical and psycho-emotional, is a situation in someone's life where the body/mind has fallen out of balance with itself and the environment. There are multiple ways in which this can happen for instance through diet, lifestyle, injury, viruses/bacteria (climate/environmental), stress (physical and emotional), the way we play out and organise our thoughts and from past traumas that if left unresolved can leave emotional scars that affect our day to day life and well-being. How these imbalances present on each individual will be different as everyone is unique within themselves. This also suggests that everyone requires individual treatments catered to their needs and targeted towards the blockages within their channels that have inhibited the flow of life/qi.
Imbalances within the body will show up as symptoms such as headaches or anxiety. As practitioners of Chinese Medicine, we see these symptoms as manifestations or signs of an underlying imbalance. The symptom is therefore not the main problem but a clue of what is happening within the channel systems of the body. They are signs of where blockages and insufficiency's will be. Through diagnosis of the channel system, acupuncture practitioners discern where the imbalance is within the body system and work to unblock and enhance the correct flow of qi. The smoother someone's channels and qi are flowing, the more balanced and in tune that person will be in their day to day lives. Furthermore their ability to deal with day to day events and stresses will be enhanced including the bodies immune system and strength at fighting illness.
The Self-Healing Mechanism of the Body
The mind/body are the true healers of disease. Within us is the potential to heal from illness, injury, emotional disturbance and traumas. This healing mechanism is natural to our lives however it can be blocked and stunted if we are not in some kind of balance or alignment with ourselves. As soon as we start to feel like we're heading off course and symptoms begin to arise, it is a sign that something is wrong within the body/mind matrix. In Chinese Medicine this means that the channel system and flow of qi has become distorted which can be due to many causes as listed above. Once the correct flow is maintained through treatment, the body's ability to self-heal is restored and that person will begin to feel more themselves and symptoms will start to subside.
Below is a closer and more detailed look into how Chinese Medicine and acupuncture see the body/mind.
Yin Yang theory
Yin and yang belong to the philosophy of Daoism and are used conceptually to describe the foundations of life. Yin and yang are directly opposed to each other. They are the two sides of the coin. Without yin and yang, or without opposing forces, life would not exist. It is because we have hot that we have cold. It is because we have up that we have down. It is because we have death that we have life. It is because we have health that we have disease. Life can be seen to exist between two extremes and the concept of yin yang simply describes this idea just as night turns into day and day into night.
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture use this model of yin and yang to understand the body, how it functions and how it malfunctions. For example if we were to stay awake (yang) with no sleep (yin), we would either cease to exist as yin and yang are no longer together and in harmony, or we would collapse from sheer exhaustion into deep and necessary sleep (yin) thereby continuing the cycle of life and re harmonising yin and yang.
Cycles in Chinese Medicine
Through observing life the ancient Chinese sages put great emphasis on cycles and seasons. Just like night (yin) turns into day (yang) and day (yang) turns into night (yin) we can mirror this onto the body as sleep (yin) turns to awake (yang) and awake (yang) eventually turns to sleep (yin). The cycle then is a closed loop of endless iterations of birth/growth, expanse, decay, death and re-birth. here we can look at the cycle of the seasons of a year with birth/growth (spring), expanse (summer), decay (autumn) and death (winter). From winter, spring if reborn and the cycle continues with the new birth and growth (spring) of another year.
This cycle is referred to as the Five Elements system in Chinese Medicine which details the cycle of birth/growth, expanse, decay and death however changes their names to wood (upward growth/spring), fire (expanse/summer), earth (added on here to describe how all of these seasons happen on earth), metal (contraction, decay, autumn) and water (winter/stillness/everything in its most passive and inactive state). These five names (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) are archetypes describing what is happening energetically to life as it unfolds, expands, decreases and returns to stillness. Much like a heating kettle of water which begins at stillness, warms up, boils and begins to cool once more until it is still and cool. This Five Elements system and way of categorising phenomena and the movement of energetic qualities within the seasons is just a way of describing yin and yang in more detail.