Why Acupuncture works
The function of acupuncture can be illustrated by the some irrigation
systems. At certain points an excess of water flow maybe drained from
a canal into a field where water is needed. Likewise, water may be diverted
into a canal from a field that is already flooded. The flow of Qi in the
meridians is very similar to this canal or river analogy. The inserted
acupuncture needle contacts and stimulates the Qi flowing in the meridians
and either increases or diminishes its strength, whichever is appropriate
for the treatment.
To understand the theory of acupuncture, we have to learn about
(a) Meridian and Point Theory
We consider all parts of the universe to be interrelated and often refer
to the body as if it were a landscape. The rivers of the earth, which allow
for communication between its various regions, are reflected in the body,
the microcosm again reflecting the macro-cosm. From this thinking, and through
centuries of empirical obser-vation, the meridian and point system of Chinese
medicine was developed represent the flows of the meridians as they traverse
the surface of the body.Many acupuncture texts depict the meridians as lines
drawn on the body, much as a river is drawn on a map. In many respects this
representation is valid for it shows where the river, or meridian, flows
and, in the case of acupuncture, which acupuncture points are lo-cated along
its course. But the meridian system is much more com-plex and poetic than
this representative line on the body, just like the line on the map does
not do justice to a river. Within a river are cur-rents, eddies, smooth
rocks, and aquatic life forms. The water within the river does not stop
at the river's bank, but permeates the land deeply along its entire course.
Sometimes the river is shallow, some-times it runs deep. These images also
hold true for the fluidity of Qi running through a meridian. Depending on
the muscles and tissues it traverses, a meridian might also run deep or
shallow. In some areas it might spread over the surface of the skin and
in other places be-come more narrow. At one point it might run quickly,
at another more slowly. A meridian has an energetic signature that reflects
the portion of the body it traverses, its associated organ system, and the
quality of the Qi that flows along its course. The meridians, as con-duits
of Qi, permeate the entire body. The best known are the twelve primary meridians
that run near the surface of the body. They are arranged symmetrically on
each side of the body, the left side directly mirroring the right. These
primary meridians also have branches that penetrate deeply into the interior
of the body to connect with their respective Yin/Yang organ systems. Each
meridian is named after the internal organ it is associated with, for example,
the Lung meridian, the Large Intestine Meridian, the Liver Meridian, and
so on. Thus we can see that a meridian is not separate from the organ, but
is an ex-tension of that organ system's energetics. When an organ system's
Qi becomes imbalanced, that energetic disharmony is echoed by the re-spective
meridian and eventually is reflected on the surface of the body in the region
the meridian traverses. Conversely, an imbalance in a meridian can be mirrored
in its respective organ system. There are many types of meridians. In addition
to the twelve pri-mary meridians associated with each of the twelve organ
systems, two additional meridians traverse the midline of the front (Ren/Con-ception
Vessel) and the back (Du/Governing Vessel) of the body. It is on these fourteen
meridians that the major acupuncture points are located. There also exists
groupings of other channels that connect to or branch from the primary meridians.
Each of these subsets have specific functions that augment the activities
of the fourteen primary meridians. Some of these are minor channels that
distribute Qi from the primary channels to finer and finer regions of the
body. Eventu-ally, every cell is vitalized by the Qi within the meridian
system. This complex system of subdivision is much like the blood circulatory
system which proceeds from major arteries down to the smallest capillaries.
*Also called triple warmer, triple energizer, or San Jiao, is one of the
12 primary meridians and corresponds to the upper, middle and lower portions
of the body.
The acupuncture points, or xue (pronounced shway), meaning "hole,"
are minute locations on the skin where the Qi flowing in the meridians
emerges. Using the analogy of the river, the acupuncture points can be
viewed as whirlpools. These whirlpools allow for com-munication between
the surface of the body and the deeper currents of Qi. It is through the
application of acupuncture needles at the acu-puncture points that the
Qi within the meridians is influenced. This in turn affects the local
musculoskeletal area or deeper internal or-gans associated with that meridian.
The systems of meridians and points is a vast communications network that
unifies and integrates the workings of the entire body.
Each acupuncture point has a variety of functions and, depend-ing on
how it is needled, these different functions may be modified. For example,
a point may regulate Qi but, depending upon the nee-dling technique applied,
the Qi flow may be reinforced in the merid-ian or it may be dispersed.
Many acupuncture point names refer to the points location or reflect its
energetic nature. Xiyan, for example, means" Eyes of the Knee,"
and is located in the hollow on either side of the kneecap. Qihai, "Sea
of Qi" denotes a point slightly below the navel that functions as
a reservoir of Qi. The body reflects a diverse landscape where the acupuncture
points are the signposts along the rivers of Qi