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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.

Acupuncture Points
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

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