Acupuncture: An Overview
What is Acupuncture? How does sticking a bunch of needles into your body make you feel better? Is this stuff for real? These are all questions I’ve asked myself, and have heard from others over the years. Acupuncture is a system of complementary medicine that involves pricking the skin with needles. It’s used to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions; is one of the key components of Traditional Chinese Medicine; and is among the oldest healing practices in the world. In a 2007 Consensus Development Conference, The National Institute of Health determined that “According to the traditional Chinese medicine approach, stimulating specific acupuncture points corrects imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians.”
Acupuncture can be dated back thousands of years, and as with any topic that old, there is a plethora of information available, and it sometimes can be hard to decipher. After researching the topic, and because of the context of the assignment, I narrowed my focus down to three specific areas: theory, which covers qi, meridians, and acupuncture points; history, which can be broken down into antiquity, middle history, and the modern era; and lastly the length, diameter, and material of needles. The basis of acupuncture deals with manipulating the flows of qi throughout the body. According to Daoist principles, qi is the active principle forming part of any living thing, and it is the central underlying principle in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of "qi" is breath, air, or gas; however, it is frequently translated as "life energy", "life force", or "energy flow." In A Clinical Introduction to Medical Acupuncture, the authors, Aung & Chen, state, “Traditional Chinese medicine distinguishes not only one but several different kinds of qi. In a general sense, qi is something that is defined by five "cardinal functions.” These cardinal functions are what keep the body alive. The first function qi provides is keeping the body, especially the limbs, warm during cold temperatures. The energy from it heats the blood, the extremities, and allows us to live and our biological processes to take place. Qi also enables the actuation of the biological processes such as breathing, sweating, it controls the nervous system, and most importantly the circulation of all the body fluids such as blood in its vessels. Qi also provides containment of those fluids in their proper spot; it keeps blood, sweat, urine, and semen from leaking or excessive emission. We know now that food broken down by the digestion process, and that various enzymes convert it into blood, nutrients, and that there’s a process for making the air we breathe into oxygen for our lungs. The ancient Chinese believed that qi did the transformation of food, drink, and breath into qi, blood, fluids, and the transformation of all of the latter into each other. The last function provided by qi, is defense against the Six Essences. The Six Essences are allegorical terms sometimes used to describe disharmony patterns in the body and their names are derived from environmental elements that were thought to pattern, or mimic, the symptoms. The first of the Six Essences is Wind, which is characterized by rapid onset of symptoms, wandering location of symptoms, itching, nasal congestion, "floating" pulse; tremor, paralysis, or convulsion. The second of the Essences is Cold, which manifests itself in cold sensations, aversion to cold, relief of symptoms by warmth, watery/clear excreta, severe pain, abdominal pain, contracture and hypertonicity of muscles, (slimy) white tongue fur, and hidden, string-like, or slow pulse. Fire (or heat) is the third of the Essences. Its symptoms are recognizable by aversion to heat, high fever, thirst, concentrated urine, red face or tongue, yellow tongue fur, and a rapid pulse. The last three Essences are Dampness,...
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