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In-depth Information About Acupuncture


The Chinese philosophy of Taoism is a belief that man is one with the universe and that all life is permeated with a life-giving force that is vital to balance, and thereby well-being. It is the belief that the body, the mind, and the spirit form an integrated whole and that an individual is deeply connected to his or her environment, community, and world.

When these entities exist in a balanced state of well-being, a person is healthy. The life force, called chi, is essential to maintaining a proper balance in life. Chi circulates through out the body along precise pathways or channels called meridians. Chi controls the blood, the nerves, and all of the organs of the body. When the flow of chi is impeded a person becomes susceptible to disease.

Some of the factors that can cause an impairment in the flow of chi include trauma, improper nutrition, and stress. By stimulating certain points along the meridians, acupuncturists are able to direct the flow of chi by attracting energy to a deficient area or dispersing an excess of energy that has built up in one area of the body. Acupuncture can also be used to dissolve a blockage along a meridian.


One popular Western theory used to explain the success of acupuncture involves endorphins. It is believed that the insertion of the acupuncture needles stimulates the release of pain killing chemicals called endorphins and enkephalins. In 1973 it was discovered that the body contained sites where opioid receptors were present. These sites are located near synapses and exist in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord.

This discovery suggested that the body must also have its own opioid substances for these receptors. In 1975 two small pentapeptides were discovered. These pentapeptides, called enkephines, occur naturally in the body and are found through out the body. Enkephines have been strongly associated with opiate and analgesic activity, although their effect is short and they are easily broken down by the body.

Endorphins are a protein with potent analgesic properties that occurs naturally in the body. They are found in the thalamus and other parts of the brain, but not in the spinal cord. Endorphins are larger molecules than the enkephines and last longer in the body. They are believed to be important in pain control and in the release of some hormones, such as the growth hormone secreted by the pituitary and prolactin.

When the acupuncturist stimulates the release of endorphins and enkephalins, they travel to the brain, where they activate a mechanism which blocks the pain messages, thus relieving the symptom but not addressing the cause.

Gate Theory

Another popular Western theory used to explain the success of acupunture is the gate theory. Beneath the skin is a widespread network of nerves and most of the important nerve strands of this network coincide with the meridian lines of acupunture. Simply explained, these nerves pass on messages to the brain that are converted into feelings and give us information about our body.

The gate theory states that the transmission of pain messages is allowed or prevented by "gates" which are either opened or closed, depending on the balance of excitatory or inhibitory nerves. It is believed that acupuncture acts on impulse transmission to the central nervous system, thus causing certain neurological "gates" to close and thereby blocking the transmission of pain impulses from other parts of the body. This is effective in reducing the pain although the cause persists.


The flow of Yin and Yang energies can be stimulated by pricking certain points on the surface of the body through which the meridians pass. Very thin, sterilized, stainless-steel needles are used in the procedure. The needle are fine and supple and can be inserted in any one of the thousand points along the meridian lines. The acupuncturist determines the specific point according to which area he or she wishes to stimulate.

The hands, forearms, lower legs, feet, back, abdomen, and ears are the most common places to insert needles. The needles vary in length from half of an inch to several inches for use in different parts of the body. They are slightly arrowheaded or may have extremely fine points. Generally, the needles are inserted a considerable distance from the point on which they are to act.

For example, a needle inserted into the pad of the thumb produces an analgesic affect in the abdomen. This is due to the flow of the energy along the meridians. During the procedure, the needles are inserted from 3 to 10 millimeters (0.1 to 0.4 inches) in depth. When the needle is inserted, the patient may feel a slight prick, tingling, numbness, pain or nothing at all. Some procedures call for an insertion to almost 25 centimeters (10 inches).

Once inserted the needle may be twisted, twirled, or connected to a low-voltage alternating current for the duration of its use. Anywhere from 2 to 20 needles or more are used. The fine needles do not cause any tissue damage and generally do not cause bleeding. Points on the ear and face, however, may occasionally bleed because the skin in these areas has a rich blood supply.

The needles remain in place for as long as the acupuncturist determines as necessary. They have an anesthetic effect so powerful that with its use, doctors have been able to perform brain surgery with the patient fully conscious.


Part of the belief of Taoism is that all of our experiences in life have opposites, such as hot and cold, day and night. These opposite forces are called Yin and Yang. They merge and compliment one another through life, creating a balance between man and the world around him. Yin and Yang are energies that enhance the flow of chi through the body. Chi is the life force vital to balance.

Yin is a negative energy, such as the earth, the moon, darkness, moisture, and things female. Yang is a positive energy, such as the heaven, the sun, daytime, dryness, and things male. The idea of energies being positive and negative can be equated to the modern physicists calling protons positive and electrons negative. Both are equally powerful forces. We are healthy when these energies are in balance with each other.

Outside factors such as trauma, improper nutrition, stress, and anxiety can affect the flow of these energies, thus inhibiting the flow of chi. Stimulating certain points along the meridian lines with the use of needles, as in acupuncture, controls the flow of chi by attracting either a Yin or Yang energy to an area where it is deficient or by dispersing an excess of energy that has built up in an area. Acupuncture can also be used to dissolve a blockage.


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