What is Qi (Pronounced “Chee” \ˈchē\)?
In ancient times, the Chinese believed Qi was the fundamental entity comprising the world, and thus everything was connected. The Chinese character for “Qi” is the same as the word for air, life breath or gas. The Chinese people believed everything resulted from the movement and change of Qi. It can be thought of as the “life force” or force that animates and informs living beings. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”), Qi is the vital substance that makes up the body. It travels in channels throughout the body, also known as meridians, and every organ has its own Qi. Qi is best defined through its properties and functionality.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin stainless-steel, sterile, disposable needles into the body at points that have been shown to benefit certain health conditions. These points generally fall along established channels through which Qi flows in the body. By inserting needles into these points, your acupuncturist can help direct the flow of Qi to bring your body into balance.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The body always seeks balance and often finds it in forms that do not promote the overall health of the body. For instance, one part of the body might suffer from a repletion, meaning too much Qi accumulating in a particular area, while another part of the body might be vacuous, meaning too little Qi in that area. The insertion of tiny needles into specific points stimulates biological healing processes that balance the flow of Qi. Acupuncture works to treat pain by stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural pain killing hormones. Once a condition is resolved, regular sessions are encouraged to maintain the body’s balance and overall health.
Is Acupuncture Painful?
Many people associate needles with pain and assume acupuncture must be painful. Acupuncture needles are designed to minimize discomfort and are typically not much thicker than a hair, with extremely sharp tips that easily pass through the upper layers of skin. Also, acupuncturists are trained in methods to reduce or eliminate any potential pain. It is normal to feel heaviness, numbness, soreness, distension, itching, or even movement. Such sensations mean that your Qi has been connected with and is moving. Many times, a patient will feel nothing at all. Occasionally, a person might feel a slight pinch or discomfort, which can be easily relieved by the acupuncturist.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The number of treatments varies widely with the condition being treated, its severity and its duration. Chronic conditions that have been in existence for years can take a long time to resolve, while a recent injury or problem may take a short time to correct. The effectiveness of acupuncture can be greatly increased with the concurrent adoption of healthy lifestyle habits.
How Much Will I Need to Undress for my Appointments?
Before each treatment, your acupuncturist will discuss with you the degree of disrobing that will be necessary to reach specific points. If you wear loose clothing, many points can be reached without much undressing. If the location of a particular point requires clothing to be removed, your acupuncturist has a cotton gown for you to wear and has been trained in appropriate draping to maximize your comfort.
What Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?
A 2003 World Health Organization report detailed clinical trials researching the effectiveness of acupuncture. According to this report, acupuncture has been proven effective in controlled trials for the following diseases, symptoms or conditions:
adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
- allergic rhinitis and hay fever
- biliary colic
- painful menstruation
- facial pain and craniomandibular disorders
- low blood pressure
- labor induction
- knee pain
- low back pain
- fetus malposition
- morning sickness
- neck pain
- nausea and vomiting
- dental pain
- TMJ dysfunction
- shoulder arthritis
- postoperative pain
- renal colic
- rheumatoid arthritis
- tennis elbow
The report also states 63 other conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown, but for which further proof is needed. They include, but are not limited to:
- abdominal pain
- Bell’s palsy
- cancer pain
- alcohol dependence and detoxification
- diabetes mellitus (non-insulin dependent)
- female infertility
- herpes zoster
- labor pain
- polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Raynaud's syndrome
- urinary tract infections
- lactation deficiency
- Sjogren syndrome
- sore throat
- tobacco dependence
- ulcerative colitis