Acupuncture is an ancient form of bodywork used originally in Oriental medicine.
Over the last several decades, it has gained increasing acceptance in the Western world as well.
The overall concept behind acupuncture and its close relative, acupressure, is that the body runs on energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”).
The energy system involves defined pathways known as meridians, each of which has multiple acupuncture points that affect various organs, areas or body systems. There are hundreds, even thousands, of points running throughout the body, and modern CT scans have even shown micro-vessel cluster points coinciding with these points in the body.
The foundational concept of how acupuncture is done is through stimulating the acupuncture points to correct imbalances or blockages in the flow of energy.
And ultimately to restore health.
Acupuncture help activate the bodies innate healing capabilities. Small single-use "needles" are inserted on various points located throughout the body. Using these points used in conjunction with Chinese medical theory and an understanding of the intricate energetics of the body, known as Qi, healing times are reduced and pain managed easier. Acupuncture helps to re-establish the dynamic balance of our health. Whether you are dealing with digestive disorders, metabolic syndrome, injuries, anxiety or even the common cold, Acupuncture can help!
How Many Acupuncture Points Are There?
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe there are at least 2,000 acupuncture points in the body.
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed A Proposed Standard International Acupuncture Nomenclature Report in 1991, which identifies 361 acupuncture points.
According to WHO, acupuncture points are organized according to their location on each of the fourteen major meridians.
WHO’s standard nomenclature also identifies eight extra meridians, 48 extra acupuncture points and additional acupuncture points in the scalp.
Locating the Acupuncture Points
The identification of all possible acupuncture points is available from many resources on the web, with a full atlas of these points.
Some include common names, but all are also identified by specific ID system.
Although different systems have been used, in most cases, each acupuncture point is identified with letters that indicate the meridian on which it is located and a number to indicate its position along the meridian.
Acupuncture points are numbered in sequence, but the sequence may begin at the most distal (farthest) point or the most proximal (nearest point) to the body center.
For example, the numbering system for the stomach meridian begins near the eye and runs down across the chest and abdomen.
The large intestine meridian begins at the index finger and runs up the arm to the area of the nose.
In some cases, acupuncture points correlate to a specific anatomical point or structure.
For example, the L13 point called Sanjian is on the radial (wrist) side of the index finger next to the head of the metacarpal bone. In other cases, the acupuncture point is found by measuring from an anatomical landmark such as a joint or other structure.
In acupuncture, measurements are derived from the patient’s body. One “body inch” (sun or cun) is the width of the thumb.
Measurements are expressed in body inches. The CV5 point called Shimen is located by measuring from the umbilicus or navel. CV5 is 2 cun below the umbilicus.
The Science of Acupuncture
So do these acupuncture points work? Are they backed by science?
While having been successfully used for thousands of years to help people treat conditions and live better lives, recent modern science is also backing up the effectiveness of these specific acupuncture points.
There is good evidence that acupuncture can help people with chronic pain and conditions like fibromyalgia.
It has also been shown to be beneficial for nausea caused by surgical anesthetics and chemotherapy.
Some people who have migraine headaches and asthma respond to acupuncture treatments.
However, studies have not yet validated whether acupuncture is effective in treating other conditions like diabetes and heart disease. That doesn’t mean it’s not effective, just that so far the research can’t prove it.
Acupuncture is like any other medical therapy – it may be more or less effective for each individual patient.
And each patient will respond differently to acupuncture.
The risks are minimal, as long as the treatment is performed by a well-qualified practitioner
How Do Acupuncture Points Work?
The knowledge of actual locations of the different acupuncture points developed over thousands of years.
How they work depends on who you ask. Modern science is only beginning to uncover how this practice actually affects the body.
Medical research is currently inconclusive, but…
One theory is that placing a needle in an acupuncture point stimulates the release of a chemical called adenosine, which can help relieve pain.
Another is that placing an acupuncture needle stimulates the nerve pathway and signals the brain to release hormones called endorphins, which can also help relieve pain.
Yet another hypothesis suggests acupuncture decreases inflammation.
A final theory is that placing the needle stimulates the nerve to secrete a growth factor that helps the nerve regenerate.
Whatever the reason they affect the body, the acupuncture points work by activating each point with a variety of methods – needles being the most well-known way.
But in truth, acupuncturists stimulate the points in several ways.
There is the use of very fine sterilized gold or stainless steel needles – acupuncture needles we all know about.
In addition, an acupuncturist may also use direct pressure with the fingers or thumbs (acupressure), heat, friction, suction through the use of special cups (cupping), and the direct application of electromagnetic energy impulses.
Each have their own particular benefit and purpose for the patient.
And all work under the same fundamental Chinese Medicine principles.