What is Acupuncture?

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For more than 20 years, I have used acupuncture to help patients restore balance, health, and energy. At my practice, Boulder Community Acupuncture, I use Chinese herbal medicine, dietary changes, and nutritional supplements, as well as discussion of meditation, dreams, psychological factors, books, and yoga—anything it takes to restore balance is up for discussion! Common conditions I address include insomnia, digestive complaints, fatigue, hormonal imbalances that cause PMS and menopausal distress, headaches, stress-related illnesses, seasonal allergies, and colds and flu. Check in often: I’ll be blogging about using acupuncture to treat common conditions, how to find a good practitioner, and more. And if you ever have a question you’d like me to answer, send me an email.

What is Acupuncture?

A complete medical system used to diagnose and treat illness, prevent disease, and improve well-being, acupuncture originated in China more than 3,000 years ago. In traditional Chinese medicine, the body is treated as a whole, and everything is seen in terms of relationship. Health is explained as a state of balance between the yin and yang. The yang force is the immaterial qi or “vital energy,” spirit, fire, heat, activity, movement, doing. The yin counterpart is translated as “blood,” which is linked to but not identical with physical blood, matter, water, cold, receptivity, stillness, being. Disease occurs when either yin or yang is unbalanced, blocked, or stagnant.

For example, I see many women in my clinic who come in exhausted—burned out from all the demands of work, family, social obligations, working out, volunteering, etc. They have overdone the yang part of the equation without spending equal time on yin practices, such as going inward, being still, and allowing themselves to be receptive to life’s nourishment. I have found that women, especially as we get older, need to cultivate the deep, authentic connection to our own unique inner knowing in order to stay healthy and vibrant. And we need to use that relationship with ourselves to inform what actions we do—or don’t—take in the world. For many of us, the hardest lesson to learn is saying “no” to the overdemanding lifestyles that deplete us.

How Does It Work?

Energy circulates throughout the body along well-defined pathways called meridians. Points on the skin along these pathways are energetically connected to specific organs, body structures, and systems. Disrupting this energy circulation affects optimum function and results in pain or illness. To balance the circulation of energy, acupuncture points are stimulated with hair-thin, sterilized, stainless steel acupuncture needles inserted into specific points along meridians to disperse the blockage and mobilize the body’s natural immune response.

However, acupuncturists may utilize other forms of treatment such as moxibustion, which uses moxa—the burning of mugwort herb—on or above the skin to warm the acupuncture point; cupping; and gua sha, gently scraping the meridian with what looks like a Chinese soup spoon. How many treatments you need will depend on the severity and duration of your complaint. Sometimes one or two treatments are enough to correct an imbalance. It may be necessary to receive treatments once or twice a week for several weeks, or longer, to get the desired benefits.

Recently, one of my patients came to the clinic complaining of painfully tight neck and shoulders from stress and overwork. I had her lie face down on the table, then I applied warming essential oils to her shoulders, and did gua sha and cupping before inserting the needles and letting her rest with a heat lamp warming her back. She was loose and relaxed at the end of the treatment and ready to go enjoy her evening.

Is Acupuncture For You?

Before starting acupuncture, you may have a lot of questions: Will it work? Does it hurt? How much does it cost? I look forward to answering these questions and more in upcoming posts!