Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are among the oldest continuous systems of medicine, originating nearly five thousand years ago. Together, they constitute the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is based upon the notion of balance, and employs the ideas of moderation and prevention. TCM views health as a state of imbalance, which can result from many factors, including mental and emotional stress, physical trauma, improper diet, environmental factors and genetic predispositions.
The goal of TCM is to balance yin (vital function) and yang (vital essence), promote smooth flow of qi (vital force/energy) and blood throughout the body, as well as strengthen and tonify qi and blood when necessary. TCM not only treats the symptoms, but also focuses on the cause or root of the presenting problem. A thorough evaluation of the patient is necessary for the practioner to determine the root of the imbalance, which then leads them to diagnosis and treatment.
Acupuncture uses the insertion of extremely fine needles into specific acupuncture points situated along the pathways on the body, known as meridians in order to regulate the flow of qi and actviate the healing process. These meridians flow along the surface of the body and through the internal organs. By stimulating these points with acupuncture needles, stagnant qi and/or blood can be unblocked, energy an be directed to or away from a deficient or excessive organ, and yin and yang can be rebalanced. These effects produced by acupuncture enhance and activate the body's ability to heal itself, promoting physical and mental health.
According to modern science, research suggests that acupuncture dramatically controls pain by stimulating the nervous system to release endorphins and enkephalins, the body's natural painkilling chemicals. Other research suggests that acupuncture alters blood flow in the brain and may prompt the release of certain brain hormones, such as serotonin, which transmit nerve impulses. Acupuncture may also cause the pituitary gland to discharge pain-blockers and to initiate a process that releases anti-inflammatory agents into the bloodstream.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nationl Institute of Health (NIH) have endorsed the use of acupuncture for a diverse group of medical disorders, including: Respiratory, Musculo-skeletal, Gastrointestinal, Cardiovascular, Urogenital, Gynecological, Emotional, and Neurological disorders. For a more complete list of disorders treated with acupuncture, please refer to 'Conditions Treated with Acupuncture'.