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What is acupuncture?

Chinese medicine principles have been developed and refined for over 3000 years. Chinese medicine calls vital energy Qi. One of the key concepts in Chinese medicine is the theory of Qi. Qi is understood to be distributed throughout the body in a network of channels (meridians) akin to the network of blood vessels. These channels are linked to organs. Different channels and organs may be deficient or in excess in relation to how much Qi flows through them. These imbalances cause signs and symptoms. Each individual has his or her own set of imbalances, and these vary from day to day.


Acupuncture uses needles to manipulate the flow of energy or blood, to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes. Fine needles are inserted into specific points to regulate the flow of Qi in channels around the body to improve physical health and general well-being. In recent years medical scientists have discovered myofascial pathways that follow the channels. The concept of Qi itself may overlap with developing knowledge of how cells in the body communicate. The body id treated as a whole in Chinese Medicine.


Medical scientists are investigating acupuncture thoroughly using an evidence-based approach. To date, the focus has been on pain management. The You Tube clip below from the BBC 2 series "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor" shows the MRI scan of a presenter receiving acupuncture. It demonstrates blood flow decreasing in areas of the brain involved with feeling pain when acupuncture needles are inserted. Other clinical studies are being conducted to understand how acupuncture can be beneficial for many more conditions.You can read factsheets about the latest acupuncture research on the BAcC website


While modern science is just starting to discover a more expansive view of acupuncture, there has long been cultural recognition for the approach. Modern medicine focuses the attention on the symptom primarily in the physical body and treats the signs which are present. Chinese medicine focuses on the whole body and looks for the root cause of the symptom.

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