How does acupuncture work: TCM Perspective

Treatment of acupuncture points may be performed along several layers of pathways, most commonly the twelve primary pathways, known as meridians, or channels located throughout the body .Ten of the primary pathways are named after organs of the body (Heart, Liver, etc.), one is named for the serous membrane that wraps the heart (Heart Protector or Pericardium), the last is the three spaces (San Jiao). . The two independent extraordinary pathways Ren Mai and Du Mai are situated on the midline of the anterior and posterior aspects of the trunk and head respectively. The twelve primary pathways run vertically, bilaterally, and symmetrically and every channel corresponds to and connects internally with one of the twelve Zang Fu (‘organs’). This means that there are six yin and six yang channels. There are three yin and three yang channels on each arm, and three yin and three yang on each leg.

The three yin channels of the hand (Lung, Pericardium, and Heart) begin on the chest and travel along the inner surface (mostly the anterior portion) of the arm to the hand.
The three yin channels of the foot (Spleen, Liver, and Kidney) begin on the foot and travel along the inner surface (mostly posterior and medial portion) of the leg to the chest or flank.
The three yang channels of the hand (Large intestine, San Jiao, and Small intestine) begin on the hand and travel along the outer surface (mostly the posterior portion) of the arm to the head.
The three yang channels of the foot (Stomach, Gallbladder, and Bladder) begin on the face, in the region of the eye, and travel down the body and along the outer surface (mostly the anterior and lateral portion) of the leg to the foot.

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The movement of qi through each of the twelve channels is comprised of an internal and an external pathway. The external pathway is what is normally shown on an acupuncture chart and it is relatively superficial. All the acupuncture points of a channel lie on its external pathway. The internal pathways are the deep course of the channel where it enters the body cavities and related Zang-Fu organs. The superficial pathways of the twelve channels describe three complete circuits of the body, chest to hands, hands to head, head to feet, feet to chest, etc.

Many patients claim to experience the sensations of stimulus known in Chinese as ‘deqi’ (‘obtaining the qi’ or ‘arrival of the qi’). This kind of sensation was historically considered to be evidence of effectively locating the desired point. There are some electronic devices now available which will make a noise when what they have been programmed to describe as the ‘correct’ acupuncture point is pressed.

The acupuncturist decides which points to treat by observing and questioning the patient in order to make a diagnosis according to the tradition which he or she utilizes.

After acupuncture you may experience soreness, minor bleeding and/or bruising at the needle sites.