How Acupuncture Works: Channels and Points

A diagram of acupuncture channels
A diagram of acupuncture channels

In my last post, I discussed some of the scientific theories about how acupuncture works. The science is fascinating and there is a lifetime of exploring left to be done.  Yet, it does not tell us about the power of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine which is the theory behind acupuncture and the skill of the acupuncturist in applying it. The skill and success of the practitioner is based upon how they apply this theory.

Acupuncture Channels and Qi Flow

The core of acupuncture theory is the channel system and network. Some people like to describe the channels like the meridians on a globe revealing the geographic relationship between parts of the body. They are somewhat different than meridians, because while they travel on the surface of the skin, they also dredge deep into the body to link with the organs and the viscera. This is why I prefer to use the word channel to meridian.

No matter what you call them, the channels are an alternative communication mechanism that connect and integrate the body,  That is why we can use points on your leg to treat digestive diseases, headaches, acne, or asthma.

Qi, the body’s energy, circulates in the channels.  This is another reason they are like channels, because material flows through them.   Good health is maintained when there is a good amount of circulation and amount of qi in the channels.  Injuries, stress, and illnesses can cause the qi to slow down or stagnate in the channels.

Acupuncture Points

Acupuncture points, for the most part, lie on the channels. Points are regions of the body that the qi is more accessible.  This is why we needle or massage them to influence the flow and circulation of qi.   Each point has a specific healing action such as moving the qi in the digestive system, stimulating production of reproductive qi, or sometimes it will focus on a specific region of the body.  By elegantly combining the points, the skilled practitioner helps to balance the body and promote self healing.

There are almost as many treatment styles as there are acupuncturists.  Sometimes acupuncturists will not treat the painful area of the body, but the opposite.  For example, I prefer to put needles in points on the feet for headaches, in order to drain the energy down out of the head.

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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