The Qi to good health: Benefits of acupuncture
Question: What is acupuncture and how can it benefit my health?
Answer: Acupuncture is a therapy that has been used for centuries to reduce stress and inflammation, which can negatively affect a person’s health. An acupuncturist uses very fine needles that are inserted into the body. These needles send signals to the brain, and the brain responds by lowering stress levels, decreasing feelings of pain, and even improving digestion.
When acupuncture was first developed in Asia, certain organ energies were assigned to different areas of the outer body. Acupuncturists discovered they could strengthen energy and improve a person’s overall wellness by needling or massaging a given area, and modern research has confirmed that different points affect different functions in the body. One example is a point located about two inches above the inner wrist which can regulate heart rate and calm nausea when stimulated. Another point found on the top of the forearm below the elbow can calm intestinal cramping and relieve muscle pain in the neck and shoulders. Each of these points is believed to be filled with an energy called Qi. While Qi cannot yet be measured, acupuncture is based on the notion that overall health is influenced by how well the outer body works in sync with the inner body, similar to the effects of exercise, yoga, and massage.
Acupuncturists are trained to look for subtle cues from the body to help determine someone’s likelihood of becoming ill. First, the acupuncturist gets to know a patient by asking a series of questions that helps determine that patient’s energy. The five acupuncture elements that are used to classify a patient’s energy are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element has an organ, emotion, color and season associated with it. The lung, for example, is related to Metal and fall, when people often get colds and flu. For a patient who regularly catches colds, an acupuncturist knows to build the strength of the lungs while the patient is healthy to help prevent future colds.
Using a person’s energy type as a guide, the acupuncturist and patient work together to improve that energy and boost wellness. Acupuncture is most effective when a therapist is able to build trust and encourage communication with the patient, so the patient can relax and truly utilize the powerful peace that an acupuncture session can provide.
Jennifer K. Moore is an acupuncturist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert.