It made sense to start our exploration with my favorite: the Channel and Acupoint theory of Oriental Medicine.
Originally practiced during the Stone Age using sharpened bones, bamboo and rocks, the skin was rarely actually pierced during the early procedures.
The development of the Nine Needles were described and portrayed in the ancient classic text of the Ling Shu (Spiritual Axis). This book also described the 12 Main Meridians and 8 Extra-Ordinary Channels, the functions and locations of the acupoints, and needling techniques. Each of the 360+ acupuncture points has its particular uses.
The basic concept states that restoring balance of the Yin & Yang energies of the body brings a return to health. Qi flows by way of a grid system of ‘Channels’ or ‘Meridians’, all but one of which run vertically on the body (The exception is the aptly named Dai Mai – Belt Channel). The grid’s horizontal lines are called Collaterals. Lack of proper flow of Qi within this grid system causes pain/disease.
The traditional acupuncture points are ‘pools’ laid out along the meridians in areas more recently determined to be most electrically conductive along the Channel, their stimulation affecting the collaterals and the entire grid system. A TCM diagnosis is derived from the patient’s symptoms and signs (pulse, tongue) to determine the Pattern of Imbalance. Treatment is focused on methods to bring imbalances back into balance. Too much Qi in a certain area (Excess or Jitsu) and not enough in another (Deficiency/Vacuity or Kyo) calls for such a rebalancing. With the proper techniques, acupuncture is able to push or pull Qi from flooded areas to undernourished ones.
Acupuncture points in the area of the main symptom (local points) are often used but are combined with more distal points. These distal points are chosen either because they are found further along the same channel affected by the location of the symptom, or because their function directly relates to the particular problem. This is why acupuncture performed by a practitioner in the Oriental medicine field might choose a point on the hand to treat headaches, for example.
In my opinion, this is the most complete explanation as to how acupuncture works, but I may be somewhat biased. So let’s keep exploring..