What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system which includes acupuncture, herbal remedies, dietary therapy, and body manipulations/massage. It has been around for at least 3,000 years and is still used today in clinics and hospitals throughout China and most of Asia as a primary medical modality. Chinese Medicine helps to relieve symptoms and signs of many health problems. It can also uncover the underlying root cause(s) of those symptoms. TCM takes a holistic view of each individual and believes that everybody has an innate ability to overcome disease and illness. Using acupuncture, herbs, and other treatment modalities, Chinese medicine works to restore balance to the body which stimulates natural healing and promotes health.
Over many years, TCM providers discovered pathways (or meridians) through the body, along which lay points that, when stimulated, produced dramatic effects. Many of these pathways follow the nervous system pathways. With modern technology, we have been able to begin understanding why acupuncture works and have gained more insight into acupuncture points and meridians.
What does Acupuncture do?
The short and simple answer is it restores homeostasis. Homeostasis is your body's basic job description, the internal balance of every system. In a fundamental sense, all disease, injury or significant physical changes (birth) disrupts homeostasis.
Acupuncture stimulates the peripheral nervous system, which effects the central nervous system, which regulates the autonomic nervous system. Generally speaking, the results of this are pain relief, relaxation, and inflammation reduction. Specific aspects of this include regulation of blood pressure, decrease pain receptors, optimization of gastric and intestinal motility, temperature regulation, balancing hormone levels, and reduction of the effects of stress.
There is also an immediate increase in blood cell production causing strengthened immunity and energy. Acupuncture's effect on pain, discomfort, and anxiety can be dramatic indeed. Some experts summarize this as "descending control normalization of the serotonergic nervous system".
Li, Qian-Qian, Guang-Xia Shi, Qian Xu, Jing Wang, Cun-Zhi Liu, and Lin-Peng Wang. "Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
What does Acupuncture feel like?
Each person experiences acupuncture a little differently. Acupuncture needles are tiny, disposable, sterile needles placed gently into specific acupuncture points. During the insertion of needles, some people feel nothing, while others experience a quick twinge, which may be followed by a light tingling, heaviness or warmth. These responses are completely normal as some points or areas of the body may be more sensitive. Needles generally remain in place for 20 minutes. Patients generally feel relaxed during the treatment and revitalized or rested after the session. Symptom relief may occur immediately, or in the few days that follow a treatment. For complex, longstanding complaints, more than one treatment is generally required.