Effect of acupuncture: to make energy flow

Akupunktur Wirkung: Energie zum Fliessen bringen

Acupuncture with needles is one of the best-known treatment methods in Chinese medicine. The principle is to restore a person’s health by regulating the flow of energy in their body.

What does acupuncture mean?

When we think of acupuncture, the image that comes to mind is of a patient pierced by needles. There are 365 acupuncture points distributed across the body – from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet. These points are located along the energy pathways, known as the twelve meridians. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body's natural energy, called qi (pronounced chi), flows along these meridians.

Making energy flow

In TCM, a disease is said to arise when the body's energy becomes imbalanced or obstructed. By inserting needles into specific points, the qi starts to flow again. The knowledge of where these acupuncture points are located is derived from thousands of years of experience and continues to form part of TCM to this day.

Investigating the root cause rather than the symptoms

Treating the cause of the disease rather than the symptom is a fundamental TCM principle. This explains why, when it comes to heart conditions, the focus lies not on treating the heart, but another part of the body: like a weak liver, for example, as an accumulation of anger in the liver can put pressure on the heart.

Examining the tongue

Because the same cause can trigger different symptoms, but the same symptoms can have different causes, TCM practitioners place great value on taking an individual and holistic approach to diagnosis. One of the factors they look at is the shape, colour and coating of the patient’s tongue.

Pulse leads to the source of the condition

Taking the patient’s pulse – at both wrists – is considered particularly informative. “We differentiate between more than 30 pulse qualities,” says Ralph Manser, director of the ChinaMed centre in St. Gallen. These provide information about disturbances in the body and can be linked to specific conditions.

To release energy blockages and strengthen organ functions, TCM usually employs a range of treatments in combination. Acupuncture is one – although experts recommend that it should only be used after a thorough diagnosis.

Acupuncture helps with the following conditions

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a list of conditions that respond well to acupuncture.

These include
  • Upper and lower respiratory tract conditions
  • Gastrointestinal conditions like gastritis or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Toothache
  • Neurological and orthopaedic diseases such as paralysis following strokes, back pain, or knee joint pain
  • Headache, migraine
  • Eczema, psoriasis, neurodermatitis
  • Menstruation pain
  • Psychological and psychosomatic conditions such as mental exhaustion

Acupuncture is also used as a complementary therapy for chronic diseases such as Crohn's disease or for pain relief in cancer patients. In general, TCM considers itself a complementary treatment to conventional medicine.

Various forms of acupuncture

In the 1950s, French doctor Paul Nogier (1908-1996) developed a form of acupuncture on the ear. According to his theory, the ear is a representation of the entire body, with specific points on the ear linked to particular body regions or internal organs. What’s more, ear acupuncture is said to generate quick results. TCM practitioners now incorporate these findings into their therapies.

Anyone hoping for acupuncture treatment without needles is now in luck. Therapists today can stimulate acupuncture points with laser beams, for example: a pleasant alternative for people with needle phobia.

Only a placebo?

The scientific community doubts whether the effects of acupuncture can be traced to the specific points or meridians in the body, raising the question of whether acupuncture has only a placebo effect. This was the subject of the German Acupuncture Trials (GERAC).

On top of this, analyses have been compiled that summarise the results of several studies comparing acupuncture treatments with sham acupuncture. The result: the effect of acupuncture surpasses that of sham acupuncture. According to these analyses, the effect is therefore more than just a placebo.

What would you like to read now?