Roots of community acupuncture in China: moving Qi, but more!

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by Gord Grant PhD, RAc

In China, acupuncture was and still is practiced commonly in a group setting. On the way home after work or on your day off, you see the acupuncturist for a weekly tune-up.  Here treatments are performed efficiently on people in a group setting, sitting in chairs or lying down on tables, sometimes with drapes between, sometimes not. The origins of Chinese medicine  are founded in prevention – this strategy was out of necessity since there were no other choices.  Reacting with powerful medicines and sophisticated and truly heroic interventions as we do now in medicine were not options back then.  

So what do the needles do? The Chinese doctors said the needles unblock stagnant “Qi”.  In scientific terms, we can explain the function of a needle as promoting a healing response through mechanisms already existing in the body. When you think about it, acupoints, which are located along connective tissue fissures in the body the Chinese called “meridians”, did not come into reality for acupuncture.  They existed long before Chinese medicine – and before humans for that matter!  Let me elaborate a bit.  To be truly holistic, holding all of human’s knowledge, without getting singularly lost in the Qi idea, we have to look through the lens of science too.  We know all animals have information systems that monitor the state and integrity of their tissues.  In previous blogs, Alina Tousseeva, an ATP acupuncturist and a medical doctor from Russia, has extensively studied how acupuncture points exist at critical transitional locations.  She elaborates on the evidence demonstrating how acupuncture may shift the neuroendocrine state toward a better healing state.  My guess is these sensitive spots have evolved in animals to respond in a dynamic way when things go wrong – like in physical trauma.  So an acupuncture needle goes deeper than pain receptors to set off a trauma healing response innocuously, to initiate restorative systems without the trauma.

Think about this next time you are exercising strenuously or doing yoga – your ancient acupoints are adaptively alert and watching and working!