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Acupuncture and Acupressure Explained!

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a form of alternative medicine that originated in China, meridians are invisible energy pathways or channels that run through the body. Our vital life energy, or “qi,” is thought to flow along these meridians, and anything that disrupts the smooth flow of chi is said to cause illness. The Chinese term for meridian is “jing luo.”

Most acupuncture and acupressure points lie on a meridian and stimulating these points using acupuncture needles, acupressure, moxibustion, or tuina is thought to help correct and rebalance the flow of energy. There are over 300 acupuncture points on the meridian system.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of hair-thin, disposable needles into the skin. The needles are inserted gently and painlessly into acupuncture points along meridians (or energy pathways) that run along your body.

Acupressure is often called acupuncture without the needles. Instead of needles, acupressure involves the application of manual pressure (usually with the fingertips) to specific points on the body.

In total, there are three yin meridians (heart, lung, and pericardium) and three yang meridians (small intestine, large intestine, and sanjiao) of the arm, as well as three yin meridians (liver, kidney, spleen) and three yang meridians (urinary bladder, gall bladder, and stomach) of the leg.

Organs without an empty cavity (such as the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys) are called yin organs, and organs with an empty cavity (such as the gallbladder, stomach, bladder, and large and small intestines) are called yang organs.

Yin meridians run along the inside of limbs and yang meridians run along the outside of limbs.

Like with all yin-yang pairs, each of the Twelve Main Meridians exists as a connecting pair that establishes an internal-external relationship with the Zang and fu organs. Each arm meridian has a leg meridian counterpart. These meridians also affect each other’s Zang-fu pairing. For example, illness of the heart or its meridian is treated through healing via the meridian points of the kidney.

𝗗𝗼 𝗔𝗰𝘂𝗽𝘂𝗻𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗔𝗰𝘂𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸?

I’ll refrain from stating facts as to the efficacy of these traditional healing methods mainly because beliefs in these practices are as varied as the number of “experts” you ask.

In July, 2014, 𝙎𝙘𝙞𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙘 𝘼𝙢𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙣 released an article where they interviewed five experts about the validity of acupuncture and acupressure in treating depression. The five included acupuncturist 𝗛𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝗠𝗮𝗰𝗣𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻, senior research fellow at the University of York in England; 𝗘𝗱𝘇𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗘𝗿𝗻𝘀𝘁, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter; 𝗦𝗵𝘂-𝗠𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗪𝗮𝗻𝗴 of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine; pharmacologist 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱 𝗖𝗼𝗹𝗾𝘂𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗻 at University College London, also author of the blog DC’s Improbable Science; and 𝗛𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘁 𝗛𝗮𝗹𝗹, a retired family physician and U.S. Air Force flight surgeon who writes the SkepDoc column in Skeptic magazine.

Without getting into great detail about the interviews, I’ll summarize by saying if you had a degree of skepticism about acupuncture prior to reading these interviews, you most certainly wouldn’t exit with any more confidence in your own opinion after reading these expert’s thoughts on the subject.

For example, David Colquhoun stated, “Acupuncture does not work, which means all discussions of how it does work are irrelevant. I’m not aware of any evidence that acupuncture works for depression.”

Then there’s Shu-Ming Wang, who said, “My opinion is that acupuncture stimulations trigger the release of beneficial hormones and, theoretically, can serve as a mood stabilizer.”

Who is right? Nobody can say for certain. My personal belief is that how well acupuncture and acupressure works may boil down to mind over matter. If you go in believing it works, it probably will have some beneficial effects. After all, the human mind is incredibly powerful. Sometimes simply believing in a particular therapeutic remedy has a lot do to with how well it will actually work for you.

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