What is Chinese Acupuncture?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Alfred Wekelo, Guillaume Baviere, Sorin Georgescu, Cora Reed
  • Last Modified Date: 01 January 2020
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Chinese acupuncture is one of the oldest modalities of medicine known. Its practice is central to the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which were established thousands of years ago. Today, Chinese acupuncture is considered to be one of the mind-body therapies recognized in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) throughout most of the world.

The objective of Chinese acupuncture is to restore balance to the body. This is accomplished with the use of needles of varying length to manipulate the meridians of the body, which are believed to act as sites that channel the vital life force, or Qi. Disease is thought to occur from an obstruction of Qi, which can be caused by an imbalance of the masculine and feminine aspects of the mind-body. These dual aspects, known as yin and yang, represent contrasting qualities that complement each other providing that they are in balance to each other.


Yin and yang aspects are characterized in Chinese acupuncture by the influences of opposite forces that occur naturally, such as cold or hot, passive or aggressive, winter or summer, etc. Yin reflects the more feminine attributes such as cold, passivity, and winter; while yang represents the masculine qualities of heat and aggression. This concept is not meant to convey that yin and yang are tangible energy forces within the body, but to serve as an illustration of how duality exists in everything in nature. In other words, while yin and yang exist in opposition, they cannot exist without each other.

Chinese acupuncture is used to treat a large variety of conditions, as well as to prevent disease from occurring in the first place. Since it is a mind-body modality, its practice is not limited to targeting the physical body. In fact, it is sometimes used as a complementary therapy to treat depression. It may also be used as a behavior modification tool to assist in breaking undesirable habits, such as smoking. However, the most commonly sought treatment is to relieve pain associated with arthritis, carpal tunnel, migraine, or post-surgical complications.

Generally speaking, there are little, if any, negative side effects of Chinese acupuncture. However, injury or infection can occur if acupuncture is performed incorrectly. Therefore, it should be stressed that patients obtain the services of a qualified and licensed practitioner. Many conventional physicians, as well as dentists and cognitive behavior therapists, can often provide a referral.

The length of therapy with Chinese acupuncture varies according to the condition being treated, with sessions ranging from just a few visits to several weeks or months. The cost of treatment will also vary. On that note, it should be mentioned that many health insurance companies now cover Chinese acupuncture treatments, but not all. Therefore, it would a good idea to check with the insurance company prior to consulting an acupuncturist.



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