Terminology

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine uses terminology that you may not have encountered.

 

Below is a list of terms that will better help you to understand the acupuncture and other holistic terms.

 

It is our goal to have our patients to be educated to get the most out of their path to wellness. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.

Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.

Acupuncture Needle

A stainless steel needle that is slightly thicker than a human hair.

Acupuncture point
A point on the meridian that has a specific effect on the energy of the meridian or organ system.

Blood

Blood is used as a broad term to describe the physical blood in the body that moistens the muscles, tissues, skin and hair, as well as nourishing the cells and organs

Cold

In acupuncture, cold describes decreased functioning of an organ system and presents as any of the following: body aches, chills, poor circulation, fatigue, lack of appetite, loose stools or diarrhea, poor digestion, pain in the joints, slow movements and speech, aversion to cold and craving for heat. It is present in all “hypo” conditions such as hypo-adrenalism, hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism.

 

Cupping

The use of suction to increase circulation in an affected area to bring about pain relief. Cupping results in both a diagnosis (some areas redden differently than others) and treatment (the reddened areas benefit from renewed circulation). It is most effective for muscle strain, spasms or congestion.

Damp or Dampness

In acupuncture this refers to excessive fluids in the body with symptoms of abdominal bloating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, lack of thirst, feeling of heaviness or being sluggish, and stiff, aching or sore joints

 

Energy

see Qi

 

Five Elements or Phases
A theory describing the interaction of energetic and physical systems in nature and in the body.

 

Gua Sha

A natural, alternative therapy that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve your circulation. This ancient Chinese healing technique may offer a unique approach to better health, addressing issues like chronic pain.

Herbs / Herbal Medicine

Plants (roots, rhizomes, twigs, bark, leaves, seeds, skin, flowers), animals/animal parts and minerals are used singly or most commonly in formulas to treat a condition. A typical formula consists of six to 12 herbs which create a balanced formula to reduce the possibility of side effects. A common instruction might be to take herbs 2-3 times per day for a few days, several weeks, or even months, depending on the condition. Although historically herbs were to be cooked at home and taken like a tea or soup, now they are available pre-made in capsules, tablets, liquid extracts or powders that can be dissolved in hot water.

 

Jing

Jing or Essence, is the substance responsible for reproduction and regeneration. It is believed to be derived from the energy inherited from one’s parents plus the energy a person acquires in daily life (from air, food and water). Jing regulates the body’s growth and development, provides for reproductive health, and works with Qi to help protect the body from harmful external factors.

 

Organs / Organ System

You will often hear acupuncturists refer to a Liver, Kidney, Spleen or other organ imbalance. These terms refer to the energetic as well as physical organ systems. For example, when acupuncturists say there is an imbalance in the Liver, they may be referring to a liver disease, an emotional imbalance, or even an eye problem. Ask you acupuncturist to clarify these terms as they relate to your condition.

Pulse

An acupuncturist will feel your pulse on the radial artery, just like a doctor or nurse. However, an acupuncturist will take your pulse on both sides and is looking for quite different sensations that may include such descriptions as:

  • soggy or slippery – relates to damp

  • choppy – relates to blood stagnation

  • hollow – relates to blood deficiency

  • superficial – relates to yin deficiency

  • thready or fine – deficiency symptom

 

Meridians

The Chinese have identified a system through which energy flows in the body. Energy or "qi" flows through meridians in much the same way that blood flows through vessels.

Moxibustion

A form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials called "moxa" are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influence.

Qi

Pronounced “chee”, this is the vital energy or life force which flows through the meridians and is used to protect, transform and warm the body. Qi is believed to control and animate the workings of the mind and body. As such, it plays an important role in traditional Chinese medicine. It warms the body and protects it from illness.

Qi is derived from two main sources: the air we breathe and the food we eat. Qi is believed to flow through the body via channels, or meridians, that correspond to particular organs and/or organ systems. Each organ, in turn, has its own characteristic qi (e.g., liver qi, kidney qi, and so on). Occasionally, Qi may become imbalanced due to depletion or obstruction. When this occurs, the function of organs or organ systems may be adversely affected, because of the body’s inability to transport or produce the Qi necessary to fight illness or infection.

Stagnation 

Stagnation is a blockage or build-up of qi, blood or phlegm that prevents it from flowing freely. It is a precursor of illness and disease and is frequently accompanied by pain or tingling. It can leads to lumps or masses. A fibroid is a type of stagnation.

 

Stomach Heat

Stomach Heat indicates too much heat in the stomach, represented by bad breath, bleeding or swollen gums, a burning sensation in the stomach, extreme thirst, frontal headaches and/or mouth ulcers.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

This is the abbreviation for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and massage.

Traditional Chinese: 中醫; pinyin: Zhōngyī is a style of traditional medicine built on a foundation of more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practice that includes various forms of herbal medicineacupuncturemassage
(tui na)
exercise (qigong), and dietary therapy, but recently also influenced by modern Western medicine.

TCM is based on a concept of vital energy, or Qi, that is believed to flow throughout the body. TCM proposes that Qi regulates a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and is influenced by the opposing forces of yin (water, for example) and yang (fire, for example). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of Qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming unbalanced.

Yin, a relative term (in relation to Yang) is associated with the more substantial parts of our being and of nature. Yin is associated with the feminine, nourishment, dark, moist, coolness, substantial, and being rooted or grounded. In a word, yin is calm. Yang, a relative term (in relation to Yin) is associated with the more energetic parts of our being and nature. Yang is associated with the masculine, life-force, energy, brightness, warmth, the ethereal, and rising up. In a word, yang is active.

 

Acupuncturist inserting acupuncture needles.

Acupuncture needles

How large are acupuncture needles?
Here is a comparison to a matchstick and other needles. 

Cupping treatment

Gua Sha treatment

Traditional Chinese herbs in their natural state.

 Acupuncture chart

Twelve Meridians

Moxa sticks used in moxibustion treatments

Qi

Traditional Chinese medicine  is built on a foundation of more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practice .

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