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FAQs - What are acupuncture and ZB, anyway?

I hear a lot of questions from clients and other lay-people about acupuncture and zero balancing. This month, let’s explore some of those good, good questions!

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is an entire system (actually, multiple systems) of medicine, completely separate from Western medical thought and theory. Those who first began practicing acupuncture made hundreds of thousands of observations of the natural world and the body in health and in illness. From these observations, they created several interwoven theories of health, illness, and growth for the human experience. The theory used in Chinese medicine is fundamental – the observations the ancients made cover the most basic of functions (basic, binary, “on/off” functions), and such complexities such as reproduction, the progression of disease, and mental health. Each part of the body is viewed in much the same way as a member of the court or army - a tiny piece of the interwoven world that is a body working in or out of harmony, but without which the whole would collapse. This microcosmic view of the body is what gives acupuncture its uniquely holistic perspective, and which draws so many to its practice and use.

Those theories that evolved to explain the effects observed when particular points were manipulated in particular ways are the closest we as acupuncturists have to understanding why acupuncture works. Over the millennia, our theoretical ancestors have taught us, “do this, in this fashion, with this tool, this frequently, for these symptoms, which indicate this breakdown in function at this level due to this pathogenic factor.”

As Western medicine collides with Eastern medical thought, we have tried to determine the Western physiology behind that je ne sais quoi of acupuncture’s effects. Present theories include manipulation of the nervous system through direct physical contact, manipulation of the substances and membrane transports between nerve cells, inducing inflammatory responses on a mild level at needle sites to promote local healing, and more.

The short answer? We’re not sure!

If that seems weird to you, consider that the first use of general anesthesia (the drugs that make people sleep for surgeries) was in 1846, but we just made the first breakthrough in 2019 to begin understanding how that class of drugs works (https://www.futurity.org/general-anesthesia-sleep-brains-neurons-2039772-2/). If it took 170 years to begin to understand drugs that just do one thing (and those drugs were developed by Western docs for use in Western medicine), it’s understandable that it’s taking so long for Western medicine to figure out acupuncture, a procedure with dozens of components and hundreds of indications and uses in its literature. And, since this system was developed independently of Western medical thought, the theories used in its development and administration do not align well with the methods and theories of Western medical researchers, making it that much harder for us to study it.

I said I had back pain, so you needled my ankle. What are you expecting to happen? Why did you needle my ankle if it’s my back that hurts?

One of the primary theories of acupuncture is called “channel theory.” According to this theory, all of the areas of the body are interconnected through a network of energetic flow. The channels follow body structures such as bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves throughout the body.