Understanding What Your Acupuncturist is Really Saying

Acupuncturists have a crazy lingo all of their own. Thus, learning what acupuncturists are actually saying can be really powerful.

In the olden days — because there was no real scientific understanding of medicine — the Chinese were able to identify different aspects of the human body by simply identifying them and relating them to surrounding nature: qi, dampness, dryness, stagnation, etc. These are all terms the Chinese saw tangibly happening around them, causing them to realize that the body is incredibly similar to the environment around it. Today, these terms are common terminology in acupuncture-speak.

But first, what exactly is acupuncture?

Technically, acupuncture is the insertion of hair-thin needles, penetrating the skin and invading the body. I like to call it an “invasion” because that’s exactly how your body responds to it.

What does it do?

Acupuncture fires up both the SNS (the sympathetic nervous system, aka: the excited part of the nervous system) and PNS (parasympathetic nervous system, aka: the relaxing part of the nervous system) to fight and attack the needles. It’s a jump start for your body, just like a car. It’s a sweet, sometimes spicy, reminder to the nervous system to wake up and do what it’s meant to do. This is when true digestion, processing, blood flow, energy flow and inflammation reduction finally come into play.

So why can’t acupuncturists ever just describe what they’re doing in simple words?

Chinese medicine is very powerful because of the depth to which one must understand a person’s internal workings. Each individual is so unique and different, it is important for us to see and diagnose based on what the specific patient is saying about the symptoms, and also what we see on their tongues and feel in their pulses. The difference between the way the energy (qi) feels in one place can change a diagnosis completely.

Below are some words that will help you understand acupuncture-speak a bit better:

QI — Qi is the word we use to identify the level and type of energy within the body. Energy is what moves everything, and the reason your heart beats and blood flows.

MERIDIANS — From our brain down to our spinal cord, we have nerves that connect to the organs around our bodies. In turn, our organs have bundles of nerves that connect to the rest of our bodies. These nerve pathways are called meridians. They assist with changing brain chemistry by sending and receiving signals to and from the brain.

DAMPNESS — The humidity that happens in surrounding nature can also happen internally. We identify this dampness through coating the tongue and the subsequent symptom information we gather in an intake.

STAGNATION — Stagnation happens when there is inflammation in the body. When there is inflammation it’s really hard for blood to flow, which causes pain. Moving stagnation regulates blood flow and decreases pain.

YIN — Yin is the level of hydration in the body. If hydration is low and the body is running hot we call it yin deficiency; if there is too much yin there is a metabolism issue.

YANG — Yang supports energy. If the yang in the body is low, the body runs cold and there will be problems with metabolism and energy. This is why, in Asian culture, they sip tea throughout the day.

SHEN — Shen is the mental and emotional aspect of the body. If a person’s shen is clear it means they are emotionally and mentally sound. If we see symptomology directing to a shen imbalance we treat it accordingly.

JING — Jing is what the body is made of. It’s the essence of the body, and what builds our bones and fuels our adrenals. As we age our jing declines.

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All of these terminologies have been thoroughly studied over the past few decades making it easier to bridge the gap between east and west. A good practitioner will educate their patients in understanding what these words really mean so that the patient can be a more proactive part of the treatment process.

Mona Dan is an herbalist, acupuncturist and the founder of Vie Healing.

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