If you have a question that is not answered below, please e-mail it to me, I would be happy to answer to the best of my ability.
This is a very good question, and cannot be given a short answer. In fact many books have been written on the subject. Though often translated as energy, this does not capture the full concept of qi. George Lucas actually based his definition of "the force" from the concept of qi. I like to think of qi as a potential for change. The Chinese character for qi is a pictograph representing the vapor that arises from cooked rice. For me this image brings to mind a nourishing substance that cannot be quantified. In Oriental medicine when we talk about moving or balancing your qi what we mean is that we are stimulating your body's potential to heal itself.
This is another great question, which does not have a really great answer. There is a lot of research being done trying to answer this once and for all. So far there is no clear answer, but a lot of possibilities. What we have found is that acupuncture can decrease inflammation, release endogenous opioids, regulate neurotransmitters, regulate hormones, and break the chronic pain cycle. In lay men's terms this means that acupuncture can stop pain, help you relax, help you feel good, and allows your body to return to normal. We should remember that often the simplest answer is the best answer, and that acupuncture and Oriental medicine were developed before the age of microscopes and molecular biology. Ancient wisdom states that acupuncture and oriental medicine works by balancing the body's qi. Remember health is not a static point, to take a phrase from my chemistry classes; health is a state of dynamic equilibrium. Which means there is a lot of pushing and pulling in different directions but no net change, things remain balanced. Therefore, though we may not know the exact process of how it is done, we do know that acupuncture regulates the different pulls and pushes so that the body can return to a state of dynamic balance.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can treat just about anything. Now I should clarify the difference between treating and curing. Let's take rheumatoid arthritis for example. RA is an auto-immune disorder, if you have it you will always have it, you cannot be cured. But your pain can be managed, your symptoms controlled and the progression slowed. So acupuncture and Oriental medicine may not be able to cure all things but it can certainly help you thrive through anything. In our country acupuncture has become known for treating pain and addictions, but the list of conditions that acupuncture can benefit is actually far more inclusive. Acupuncture can stop pain, and does help the body to detoxify, it also reduces stress, soothes the nervous system, regulates hormones, improves digestion, helps with sleep, improves mood and energy. It is also important to realize that it is safe for all ages and when done by a professional has very little risk. In fact the most common "side effects" from acupuncture are bruising at the sight of a needle and a sense of euphoria.
However, I would like to clarify that acupuncture and Oriental medicine should be a part of your health care team, not the whole team. For the absolute best care available you should have both Eastern and Western medicine at your disposal. Yes, acupuncture can treat almost anything but it can do so even better when combined with good quality allopathic care as well. I actually like the term "complementary medicine" because you, the patient, get the best care when all different styles of medicine complement each other and work synergistically for your benefit. For example, acupuncture can be used to treat mental disorders, but the results are so much better when combined with counseling and the appropriate medication if necessary. Also, acupuncture could treat an acute bacterial infection, but not nearly as quickly as anti-biotics.
So in conclusion, can acupuncture and Oriental medicine help you? Most likely, please contact me if you have a specific condition you would like to ask about.
Nothing. I love this question; people are so surprised by how good they feel with acupuncture that they believe there must be some medication coating the needles. No, it is hard to believe, but the healing reaction that acupuncture triggers feels great without the aid of medication. When acupuncture works it does so because the treatment helps your body to heal itself, there is no magic coating on the needles.
In general, no. In our society, when we hear "needle" we think of those large hypodermic needles that have been used to either draw our blood or give us injections. The needles used in acupuncture are literally hundreds of times smaller than that. Our needles are about the width of a hair, and often are not felt at all. Some acupuncture points are tender, and often you may feel a slight pinch as the needle passes the skin, but in general an acupuncture treatment is not painful, on the contrary, though it may be hard to believe most people say it is very relaxing.
When an acupuncture needle hurts it is either too close to a nerve, or a muscle is cramping around the needle. Please, tell your acupuncturist about this because the needle can be very easily moved to relieve the discomfort, and your acupuncturist would want you to relax on the table, not tough it out.