Acu 101: The Eight Principles

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that involves inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body, to various depths. Research suggests that it can help relieve pain, and it is used for a wide range of other complaints. How acupuncture works scientifically remains unclear. Some people claim it works by balancing vital energy, while others believe it has a neurological effect. Acupuncture remains controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists.

How does it work?

Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of “yin” and “yang” of the life force known as “qi,” pronounced “chi.” Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. Qi flows through meridians, or pathways, in the human body. These meridians and energy flows are accessible through 365 acupuncture points in the body. By inserting needles into these points with appropriate combinations and manipulation techniques can bring the energy flow back into proper balance. Some experts have used neuroscience to explain acupuncture. Acupuncture points are seen as places where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated. The stimulation increases blood flow, while at the same time triggering the activity of the body’s natural painkillers.

It is difficult to set up investigations using proper scientific controls, because of the invasive nature of acupuncture. In a clinical study, a control group would have to undergo sham treatment, or a placebo, for results to be compared with those of genuine acupuncture. Some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, but others have indicated that there are some real benefits.

Uses of acupuncture

  • Interior/Exterior. Your acupuncturist will look at your illness and determine if it is located in an interior organ or if it is caused by an exterior pathogen.
  • Hot/Cold. Your acupuncturist will determine if your imbalance is hot (like a fever) or cold (like chilliness).
  • Full (excess)/Empty (deficiency). Your acupuncturist checks the strength of your Qi and whether there is a pathogen present.
  • Yin/Yang. Your acupuncturist determines if your condition is primarily yin or yang in nature.

Research carried out in Germany has shown that acupuncture may help relieve tension headaches and migraines.

The NCCIH note that it has been proven to help in cases of:

  • low back pain
  • neck pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • knee pain
  • headache and migraine

They list additional disorders that may benefit from acupuncture, but which require further scientific confirmation.

If you’re not familiar with TCM, getting a diagnosis of “excess heat in the interior” won’t mean anything to you. But remember, the Eight Principles are patterns of imbalance.

Ask your acupuncturist what your diagnosis means. Then ask what symptoms point to that diagnosis.

Start observing your everyday complaints, aches, pains and health challenges. Notice if you regularly have symptoms that point to the diagnosis. It’s likely that you will start to see patterns in your symptoms, even if western medicine doesn’t understand the links between them.

Once you know your constitutional tendencies, you can begin a long term plan to balance your body and prevent illness.

About Geoffrey He

Dr. Geoffrey He graduated in 1998 with Bachelor of Medicine majored acupuncture (Chinese medicine). He then worked as resident in Heilongjiang Province Hospital of China for five years. At the same time he furthered his education and acquired Bachelor of Medicine majored in Clinical Medicine (western medicine).He started his private practice in 2003 in Sydney and then moved to Adelaide in 2006 to pursue his special interest in pain management and fertility studies in combined Chinese medicine and traditional medicine.He has been practiced acupuncture and Chinese medicine for over twenty years treating general conditions with extensive experience in gynaecological disorders and infertility, stress related conditions and facial acupuncture, he is highly experienced in clinical medicine for pain management (Neurological Medicine), gynaecological disorders, fertility assistance (IVF) and cosmetic acupuncture. He is special interest in the area of Post Injury Management and General Practice in Chinese Medicine.Focusing on an intuitive level to suit each individual, Geoffrey's approach is rooted in the strong link between physical, mental and emotional health and the underlying cause of disharmony. Treatment is supported by additional lifestyle advice with an emphasis on empowering patients to achieve a healthy balance in their lives."I was trained in Western Conventional Medicine and Chinese Medicine with over 15 years clinical practicing experience including ten years in Australia, I combine the techniques of Modern Medicine and the art of healing from Chinese Medicine to help people get their natural and healthy life." - Dr Geoffrey x He