How does acupuncture work?

The traditional response is acupuncture regulates the Qi and blood of the meridians. In contrast, modern scientific research suggests that acupuncture causes various circulatory, lymphatic, immune, haematological, endocrine and neurological effects. To simplify these statements, we can say that acupuncture works through a ‘needling effect’. When harnessed skilfully this effect can be specific and therapeutic.

What is Qi?

Traditional Acupuncture Needles 01

Qi (pronounced – chee) is a representational term used in Chinese language that does not have a definitive meaning. In fact it can be used in hundreds of different ways to describe various phenomena. In nature, Qi is used to understand the dynamic environment of the natural world and represents the force and material that composes and animates our universe. In medicine, Qi is used to understand our complex and dynamic inner environment. It is theorized that the body has a supply of Qi and this is then circulated, dispersed and gathered, along with and as a part of the blood and fluids, performing many functions to maintain our health.

What is Holism?

A philosophy that the parts of a system are intimately interconnected, such that they do not exist independently of the whole, or cannot be considered without reference to the whole, thus the whole system is considered to be greater than the sum of its parts.

What are the Meridians?

The meridians are a topographical map of the human body.  They capture how our bodily structures and their movements integrate and shape our physiques. Furthermore, meridian theory unifies our entire anatomy by linking these structures with the internal organs, creating a holistic model to understand the body. During the formative years of Traditional East Asian Medicine the meridians became synonymous with the general model for blood and nutritional circulation.  As a result this model was used to conceptualize the integration of the body and the distribution of Qi, blood and fluids to the internal organs, sense organs and all bodily tissues.

Sickness occurs when the circulation of Qi, blood and fluids becomes disrupted; giving rise to a flow that is either too great or too little.  At such a time, the meridians themselves change as the pathology distorts the shape, feel and movement of the body.  These changes are searched for and treated.

For detailed pictures of the acupuncture meridians go to

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are very fine. The typical acupuncture needle has a thickness between 0.14mm and 0.25mm. In contrast, hypodermic needles used for venipuncture and the withdrawal of blood have a thickness of 0.7mm to 0.8mm.

Additionally, the guided insertion method, which uses a thin tube to stabilize and assist insertion through the skin, minimizes any sensation or discomfort. Sensation may be produced during deep needling which can elicit feelings of warmth, heaviness, an ache, or movement in the body, however these sensations are unlike anything related to an injection or blood test.

Most people’s fear comes from their experience with hypodermic needles. It’s important to remember that acupuncture needles are considerably thinner and are not used in the same manner. Once these mental hurdles are removed most find acupuncture to be relaxing and not painful.