Understanding What Your Acupuncturist is Saying

If you have gone to an acupuncture physician before he has probably said something about organs and Qi and Blood. As you are listening you may think that does not sound like the same thing that my western doctor has said. You would be correct. Western and eastern terminologies are different. Western doctors are talking about physical manifestations and chemicals balances. Eastern doctors are talking about the energetic balance of the organs, channels and blood. So if you tell your western doctor that you were told that you have kidney problems by your acupuncture physician. Then he is going to look at you and tell you that from their test, there is nothing wrong with your kidneys. From his stand point he would be correct, but so is the acupuncturist. The acupuncture physician probably told you that you had a Kidney Yang deficiency. They would have diagnosed this through the pulse, questions that you had answered and through palpation of the lower back and knees. Now I am not going to explain how we diagnose a patient, since it will take quite a few years to explain. I will give you a bit of understanding as to some of our terminology that is being used.

In Oriental Medicinal or more precise Chinese Medicine, there are multiple ways of diagnosing. They are questioning, observation, listening and palpation. There are a many questions that will be asked, especially during your first consultation and some of them will not seem to make sense to you. The questions are important and it will help the acupuncture physician to get a better understanding of what is going on with your body. Observation is by looking at the body posture, color and texture of skin, and looking at the tongue and its coating. Observation can tell a lot about what is happening to body right now. Listening to how a person is talking as well as breathing can help with understanding a bit of the nature of a person’s constitution. And finally palpation, by feeling areas for tenderness, tightness, weakness or softness can tell different aspects that are happening with in the channels of the body. The pulse is also felt for the rate and for qualities that will tell about the overall problems going on in the body. All of these tools are used to diagnose.

Now I mentioned that I would help to give a basic understanding of what is being said for the diagnosis. There are different aspects that will be mentioned and each one has its own aspects of health. There are the 12 meridians, 12 organs (which will correlate with the 12 meridians, but are not the same), the 6 conformations, the 6 pathogenic evils, five elements, the four levels, San Jiao (triple burner),the eight principles and Qi, blood and body fluids. I will give a brief explanation of these which should help, although I know it will not answer all your questions.

The 12 meridians are channels that pass throughout the body and have points that can be accessed through manipulation of needles or even pressure. Each point on the meridian is used for very specific reasons and is chosen only with much thought and training of the physician. The meridians have a connection to the organs and are named after a specific organ. There is also a connection to the body in multiple layers of muscles, sinew, skins and much more.

The 12 organs or Zangfu are Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestines, Bladder, Kidney, Pericardium, San Jiao, Gall Bladder and Liver. When these are mentioned we are talking about the actual energetic natures of the organs. Some of these are not even considered as an organ in western as well as not even being named, such as San Jiao. We are taught how the energetics of these organs work and how they will react in the body when there is a disharmony.

The 6 confirmations are a pairing of organs there are 6 yin organs and 6 yang organs. These are broken down into 3 yin pairing and 3 yang pairing. They are Tai Yin- Lung and Spleen, Shao Yin- Heart and Kidney, Jue Yin- Pericardium and Liver, Yang Ming Large Intestines and Stomach, Tai Yang-Bladder and Small Intestines, Shao Yang- San Jiao and Gallbladder. The understanding of these pairings helps with certain patterns that affect the body as well as knowing how to treat with herbs.

The 6 pathogenic evils are the aspect of how disharmony and disease are in the body. These are wind, cold, dampness, summer heat, dryness and heat. Each of these alone can cause problems with the body as well as combinations. Each one can attack different parts of the body at the same time. The nature of each is very distinct and will show up within the body very distinct signs.

The five elements are earth, metal, water, wood and fire. Each element correlates to specific organs, tissue, sound, taste, odor, season, color, climate, time and character. The understanding of the elements helps with the diagnosis as well as certain treatment principles. For example if a person has a problem sleeping and constantly wakes up between 11 pm and 1 am then there is most likely a problem with the Gall Bladder.

The four levels are Wei, Qi, Ying and Xue. This aspect of understanding has to do with excess heat and where it is affecting the body. Each level is deeper than the last as well as more serious symptoms. The treatments protocols focus on herbs and acupuncture to clear the heat built up in the body.

San Jiao is considered as a special organ in the body as well as sections. San means three and there are three Jiaos. They are upper, middle and lower Jiao. All three Jiaos are located in the torso of the body.. Each section or Jiao is responsible for moving fluids around in each Jiao. When the fluids are not moving properly then there will be disharmony in that part of the body. Again this understanding will help in making the proper diagnosis.

The eight principles are considered the basics of Chinese medicine. They are interior and exterior, hot and cold, excess and deficiency, and Yin and Yang. Each grouping is an opposite of each other. By knowing which one is happening will help to make the diagnosis. The hard part is the fact that humans are complex individuals and you can have more than one going on at once. An example of this is the Taiji symbol of Yin and Yang. The symbol seems to be very simplistic, but it is very complex at the same time. The symbol shows a circle of half black and white, where one becomes the other and each has the other inside. The body is also the same it needs to have the Yin and Yang and a bit of each in the other as well as Yin will turn into Yang and vice versa. Without this happening then there will be disharmony and disease.

Qi, blood and body fluids are each different from each other, but yet they need each other to make the other. Qi is the energy of the body, but it is also what everything is made of. Without Qi nothing would be here. Qi is also what moves everything. If Qi does not move it creates what is called Qi Stagnation. There are multiple aspects of Qi Stagnation, but most obvious is normally a distention, bloating or pain normally dull. Qi can also become deficient and a person will normally feel fatigue. Qi can also flow in the wrong direction which will cause acid reflux, coughing, vomiting, hiccups, diarrhea and so forth. The blood can be deficient causing dizziness, blurred vision, poor memory and other issues. Another blood issue is blood stasis, which will normally cause sharp fixed pain. Body fluid includes essence, normal fluids of the body and phlegm. Essence is what you are born with and comes from your parents. You have a specific amount when you are born and when it is gone so are you. The normal fluids of the body are Jin and Ye. Jin is sweat, tears, saliva, nasal discharge, intestinal fluids and so forth. Ye is synovial fluid, spinal fluid and marrow.  These fluids are to protect the body and without them there will be complications. Phlegm can be considered another pathogenic factor. There is substantial and non-substantial phlegm. Substantial phlegm is the substance that will come up from coughing or sneezing, as well as pus from infected wounds. Non-substantial is within the body and normally caused by stagnation and heat of fluids. Each has its own signs that will show up.

I know that this seems like a lot of information and it has probably even created more questions than you had before. Most acupuncture physician will explain and help you to understand what is going on within your body. Your understanding is the key to you helping yourself and being compliant to the treatments, exercises, food therapy, herbs and other information that will be told to you. All of it is meant to help you get better as quickly as we can possibly help you. If you have questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge and if I do not know, I know many who do. Knowledge is something that should be shared