The Middle Way

By Dr. Hung K. Lee

When I first moved to the Santa Ynez Valley to open an acupuncture clinic, most people didn’t know very much, if anything, about acupuncture and how it works. It had not yet become a mainstream modality, although it has been practiced for more than 2,000 years.

Over the past 20 years, more and more people have become informed about the benefits of acupuncture on the human body. In this month’s article I will give you a simple explanation of how it works.

I tell my patients to consider their body as a state, like California for instance. Within the state there are 12 big cities which correspond to each of the 12 main organs in your body, each producing everything that the state needs to function correctly.

In each state there are 12 major freeways which are called meridians, which run all through the body. At various locations along the freeways there are stations, or acupuncture points. 

Each freeway has a different number of stations. Classically there were 710 points in total – 365 points on each side of the body corresponding to the right and left sides. However, as time passed, more points were discovered and now there are upwards of 2,000. But in acupuncture school, only the classic 710 point are taught. 

The freeways in turn connect to roads, which are smaller meridians, and are responsible for the well-running of the entire state. Vehicles travel up and down freeways and roads delivering goods and services to the entire state. Let us consider these vehicles as the blood, which runs throughout the body, and the driver of these vehicles is the “Chi” or energy. 

On the roads and freeways of your body there are many vehicles. Some deliver food to the cities (nutrition), some are police cars protecting your state against crime and invasion (immune system), some are postal vehicles delivering information throughout your state (hormonal system), some are garbage trucks (waste elimination), and some are governmental vehicles to ensure the climate of your state is in proper function (body temperature system). 

Sometimes accidents and traffic jams will occur on the freeways and roads of your body. This is what we refer to as “chi stagnation.” Circulation of your vehicles slows and the necessities of your body are not able to reach their intended destinations. When this happens you might feel poorly or have pain in some area of your body where the stagnation has occurred. To eliminate this problem, a doctor of oriental medicine will apply needles to relieve the congestion on your freeways. 

Acupuncture needles serve as navigators. When you place a needle in the correct station, the traffic jam on your freeway is relieved and your vehicles are free to travel and bring the necessities to the cities. In turn, pain is relieved, the body functions better, and any discomfort is eliminated. 

I am frequently asked, “How do you know where to put the needles?” This can be answered, in part, by looking at a chart of the body with its meridians marked. For instance, the first meridian is the lung meridian. It has 11 points and runs from the lungs, towards and down the arm, finishing at the inside of the thumbnail cuticle area. (We consider the inside of the fingers to be the side closest facing the body, and the outside, the side facing out.) 

If a patient has ailments such as lung disease/cancer, tuberculosis, coughing, bronchitis, or chest pain, a needle will be applied to the correct point on this meridian to relieve the chi stagnation, thereby allowing blood to circulate freely in that area. 

Perhaps a patient complains of headaches. There are several main meridians that run throughout the head. Locating the area of headache will determine the meridian that needs to be addressed. Headaches that begin at the back of the head are caused from stagnation in the bladder meridian. Headaches on the forehead indicate stagnation in the stomach meridian, while pain on the top of the head suggests liver or kidney meridian congestion, and pain on the sides of the head indicates gallbladder meridian stagnation. A needle that is placed in the correct point will eliminate the headache. 

It should be noted that acupuncture is not an instant cure-all. If one breaks a bone, the pain of the break is easily eliminated by acupuncture, but the break still remains. The benefit of acupuncture is to clear the pain and stagnation around the area of complaint to allow all the necessities of healing to flow freely around the area. Ideal circulation leads to faster healing and less pain. Regular acupuncture keeps the body in proper working order and balance so that problems do not occur, or occur far more infrequently.

Hopefully this column will bring you some extra insight into how acupuncture works to create a healthy and happy body and mind, and a long life.

Dr. Hung K. Lee can be reached at 805-693-5162. He has offices in Solvang, Los Angeles and Atascadero.