So what is acupuncture exactly, and why are so many alternative health aficionados flocking for their weekly or bimonthly prickings? As Spina explains, Chinese medicine is based on a balancing act of yin—the feminine, calm, cooling, subtle, substantive, hormonal, grounded, settled quality in each of us—and the yang—the masculine, energetic, mobile, powerful counterweight. Treatments in Chinese medicine are predicated on the movement of qi (pronounced "chi," which is the life force or vital energy) and blood.
On a spectrum from left to right, it would read, "Yin, Blood, Qi, Yang." The yin provides the catalyst that moves qi, the qi moves blood and the blood moves yang. Yin and yang would be useless without each other, and healthy men and women need to find a balance of both to promote proper flowing of qi and blood.
How does acupuncture factor in? When qi or blood are blocked or imbalanced somewhere in the body, it creates pain, dysfunction and sometimes disease. Some might be familiar with the Chinese practice of linking certain external points with internal organs—for instance, the webby portion between your left thumb and pointer finger is commonly linked to the head. The needles used in acupuncture stimulate certain crucial points along the body in order to open up qi blockages where any exist and encourage blood flow. The selected points correspond to the meridians that divide the body—12 main, bilateral meridians and eight randomly spaced meridians.
Acupuncture, therefore, is the art of being able to properly select needle positioning so that energy begins to once again flow properly through the body, correcting any imbalances and allowing natural healing to occur.
In order to prepare the "point protocol"—or needle map—she would apply to my body, Spina begins with the "tongue and pulse" technique typically used to ascertain problem areas and energy blockages. When finding my point protocol, Spina first took my pulse. With three fingers on the inside of each of my wrists, she alternated pressure to her pointer, middle and ring finger. After about five minutes, she announced that I had a good pulse, but that it was slightly "damp." I had no idea what this meant, but she said that there are 12 pulses Chinese medical practitioners observe, each with 28 different qualities. That was about as in-depth as we got. Then she looked at my tongue, both top and bottom. She was analyzing its size, shakiness, color and sublingual vein formations. She scribbled some things on her notepad and told me to lie down.