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  Traditional Acupuncture
       Qi        Yin/Yang        Five Elements        Channels        Points
       Diagnosis        Zang-Fu Organs        Chinese Syndromes
  QI Next   Back to Top
The concept of Qi (sometimes spelled "Chi", pronounced "chee") is a central concept in Tao teaching that lays the foundation of Chinese Medical thought and acupuncture.
Qi is commonly interpreted as the vital energy that gives life to all living matter. There is nothing comparable in allopathic (conventional Western) medicine. While human physiology in allopathic medicine is organized according to specialized function, Chinese medicine is more concerned with the dynamics of the interrelationships, especially the patterns of vital energy.

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  Yin/Yang Next   Back to Top
Yin and Yang are counter poles; they are each other's opposite in which life is searching for harmony and balance.
Health in this philosophy means balance between Yin and Yang. Illness means that one of the two is too strong or too weak.
The theories of Yin and Yang and Five Elements that exist in dynamic balance and are organized in the systems of cyclic autonomic regulation, by its essence represent the Confucian ideology.
Within this philosophy, all aspects of the invisible and visible world exist in mutual dependence. This view, in turn, explicates the teachings of "Yin-Yang" and of the "5 phases of transformation".
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  Five Elements Next   Back to Top
Another basic concept of acupuncture is the teaching of the Five Phases of Transformation (also known as the Five Elements, more common term and less accurate).
According to the Five Elements philosophy, everything, including energy, passes through cycles. In nature, this can be seen in the four seasons and in the body it is evidenced by the interactions between the main organs.
The Five Elements theory assumes relationships between Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.
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  Channels Next   Back to Top
According to Chinese medicine, the invisible Qi circulates along a system of conduits. They form a complex network of main channels, minor capillaries and collaterals. There are 14 main interconnected pathways called "meridians" through which this energy circulates, and surface to about 400 acupuncture points. Each meridian is intimately connected with one of the viscera of the body, and each manifests its own characteristics and bears the name of the organ related to it. For example, there's a Liver channel, Heart channel etc.
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  Points Next   Back to Top
The 14 main meridians (channels), through which Qi circulates, emerge to the skin surface at the precise locations called acupuncture points. Local stimulation of different acupuncture points (needling, laser, electricity, etc) can influence the activity of corresponding meridian in specific and predictable manner.
361 Points on the meridians described in the classical ancient Chinese medical manuscripts. They are complimented by 171 Extra-Meridian Points with their specific features. Over the last fifty years, 110 "New" Points and 142 Auricular Points discovered.
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  Diagnosis Next   Back to Top
In ancient times, laboratory analyses and tests were not available and acupuncture diagnosis relied mostly on observation. Observation of the skin, eyes, tongue, pulse, etc. can tell a seasoned acupuncturist more than you can imagine. Different schools emphasize different techniques. For example, Japanese acupuncturists do not examine the tongue, but instead palpate the abdomen as part of a routine exam and treatment.
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  Zang-Fu Organs Next   Back to Top
The zang-fu theory explains the physiological function, pathological changes, and mutual relationships of internal organs. Zang and fu consist of the five zang and six fu organs. In traditional Chinese medicine the zang and fu organs are not simply anatomical substances, but more importantly represent the generalization of the physiology and pathology of certain systems of the human body.
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  Chinese Syndromes Next   Back to Top
The basic syndromes of traditional Chinese medicine provide foundation for understanding of the nature of disease; signify the location of pathological changes, the condition of body resistance and pathogenic factors.
There are different methods for differentiating syndromes based on a variety of concepts: "the eight principles"; the theory of zang-fu organs; the theory of six channels; the theory of wei, qi, ying, and xue; the theory of the sanjiao; the theory of qi, blood, and body fluids; according to etiology, etc. Each of these methods has its characteristics and emphasis, while in clinical practice they are interrelated and complement each other.
  More about Chinese Syndromes Next   Back to Top
"...Yin and Yang alternate. Their ebbs and surges vary, and so does the character of the diseases..."
The Nei Jing - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine; circa 200 BC

There are eight general principles for differentiation of syndromes:

- Yin and Yang,
- Exterior (Biao) and Interior (Li),
- Xu (deficiency) and Shi (excess),
- Cold and Heat.

No matter how complex the disease, these eight principles can be used to give an analysis and differentiation.

1. Exterior and Interior

Exterior and interior are two principles indicative of the depth and development of disease.

Exterior syndromes
are usually acute, superficially located, and with a short duration. They refer to the pathological changes, which are caused by the invasion of the body surface by exogenous pathogenic factors. The main clinical manifestations are aversion to cold and fever, thin and white tongue coating, floating pulse, etc.

Interior syndromes result from the dysfunction of the Zang-Fu organs, from direct attack on the Zang-Fu organs by exogenous pathogenic factors, or from the transmission of exogenous pathogenic factors into the interior.

2. Cold and Heat

Cold and heat are two principles for differentiating the nature of disease.

Cold syndromes are pathological changes and symptoms caused by exogenous pathogenic cold or constitutional yang deficiency.
Clinical manifestations of cold syndromes are: aversion to cold and preference for warmth; tastelessness in the mouth; absence of thirst; pallor; cold extremities; clear and profuse urine; loose stool; pale tongue proper with a white slippery coating; slow pulse, etc. These are all signs of excessive yin.

Heat syndromes are caused by exogenous pathogenic heat or constitutional yin deficiency.
The symptoms of heat syndromes include: fever; preference for cold; thirst with preference for cold drinks; flushed cheeks and redness of the eyes; yellowish and scanty urine; constipation; red tongue proper with a dry yellowish coating; rapid pulse, etc. These signs represent preponderant yang.

3. Xu (deficiency) and Shi (Excess)

Xu (deficiency) and Shi (excess) are two principles which are used to analyze the strength or weakness of body resistance and the pathogenic factors during the process of disease development.

Generally, syndromes of the Xu type indicate diseases and symptoms caused by the weakness and insufficiency of body resistance.
Syndromes of the Shi type refer to diseases and symptoms induced by an excess of exogenous pathogenic factors with body immune response not yet weakened.

Mixture syndromes of Xu and Shi also occurs.
Xu syndromes can be further classified into Qi deficiency, blood deficiency, yang deficiency, and yin deficiency with varied clinical manifestations. Shi syndromes may be caused by Qi stagnation, blood stasis, phlegm obstruction, fluid retention etc.

Syndromes of the Xu type include lassitude, emaciation, sluggishness, pale complexion, palpitation, shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating, night sweating, insomnia, poor memory, loose stool, frequent urination or incontinence of urine, pale tongue proper without coating, thready and weak pulse, etc.

Shi symptoms generally include coarse breathing, irritability, sonorous voice, pain and distension in the chest and abdomen, pain and distension aggravated by pressure, constipation, dysuria, thick and sticky tongue coating, forceful Shi pulse, etc. However, the patient's body can remain strong and vital.

4. Yin and Yang

Yin and yang are two general principles used to categorize the other six principles.

Exterior, Heat and Shi belong to the category of Yang, while Interior, Cold, and Xu belong to Yin. Yang syndromes and Yin syndromes can be detailed as the collapse of Yin, collapse of Yang, Yin Xu (yin deficiency), Yang Xu (yang deficiency), etc.

Yin Xu and Yang Xu syndromes: Yin Xu indicates consumption or loss of yin fluid; Yang Xu manifests as the insufficiency of yang Qi.

Yin Xu syndromes include afternoon fever, feverish sensation in the palms and soles, irritability, insomnia, night sweating, dry mouth and throat, scanty and yellowish urine, dry stool, red tongue proper with little coating, thready and rapid pulse. Since Yin Xu syndromes include internal heat, they are also known as Xu Heat syndromes.
Yang Xu syndromes are manifested by chills, cold extremities, tastelessness in the mouth, absence of thirst, pale complexion, spontaneous sweating, profuse and clear urine, loose stool, and pale tongue proper. Thus while Yang Xu syndromes indicate inadequate Yang Qi, they are also termed syndromes of Xu Cold.

Generally, symptoms characterized by excitation, restlessness, hyperactivity, and euphoria, belong to Yang syndromes, while those characterized by inhibition, quietude, decline, and depression, are Yin in nature.

Yang collapse and yin collapse syndromes:

Yang and yin collapse syndromes are dangerous signs during the progress of a disease and indicative of a life-threatening condition. They constitute medical emergency, require immediate intensive madical care more suitable for a hospital setting, and don't leave much room for acupuncture application.

Yin collapse
indicates an excessive loss of vital essence and nutrient fluid.
Yang collapse causes pathological changes and symptoms due to the profuse consumption of body yang qi.
Both may occur at the final stage of some chronic diseases or may appear in the crisis stage of some acute diseases. Because of the interdepending relationship of yin and yang, a collapse of one could lead to the collapse of the other. Therefore, the occurrence of these syndromes might be simultaneous with only the difference of early or late appearance.

In clinical application the syndromes of the eight principles are closely related to each other. In various combinations they constitute virtually unlimited number of possible permutations that represent a variety of pathological phenomenon as well as personalized profile for individual health and well-being.

The text presented on this page is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your acupuncturist if you have any questions or concerns.

Some conditions, such as the acute stages of infectious diseases other than the common cold and flu, are not appropriately treated with acupuncture. For a number of conditions, such as unexplained tumors or severe, persistent pain, you will be asked to see your doctor for a medical diagnosis either before or in addition to receiving an acupuncture treatment. Most conditions are best treated using a combination of Western and Eastern medicine. Your practitioner will assess the appropriateness of their modality for you at each session; should you have questions beyond this, please consult with your physician.

  This page last updated: 14-Mar-2015 Back to Top
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