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What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest continuously-practiced systems of medicine in the world. It originated in China approximately three thousand years ago. Despite changing dynasties, modernization and attempts to eradicate its use, the practice has continued for one simple reason--it works.

Acupuncture involves the superficial insertion of needles into designated points on the body. There are more than three hundred of these points, and each of them has a specific effect on the energetic system of the body. By combining points, a trained acupuncturist is able to design a treatment that is tailored to the needs the individual.

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Does acupuncture really work?

The World Health Organization lists over forty conditions, ranging from anxiety to osteoarthritis, for which acupuncture treatment has been shown to be effective. Research at the National Institutes of Health has established the efficacy of acupuncture in treating several problems, including postoperative pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea. In addition, studies using functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) clearly show that particular parts of the brains of test subjects are activated when specific acupuncture points are needled. As for how acupuncture works, scientists may have identified some, but far from all, of the answers.

Is it safe? Does it hurt?

When practiced by a trained professional, acupuncture is an exceptionally safe form of therapy. Modern acupuncture needles are sterile, disposable and about as fine as a cat’s whisker. There is no sharp bite as with hypodermic needles which are much larger in diameter. The sensations during acupuncture needling have been variously described as warmth, heaviness, a dull ache or tingling. Most people find the experience deeply relaxing and many even fall asleep during treatment.

What is Five Element Acupuncture?

Five Element Acupuncture is based on the premise that just as trees and birds are governed by the forces which control the cycles of the natural world, so too are humans. These forces can be viewed as five elements or phases of energy. Our symptoms on a physical, mental or emotional level often reflect blocked or depleted energy flow in relation to one or more of these elements. The pattern of flow and blockage forms the basis of diagnosis and treatment.

Practitioners of Five Element Acupuncture treat only after carefully evaluating each individual’s unique weave—temperament, diet, sense of purpose, sleep, work, play, social connections, constitutional strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as symptoms. By treating the whole tapestry of body/mind/spirit rather than narrowly focusing on symptoms, the classical acupuncturist works to cultivate wellness in a way that certainly includes, but is not limited to, the treatment of symptoms.

What are the benefits of Five Element Acupuncture?

Most people who have experienced Five Element Acupuncture report at least some improvement in the symptoms for which they sought treatment. Nearly all report other changes in the quality of their lives, as well—changes such as increased vitality, improved sleep and digestion, more harmonious relationships, greater ease in maintaining perspective and less vulnerability to emotional upset.

What are the Five Elements and what do they do?

Each of us has all of the five elements acting in consort in us, and we each have our own unique interplay of strength and weakness. Some of these characteristics are present at conception and others are acquired through lifestyle, injuries, and emotional hurts. Here are just a few of the many ways that each of the elements can show up when radiantly healthy and when they are struggling. Since each element affects all the others, symptoms in one element may actually be due to a problem in another element—proper diagnosis and treatment is essential.



Liver/Gall Bladder

Planning, decision making, clear perception, creativity, appropriate anger, vision, flexibility

Wood Out of Balance
Inappropriate anger, indecisiveness, lacking plans, disorganization, hyper-organization, inflexibility, muscular pain or stiffness, fragile nails, gall bladder, liver or vision problems



Heart/Small Intestine
Pericardium/San Jiao

Warmth, partnership, compassion, joy, laughter, touch

Fire Out of Balance
Chaotic or hyper-controlling, emotional coldness, sadness, inability to connect with people, loneliness, inappropriate laughter, inappropriate sexuality, circulation problems (heart rhythm problems, cold extremities)




Nurturing (self and others), thoughtfulness, nourishment, taste, sympathy, stability, home

Earth Out of Balance
Worry, smothering caretaking, neglect of self or others, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, overeating), obesity, bruising, prolapse, hemorrhoids, digestive problems, edema, varicose veins




Awe, acknowledgement, respect, inspiration, smell, preciousness, acceptance, pruning the inessential

Metal Out of Balance
Absence of meaning, cynicism, harsh judgment, perfectionism, prolonged grief, clutter (inability to get rid of things), respiratory, skin, or elimination problems




Wisdom, stillness, patience, potency, listening, sense of hearing, appropriate fear

Water Out of Balance
Excessive fear or fearlessness, hyperactivity, working until exhausted, lack of will power, lethargy, bladder or kidney problems, skeletal problems, hearing difficulty, premature graying/loss of hair, impotence

What should I look for in a practitioner?

The traditional acupuncturist forges an active partnership with the person seeking help. After developing a deep understanding of an individual’s energetic make-up and lifestyle habits, the practitioner works with the patient to design effective strategies to promote wellness. Therefore, the selection of practitioners is critical.

Since a significant part of the alchemy of healing is based in the relationship between practitioner and patient, it is important to speak at least briefly with the acupuncturist before making a decision. Is there a connection? Do you feel understood and accepted?

Finally, what is the practitioner’s level of training? Those who hold the title, Master of Acupuncture, have completed approximately 3000 hours of combined classroom and clinical study of classical acupuncture.

Sites of Interest

www.acupunture.com - general acupuncture site
www.tai.edu - Tai Sophia Institute, formerly known as the Traditional Acupuncture institute
www.qi-journal.com - Qi Gong and other information about Qi

(804) 938-5668

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