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What is Qi?

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, Qi is the vital substance that constitutes the human body. Qi is a subtle substance that is in constant motion, it is the most basic material within us, it is our lifeforce, our essence. Qi promotes the growth and development of the body, the movement, distribution, and discharge of body fluids, and the physiological functional activities of channels, tissues, and organs as well as warming and protecting the body.

Qi comes from two main sources. The first source is inherited from the meeting of our parent's sperm and egg at conception. The second source is acquired from essential substances in nature such as the air we breathe, food, and water. This is why eating a healthy diet, drinking clean water, and breathing fresh air are so important.

From a western perspective, Qi is adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is typically found in the mitochondria of a cell. ATP is found in all living things that is responsible for intracellular transfer. ATP takes energy that is acquired from food molecules and turns it into fuel for other cellular activities. When a cell needs energy, it converts stored molecules into ATP which now shuttles energy to energy-consuming places in the cell.

Qi depends on the normal function of the organs and tissues of the body. To maintain good health, qi needs to be balanced. If there is too little Qi, too much Qi, an improper flow or blockage of Qi, or disharmony of Qi between one or more organ systems. When there an imbalance of Qi, illness can arise. Curing the imbalance of qi is the main goal in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

How does Qi move?

Qi flows through specific pathways called meridians. There are fourteen main meridians inside the body. Each meridian is connected to specific organs and glands. Meridian pathways are like rivers flowing inside the body. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water that provides nourishment to the land, plants and people. Similarly, where meridian pathways flow, they bring life-giving Qi that provides nourishment to every cell, organ, gland, tissue and muscle in the body.

An obstruction in the flow of Qi acts like a dam. When Qi becomes backed up in one part of the body, the flow becomes restricted in other parts. This blockage of the flow of Qi can cut off vital nourishment to the body, organs, and glands.

Physical and emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise, overexertion, seasonal changes, poor diet, accidents, or excessive activity are just some examples of things that can influence the quality, quantity and balance of Qi.

Normally, when a blockage or imbalance occurs, the body easily bounces back, returning to a state of health and well-being. However, when this disruption is prolonged or excessive, or if the body is in a weakened state, illness, pain, or disease can set in.

How does acupuncture work?

The meridians of the body are physical places on the body where Qi energy can be accessed and manipulated. Acupuncture assists the body's natural healing process and serves a preventive function. Using acupuncture needles, pressure or heat to manipulate a point or two separate points on the body can improve a person's qi relieve the symptoms of a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, digestive issues, respiratory problems and more.

It is the acupuncturist's job to assess a patient's qi through a variety of questions, examinations and diagnostic techniques including tongue and pulse. Once an assessment is made, a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and diet/lifestyle therapies are then used to ensure that the Qi is flowing smoothly and freely.


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