How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which means that it is based on ancient Eastern philosophies. TCMs focus on maintaining harmony within the body, in contrast to trying to instill balance into the body using external factors (in this case, fertility drugs).
Getting the Chi Flowing
Rate of Infertility
One in every eight U.S. couples experiences infertility problems and is unable to conceive naturally.
According to TCM, channels of chi energy (called “meridians”) run through the body. These channels can become blocked, which results in restricted movement within the body. This obstructed movement means that energy is flowing too much in some areas and too little in other areas. Acupuncture practitioners believe that pain in an area alerts you that your chi is blocked in that area.
Stimulating the Brain to Release Hormones
In order to bring all aspects of the body into balance, acupuncture practitioners use needles to stimulate the nervous system and subsequently alter blood pressure, body temperature and chemicals flowing through the body – essentially kicking the body into gear. By prompting the brain to release certain hormones, such as neurotransmitters and chemicals in the muscles and spinal cord, acupuncture can enable the body to heal itself. Despite the punch they pack, stainless steel acupuncture needles are no thicker than a strand of hair (about 01” to .02”).
Acupuncture Pressure Points
Acupuncture pressure points cover the entire body, and each point corresponds to a specific body area to heal different illnesses. Traditionally, the Chinese worked with 14 energy channels, called “meridians,” running through the body. Today, up to 20 meridians have been identified, with anywhere from 400 to 2,000 corresponding acupuncture points running along these channels.
Points Based on Organs, Not Body Systems
The acupuncture meridians don’t correspond to any recognized body system (e.g. blood or nervous system) – which makes Western science skeptical of the ways of acupuncture. However, in most acupuncture charts today, you will see that the traditional 14 meridians are based on the 12 organs, plus the spine (called the “governing vessel”) and the abdomen (called the “conception vessel”). In addition to the points on the meridians, there are also “ghost points” that don’t lie on any meridian. Interestingly, different areas of the body have unique properties, such as temperature and electrical conductance, which can help practitioners identify acupuncture points.
Points Measured in “Body Inches”
Sometimes acupuncture points can be identified by anatomical markings such as eyebrows, hairlines or skin creases. But the distance between points is not measured by a standard method because everyone’s body is a different size. Instead, distances are measured by a metric called the “body inch,” which equals the distance between the distal joint (the knuckle nearest the fingernail) and the middle joint of the middle finger. In Chinese, the measurement is called “cun” or “t-sun.”
Every Point has Two Names
Each acupuncture point has its own label, which consists of two letters based on the organ (e.g. kidney is KI; heart is HT) and a number (starting with one and usually moving chronologically across the meridian). Each point can also be identified by its Chinese “pinyin” name. Points are about 1-3 mm in diameter.
Points in the Conception Vessel
Acupuncture points in the conception
vessel, or “ren mai” meridian, are
labeled RN1 through RN24 up the torso.
The acupuncture points used to combat infertility are in the conception vessel, or “ren mai,” meridian. These 24 points are identified as RN1 through RN24 or CN1 through CN24. The conception vessel points form a line from the anus (RN1 or pinyin name “hui yin”) up the front of the torso to the chin (RN24 or pinyin name “cheng jiang”). Sometimes practitioners use points in other meridians on other parts of body (e.g. hand or foot) because of the complex inner-body connections.
Avoid these Points when Pregnant
As soon as you know you’re pregnant, it’s important that you stop undergoing this acupuncture therapy. By stimulating the uterus during pregnancy, you can induce contractions and premature labor. Specific points to avoid (either with acupuncture or acupressure, which is touching or massaging) are CO4, SP6, GB21, BL31, BL32, BL33, BL34, BL60, BL67, KI6. You can see the locations of these points, which are mostly around the stomach area, in the link to the diagram above, as well.
Read on to learn exactly how acupuncture can stimulate your nervous system to release the chemicals necessary to improve fertility.