Acupuncture Terminology


Acupuncture is the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body which reside on channels or meridians; these are pathways in both the exterior and interior of the body. These points, when needles inserted in them, can regulate the way in which the body functions. Acupuncture helps by addressing problems that affect fertility such as an under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Acupuncture Points

An acupoint can be one of over 1000 specific points on the body where a therapeutic modality (acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, massage) can be applied. An acupoint has a specific effect on the energy of the meridian or organ system. Acupoints can be located on meridians, or can simply be sore points (called “ah shi”). There are approximately 360 acupoints on the 14 major meridians and typical acupuncturists use about 60-100 of those points regularly.


Of abrupt onset, in reference to a disease. Acute often also connotes an illness that is of short duration, rapidly progressive, and in need of urgent care. “Acute” is a measure of the time scale of a disease and is in contrast to “subacute” and “chronic.” “Subacute” indicates longer duration or less rapid change. “Chronic” indicates indefinite duration or virtually no change. The time scale is a relative term and it depends on the particular disease.

Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine is the term for medical practices that are not part of a standard care. Standard care is what medical doctors, and allied health professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, practice. Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical care (and not in addition to it). For example, a standard care can represent a cardiologist prescribing a patient a medication or a surgical procedure. Whereas, the alternative medicine doctor may treat the same heart disease with chelation therapy (which seeks to remove excess metals from the blood). Examples of alternative practices include acupuncture, homeopathy, functional medicine, traditional medicine, functional nutrition, chiropractic, etc. Complementary medicine is not the same as alternative medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, whereas alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.


The use of suction to increase circulation in an affected area to bring about pain relief. Cupping results in both a diagnosis (some areas redden differently than others) and treatment (the reddened areas benefit from renewed circulation). It is most effective for muscle strain, spasms or congestion.


Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles. According to some acupuncturists, this practice augments the use of regular acupuncture, can restore health and well-being and is particularly good for treating pain. There is evidence for some efficacy (when used in addition to antiemetics) in treating moderate post-chemotherapy vomiting, but not for acute vomiting or delayed nausea severity.

Five Elements or Five Phases

A theory describing the interaction of energetic and physical systems in nature and in the body. Traditional Tai Qi Quan schools relate them to footwork and refer to them as five “steps”. The doctrine of Five Phases describes both a generating cycle and an overcoming or restraining cycle of interactions. In the generating cycle, for example, wood generates fire, fire generates earth, earth generates metal, metal generates water, and water generates wood. In the overcoming cycle, wood overcomes earth, earth overcomes water, water overcomes fire, fire overcomes metal and metal overcomes wood. Each element governs a series of related functions and structures: a type of movement, an organ, a body tissue, a season, a color, a negative emotion, a positive aspect, a sound, etc.

Herbal Medicine

Herbs/Herbal Medicine – plants (roots, rhizomes, twigs, bark, leaves, seeds, skin, flowers), animals/animal parts and minerals are used singly or most commonly in formulas to treat a condition. A typical formula consists of six to 12 herbs which create a balanced formula to reduce the possibility of side effects. A common instruction might be to take herbs 2-3 times per day for a few days, several weeks, or even months, depending on the condition. Although historically herbs were to be cooked at home and taken like a tea or soup, now they are available pre-made in capsules, tablets, liquid extracts or powders that can be dissolved in hot water.

Infrared Heat Lamp

Infrared lamps are electrical devices which emit infrared radiation. Infrared lamps are commonly used in radiant heating for industrial processes and building heating. Infrared LEDs are used for communication over optical fibers and in remote control devices. Infrared lamps are also used for some night vision devices where the visible light would be objectionable. Infrared lamp sources are used in certain scientific and industrial instrument for chemical analysis of liquids and gases; for example, the pollutant sulfur dioxide in the air can be measured by using its infrared absorption characteristics.


The Chinese have identified a system through which vital substances (like oxygen and blood) flow in the body. These meridians or channels are named for their organ system. For example, the Stomach channel relates to the stomach organ. On the surface of the body, the Stomach Channel begins under the eyeball, runs along the face, head, throat, chest, belly, legs and ends at tips of the toes. Therefore it is used to treat problems of the stomach organ, and also jaw pain, headache, mastitis, phlegm conditions and knee pain.


Pronounced “chee”, this is the vital energy or life force which flows through the meridians and is used to protect, transform and warm the body. Qi is believed to control and animate the workings of the mind and body. As such, it plays an important role in traditional Chinese medicine. It warms the body and protects it from illness. Qi is derived from two main sources: the air we breathe and the food we eat. Qi is believed to flow through the body via channels, or meridians, that correspond to particular organs and/or organ systems. Each organ, in turn, has its own characteristic qi (e.g., liver qi, kidney qi, and so on). Occasionally, Qi may become imbalanced due to depletion or obstruction. When this occurs, the function of organs or organ systems may be adversely affected, because of the body’s inability to transport or produce the Qi necessary to fight illness or infection.

Subdivisions of Qi are:
– Yin is cooling, restful, relaxing, conserving
– Yang is hot, active, restless, transforming
– Jing is inherited from parents
– Yuan is constitutional energy and vitality
– Ying is nutritional energy
– Wei is defense energy connected to the immune system
– Zhong is energy supplemented through breath. It controls blood circulation, especially to the hands and feet.

Qi Deficiency

A lack of qi which is seen with symptoms of lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath, slow metabolism, frequent colds and flu with slow recovery, low or soft voice, palpitations and/or frequent urination. It can also reflect a prolonged illness.

Qi Gong

A set of exercises including meditative and physical movements. Used to move qi, thereby maintaining and regaining physical, emotional and spiritual health. It is considered an important internal cultivation.




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