Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine wires (needles) into specific spots to stimulate the body to heal itself. The ancient Chinese discovered that all pain and illness cause tiny, hidden sore spots to develop in muscle tissue. When the pain or illness improved, so did the soreness in these spots. Over countless generations, the ancient Chinese learned that different disorders cause the appearance of different sore spots. They also learned that touching these spots properly and reducing their soreness helped the body to heal the disorder. Acupuncture was developed as a highly specialized way to treat these sore spots and stimulate the body's self-healing processes. Around 5,000 years ago, the Chinese developed a theory to explain why stimulating these spots helped ease pain and illness. They theorized that all life was infused with an energy that animates matter. They called this spark of life “qi” (pronounced “chee”). This word is sometimes spelled “chi” and the Japanese call it “key” which is spelled “ki.” Qi flows through all matter, giving function to form. In humans, qi flows through pathways called energy channels or meridians. A good way to think of qi in the body is like water in an irrigation system. Our body's many cells are like different crops in the fields. If the water (qi) flows normally, all crops (cells) are healthy. If the water is blocked, it will flood the upstream crops and dry out the downstream ones. In Chinese medicine, this is called an “imbalance.” The sore spots the ancient Chinese discovered were spots where qi had a tendency to get stuck. Acupuncture, acupressure, massage techniques and herbs can help restore the normal flow of qi, thus restoring balance and helping the body to heal itself.
The technical difference between acupuncture and acupressure is that acupuncture involves breaking the surface of the skin with needles while acupressure involves applying pressure to points with the fingers. In practice, the main difference between acupuncture and acupressure/massage techniques is that acupuncture tends to have a delayed effect but last longer than acupressure/massage. People often feel better right after acupressure/massage but the effect tends to be temporary and stubborn problems often return. Combining the two offers the best of both worlds – the immediate but temporary relief of acupressure/massage and the delayed but deeper help of acupuncture.