Qi and Blood
Qi and blood are two primary substances, which need to be in a relative balance for the body to maintain a state of health.
Qi is quite simply the Chinese word for energy. Energy in the human body is molecular interactions spurred on by chemical enzymes and exchanges. The first law of thermodynamics states, "that energy can be neither created nor destroyed", but it can be moved, harnessed, and directed (344, Biology: Core Concepts Miller). In Chinese medicine it is this energy or qi, which is moved in the acupuncture channels, accessed through the acupuncture points, and spread through out the body to create sensations and balance. The state and health of the energy in the body is determined through the strength of the pulse, the vibrancy of the face and eyes, and the patient's subjective determination of their own energy level.
Since energy cannot be created or destroyed in TCM we are working most often with energy blockage or a problem with energy synthesis. The primary modes of energy synthesis of the human body are the digestive process‹the process by where we break down and absorb food and convert it in to energy. Therefore in TCM theory the root of the imbalance of a person with low energy stems from the diet and the way food is broken down and absorbed. The goal of treatment in the low energy person is to first strengthen the digestive system and then alter the diet to gain the most nutrients out of food. Acupuncture Meridians--the pathways that energy travels within the body--directly connect to all organs of the body. By accessing the energy on those pathways, which intersect the organs of digestion through acupuncture points we can direct the energy to strengthen the digestive system and over time, improve the patient's energy.
In TCM blockage of energy most commonly manifests as pain in the body. The ancient theory in TCM simply states, "Where there is blockage, there is pain. Where there is no blockage, there is no pain." Acupuncture meridians traverse all of the muscles of the body. When a person has pain, the meridians that travel across the area of pain are selected, as well as points local to the pain. When needled these points free the blockage of qi and decrease the pain. The more severe the blockage of qi (energy) and the longer the time the patient has had the injury the more time it can take to restore energy flow and reduce pain. Most patients feel some immediate relief of pain.
Blood is easily translated in to the western mindset as we can see blood flowing through the body. Blood is the transportation system of the body. It carries nutritious substances to organs and cells, and disperses oxygen through out the body. It carries waste products to be evacuated by other organs. Healthy blood is a vital part of a healthy body. Blood and qi have a fundamental relationship in TCM. Where the qi goes the blood flows, indicating that qi and blood are closely linked. Therefore when energy gets deficient the blood may also become deficient and when energy gets blocked (as in cases of pain) blood also may get blocked. A bruise from an injury is easily identifiable as blocked blood flow. When accessing the points in TCM we are also affecting the blood by affecting the energy.
Relating back to the early sections of the website on yin and yang, qi is considered the most yang substance of the body and blood the most yin. So qi and blood are part of the mutually divided whole of yin and yang. Therefore by treating the qi, we are affecting the blood, yin and yang of the whole body. These principles are the basis of how TCM works and why a patient's health depends on both the relative state of balance of qi, blood, yin, and yang.