Traditional Chinese Medicine is all about relationships – it is about how parts of your body exist in relation to each other. This is true of the energy systems, the meridians, and the interaction of mind, body, and spirit. Thus, through these relationships, acupuncturists can look at the body in many different ways. One of the ways in which acupuncturists can treat the body is using what we call microsystems. Microsystems refer to parts of the body, which represent the body as a whole.
Perhaps the most common microsystem used by most acupuncturists is the ear. The whole body is represented on the ear. We say that the ear is like an inverted fetus – the earlobe represents the head, the spine goes up the ridge of the ear, the limbs are represented as hanging along the spine, and the internal organs are in the deeper part of the ear. We can thus treat the ear to treat the whole body. For example, if someone is experiencing backpain at the level of lumbar vertebrae L4, we can treat the point in the ear that corresponds to that vertebrae in order to offer relief of the back pain. Oftentimes that point in the ear will be sensitive when pressed, in comparison to points around it. Likewise, we can treat respiratory issues by treating the lung points in the ear, or digestive issues by treating points that correspond to the spleen, stomach, and intestines.
Another common microsystem is the hand. Korean Hand Acupuncture utilizes points on the hand to treat the body as a whole, under the same principles as auricular acupuncture (ear acupuncture.) The diagram to the right shows how the body is represented on the hand. To use the back pain example again – in the hand microsystem, the spine is represented by the middle finger and the tendon coming off of the middle finger. When someone is experiencing back pain, the area around the tendon that corresponds to the problem area on the back will be sore. That soreness can be worked out with needles, massage, or acupressure to help alleviate the tension or pain in the back.
Microsystems also appear on the feet, the scalp, the pelvis, and certain muscles of the neck. Different forms of acupuncture utilize certain microsystems more than others. But the idea is the same – that we can use one part of our bodies to treat another. Which all harkens back to the most basic tenant of Traditional Chinese Medicine: everything is connected.