For instance, suppose you are suffering from fatigue. A useful question you might like to ask yourself is this: do I feel better if I take a walk/go for a run/do some yoga? Or, do I feel better and more energised if I get to express myself more fully than usual, perhaps having a good talk with a trusted friend about the things that matter, or even writing a poem or painting a picture. If these things leave you with more energy, feeling more alive and more yourself, it’s likely that your fatigue does not mean that you do not have enough Qi, but that your Qi is not flowing freely, is stagnant. Exercise and communication both tend to free up Qi that is blocked, so that you feel more alive and motivated.
On the other hand, if exercise makes you feel even more tired, and you feel drained after communicating, it looks like your Qi is deficient; it is not that it is not flowing, it is just that there is not enough of it.
It’s a bit like a dried up river bed; there may not be any water in it because it is dammed up further upstream, or because there has been a drought and there is not any water in the whole of the river.
Acupuncture is a particularly suitable treatment for Qi stagnation; a skilful acupuncturist will know how to stimulate just a few key acupuncture points to free up the Qi and get it moving again. He or she will also help you identify why your Qi is stagnating in the first place. This might, for instance, be due to some underlying emotional frustration which ties up your Qi. Acupuncture will help open up this frustration and give you the energy to deal with it in your life in the most appropriate way.
Likewise with Qi deficiency, we need to ask why? Why is the Qi deficient? Of course it could just be that you are working long hours and not getting enough rest, but it is likely that the Qi deficiency is particularly associated with a specific organ system; for instance the digestive system, leading to what Chinese Medicine calls Spleen Qi deficiency. In this case your fatigue may be associated with a poor appetite or with a craving for junk food and sweets. Or perhaps along with the fatigue there is a dull ache in your low back and you find yourself going for a pee more often than usual, in which case it seems like the Qi of the Kidneys is depleted. So treatment in these instances aims to strengthen the Qi of the organ system in question so that, perhaps with a few little adjustments to your lifestyle, your Qi can be brought back up to what it should be.
Sometimes, of course, it might be that you are tired out because of both of the reasons; you do not have enough Qi, and the Qi you do have is not flowing well. In this case it is a matter of deciding which of these is responsible for the lion’s share of the fatigue and focusing on that for the time being.