Acupuncture is a medical practice over 2,000 years old that comes all the way from China. It involves stimulating certain points on the body using needles to penetrate the skin.
Also, Acupuncture is a complementary medical practice that involves stimulating certain points on the body. It involves the use of needles to penetrate the skin, alleviate pain or help treat various health conditions.
Again, you can describe Acupuncture as a form of treatment that involves inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body, to various depths.
Furthermore, Acupuncture originated in China nearly 2500 years ago as a holistic therapy meant to treat the whole patient rather than a specific condition. The earliest acupuncture tools were flint, sharp pieces of stone, bamboo or bones.
Additionally, Acupuncture seeks to encourage the body to promote natural healing and improve functioning. To do this, insert needles and apply heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
This has both The Classical Chinese explanation and Modern Scientific Explanation.
Classical Chinese Explanation
The Classical Chinese Explanation says that channels of energy run regularly in patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels are known as meridians. They are like rivers that flow through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. Thus, an obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.
Furthermore, needling the acupuncture points can influence these meridians. The acupuncture needles unblock this obstruction at the dams and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Therefore, Acupuncture treatments help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption and energy production activities. It can also assist in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
Modern Scientific Explanation
The Modern Scientific Explanation says that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the brain, muscles, and spinal cord. These chemicals will either trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones or change the experience of pain. This can influence the internal regulating system of the body.
Thus, this improved energy and biochemical balance Acupuncture produces stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities and promotes physical and emotional well-being.
Furthermore, the needles for this method of treatment vary in length and in size. Most of them are about one inch long. Needles that are up to three inches long can be used in fleshy areas like the glutes. One-time disposable needles should be used to reduce disease transmission.
In addition, needle insertion can be just under the skin or into the muscle. And, it can produce a mild ache or sense of heaviness but is rarely sharply painful. Needles are usually left in place for between 15 to 30 minutes. Patients might require between six and eight treatments to see any results. However, patients may notice some immediate effects.
To begin with, Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) says Chi (or Qi) is the normal flow of body energies or life force. However, it is in a constant state of flux. It’s thought that Chi circulates through meridians (energy pathways), as blood circulates through vessels.
Modern Western medicine focuses on “curing” disease symptoms. On the other hand, traditional Chinese medicine focuses on obtaining a dynamic balance between the various elements that make up each person. Traditional practitioners claim that when Chi is out of balance, it results in illness. It is said that humans are born with a certain portion of Chi, which we replenish with food and air.
Also, TCM practitioners look at the opposing but complementary forces of Yang and Yin. Yang is hot, fast, bright, and loud and is sometimes seen as “masculine” energy. Yin has to do with cold, slow, dark, and quiet and is sometimes seen as “feminine” energy.
Furthermore, according to TCM, there must be a balance between Yang and Yin to maintain optimal health. According to Yin or Yang energy, Chi can be bi-directional. For example, increasing or reducing blood pressure, increasing or decreasing gastric secretions, etc. It’s thought that acupuncture helps keep this balance by using the body meridians through which Chi flows. There are 12 pairs of meridians linked with organs, joints, and extremities. However, there is no known evidence for the physical existence of these meridians.
Again, each meridian has five acupuncture points related to the five Chinese elements. These Chinese elements are earth, wood, water, metal, and fire.
In addition, TCM suggests that harmful Chi contributes to illness and comes from internal and external sources. Some examples are joy, trauma, cold, heat, wetness, dryness, anger, obsessions, grief, fear, fright, irregular eating, excessive stress, and lack of exercise.
Uses Of Acupuncture
According to research done in Germany, Acupuncture might help relieve tension headaches and migraines.
Furthermore, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) note that it has been proven to help in cases of:
- knee pain
- headache and migraine
- low back pain
- neck pain
Also, they list additional disorders that might benefit from Acupuncture. However, these still need further scientific confirmation.
These conditions are part of a list from 2003 by the World Health Organization (WHO). They say Acupuncture effectively solves them.
- high and low blood pressure
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- some gastric conditions, including peptic ulcer
- painful periods
- allergic rhinitis
- facial pain
- morning sickness
- rheumatoid arthritis
- tennis elbow
- dental pain
- reducing the risk of stroke
- inducing labor
Additionally, other conditions for which the WHO say Acupuncture might help but still requires more evidence are:
- post-operative convalescence
- substance, tobacco and alcohol dependence
- spine pain
- stiff neck
- vascular dementia
- whooping cough, or pertussis
- Tourette syndrome
In addition, WHO also suggests that it might help treat a number of infections, including epidemic hemorrhagic fever and some urinary tract infections.
However, they point out that “only national health authorities can determine the diseases, symptoms, and conditions for which acupuncture treatment can be recommended.”
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
As they insert the needle, you may feel a slight sting, pinch, ache, or some pain. Some acupuncturists manipulate the acupuncture needle after placing it in the body. To do this, they twirl or rotate the needle, moving it up and down, or using a machine with a small electric pulse or current.
However, some acupuncturists see the resulting tingling, numbness, heavy sensation, or ache (known as “de qi”) as desirable in achieving the therapeutic effect.
Furthermore, if you experience pain, numbness, or discomfort during the treatment, inform your acupuncturist immediately.
Side Effects of Acupuncture
Just like any treatment, acupuncture poses some risks. The most common ones are pain and bleeding from the insertion of acupuncture needles. Other adverse effects are allergic reactions, skin rashes, bruising, pain, bleeding, nausea, dizziness, infections or fainting.
Thus, acupuncture should always be administered by a licensed and properly trained practitioner using sterile, disposable needles to reduce the risk of serious adverse effects.
Acupuncture according to a report published in Scientific Reports can cause serious adverse effects like infections, nerve and blood vessel injury. Also, complications from needle breakage or remnant needle pieces, punctured organs, central nervous system or spinal cord injury, hemorrhage, and other organ and tissue injuries can lead to death.
Again, punctured pleural membranes around the lungs can make the lungs collapse. People who have Sternal Foramen (a hole in the breastbone) which is a rare, anatomical variation are at risk of lung or heart (pericardium) puncture.
Furthermore, Acupuncture might not be right for people with certain health conditions. This is because the risk of bleeding or bruising increases if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners, like warfarin (Coumadin).
Additionally, Acupuncture shouldn’t be used in place of standard care. Thus, don’t avoid or delay standard care as this might have serious consequences.
Summary and Recommendations
To begin with, it’s difficult to draw strong conclusions. This is because social and psychological factors govern the acupuncture experience.
Also, Acupuncture might be useful for relieving nausea and vomiting, and some forms of pain relief. The effects tend to occur locally, along nerve segments, centrally, and at fascial trigger points.
Furthermore, Acupuncture appears to be safe when working with an experienced practitioner. Thus, if you seek treatment, make sure to find a legit professional.
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