Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting very thin needles through the skin at specific points of the body. It offers various health benefits, depending on which site is pierced.
If you are new to holistic types of treatment, acupuncture can be intimidating. However, this treatment has been practiced for over 2,500 years, and its benefits are documented. Ample anecdotal evidence has been offered by advocates who affirm its use and how it has improved their quality of life.
Studies have shown that during an acupuncture treatment, neurochemicals called endorphins are released by the brain. Endorphins act on the opiate receptors in our brains and are natural pain relievers. Because acupuncture promotes the release of endorphins, the treatment produces an anti-inflammatory effect and can boost the immune system. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an effective remedy for a variety of health conditions, including high blood pressure, infertility, the common cold, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and even depression.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
From the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine, performing acupuncture helps restore the balance of energy or life force known as chi. This chi is believed to flow through specific pathways in the body called meridians. Traditional practitioners explain that, by inserting needles into strategic points of these pathways, the energy balance will be restored, producing various health benefits from pain relief to reduction of stress.
Western medicine practitioners view acupuncture a bit differently, but their explanation runs along the same lines. They believe that what acupuncture advocates call meridians are actually key points of nerves, muscles, and connective tissues. When these points are stimulated, the body’s natural painkillers are released.
How is Acupuncture Performed?
The first form of acupuncture needles dates back to the stone age and were initially made from sharpened, polished stone. Today, practitioners use disposable stainless-steel needles almost as thin as a strand of hair. These extremely fine needles are not capable of penetrating arteries or veins. It is common for patients to be unable to feel the needles being inserted. Occasionally a feeling of heaviness or muscle ache is experienced, but never pain.
Before inserting the needle, the acupuncturist palpates specific parts of the body to determine which ones will benefit the most. The patient is then encouraged to relax in order to optimize the effect of the treatment. With the puncture points identified and the patient ready, the practitioner inserts the needles. After insertion, they are stimulated by an electronic pulse device or by movement.
The needles are usually left in place for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the patient’s needs. When indicated, the treatment time may be extended. Every patient responds differently to acupuncture treatment. Some may need just a few treatments to relieve the symptoms, while others may need more.
What Benefits Can You Expect from Regular Acupuncture?
A study in Germany has shown that acupuncture helps relieve the symptoms of tension, headaches, and migraines. It is also proven to help alleviate the pain resulting from the following conditions:
- Neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Knee pain
The World Health Organization has released a list of conditions for which acupuncture is recognized as an effective remedy:
- High blood and low blood pressure
- Some gastric conditions such as peptic ulcer
- Pain from menstruation
- Allergic rhinitis
- Morning sickness
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis elbow
- Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatments
- Facial pains
In addition to relieving the symptoms of the above health conditions, the WHO has also established the effectiveness of acupuncture in inducing labor and reducing the risk of stroke.
Other potential health benefits of acupuncture are being explored. Some studies suggest that this medical technique can help with the treatment of cancer and multiple sclerosis. However, further studies are needed to confirm these findings. Other conditions could benefit from the application of acupuncture treatments, including:
- Convalescence after surgery
- Dependence on alcohol, tobacco, and other substances
- Pain in the spine
- Vascular dementia
- Pertussis or whooping cough
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Urinary tract infections
- Epidemic hemorrhagic fever
- Abdominal pain
- Cancer pain
- Stiff neck
With all the scientific, anecdotal, and historical evidence supporting acupuncture, disputing its health effects is a tall task. It is an excellent medical technique that can bolster the effects of other courses of treatment.
If you are feeling pain and would like to explore an alternative treatment method, acupuncture can be very helpful, especially to patients with some restrictions in terms of medications. When performed correctly, it is quite safe and has very few side effects. Our acupuncturist, Richard Vigorelli, is happy to answer any questions you may have about this treatment. Please call Peak Day Spa at 385-202-4104.