Acupuncture involves exceptionally thin needles inserted at various points on the body and is most often used to treat pain.
There are few scarier words in the English language than “needle,” which is why for the uninitiated, the concept of acupuncture can set off those internal fear alarms. Historians estimate that the traditional Chinese treatment evolved more than 4,000 years ago, long before there was such a thing as “western medicine.”
- Research has shown acupuncture can improve various bodily functions and promote the natural self-healing process.
Eastern practitioners believe the strategic placement of the needles reestablishes the balance of energy, or chi as it’s known, in the body. Many western advocates, suggests the Mayo Clinic, feel that proper positioning of the needles stimulates nerves, muscles and connective tissue, which increases blood flow and boosts the body’s ability to fight pain.
How Acupuncture Works
According to Traditional Chines Medicine (TCM), “qi” can be unblocked by using specific acupuncture points,
certain places on the skin, calledAcupuncture involves exceptionally thin needles inserted at various points on the body and is most often used to treat pain. .Acupuncture involves exceptionally thin needles inserted at various points on the body and is most often used to treat pain. are places where the meridians come to the surface of the body.
- There are more than 360 acupuncture points on the human body, with specific acupuncture points for each condition being treated.
Acupuncture may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. The hypothesis is acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity, and causes the body’s natural painkillers (endorphins) to be released.
The consensus as to how acupuncture works is by stimulating specific anatomic sites referred to as acupuncture points (acupoints) it produces a healthy effect activating the body’s natural healing response system.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there have been exhaustive studies that prove acupuncture’s effectiveness on some conditions, though researchers are still not entirely sure how or why it works.
Some of The Health Benefits
Scientific American reported on a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Researchers found that electro-acupuncture, where a mild electric current is delivered through the needles, proved to be as successful as Prozac in reducing symptoms of depression. An additional study in the same journal claimed, too, that 12 weeks of acupuncture treatment relieved some of the sexual side effects related to depression treatment with western medications.
Western scientists are by no means done exploring the health benefits of acupuncture. A very vocal group of advocates claim that the healing properties of acupuncture do not stop with just pain. Many people believe it has very positive effect on mental conditions, such as depression.
While not all physicians embrace acupuncture or other forms of traditional Chinese medicine, very few will argue that there is a place for alternative approaches, especially as it relates to addressing chronic pain. Most states in the U.S. require acupuncturists to be licensed and regulated. As with any healthcare professional, it’s important to verify their credentials and receive an initial evaluation to make sure they’re a proper fit for your needs.
There are a myriad of conditions that people opt to use acupuncture for, either in conjunction with or in place of traditional western medicine. Some of these can include:
- Lower back and neck pain
- Chronic migraine and stress headaches
- Menstrual cramps
- Labor pains
- Dental pain
- Postoperative nausea and vomiting
How many acupuncture points are there in the human body?
- Acupuncture points tend to be located where nerves enter a muscle.
They can be located by palpation for tenderness. Points can also be located by feeling for subtle differences in temperature of the skin. There are a total of 360 acupuncture points. Approximately 2/3 are considered “Yang”, and the other 1/3 are “Yin”. Acupuncture points are located using a unit of measure called the “Cun”, about the width of the thumb to the joint.
Acupuncture points are generally considered conduits for electrical signals. Acupuncture point location usually depends on specific anatomical landmarks as referenced by the pulse. Some points are considered therapeutically more valuable than others, and are used more often for a variety of health conditions.
Yes, Acupunctur is currently being used to treat cancer patients. Cancer patients are being treated with acupuncture to control pain and to relieve anxiety, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, depression and sleep issues. Research for cancer treatment has shown acupuncture can help make the immune system stronger during chemotherapy for cancer. Acupuncture is used as complementary therapy for treating cancer.
The oldest evidence of using acupuncture is in China around 2000 BC. The record indicates first using needles to treat a variety of medical problems at that point in time. The use of acupuncture has since spread to various parts of the world and then Europe by the early 1700s.
Accounts of acupuncture’s introduction to the U.S. start in the 1900’s. As we might expect in western culture, early practice focused less on the spiritual and energy aspects of the ancient Chinese treatment and more on the body’s response to nerve stimulation. It wasn’t until the early ’70’s that acupuncture made its appearance into the popular American consciousness, thank to, at least in part, President Richard Nixon.
A reporter for the New York Times, James Reston, followed Nixon and Henry Kissinger on their historic visit to China. While there, Reston developed appendicitis, was rushed to a Chinese hospital where doctors performed emergency surgery and removed his appendix without complication. In considerable pain after the surgery, Chinese doctors used acupuncture to relieve his pain.
From his hospital bed, Reston wrote an article for The Times entitled Now, About My Operation In Peking. Recalling the acupuncture procedure, Reston wrote;
- “there was a noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distension (in the abdomen) within an hour and no recurrence of the problem thereafter.”
The first licensed acupuncture center in the U.S. was established in 1972. Acupuncturists do not give Reston total credit, however. The next year the Internal Revenue Service began allowing a deduction for acupuncture as a medical procedure.
IMPORTANT: It is important that acupuncture treatment be given by a qualified practitioner who uses a new set of disposable (single-use) needles for each patient.
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