When most people hear the word acupuncture they immediately think of the insertion of needles in various parts of the body. While this is the most common type of treatment, acupuncture can refer to a variety of different stimulation techniques.
It has had a long history as part of traditional Chinese and Asian medicine before growing in popularity in the United States in the early 1970s. Frequently used for pain relief, the Chinese philosophy believes by putting needles in certain locations the body’s energy flow or qi can be rebalanced and provide relief. Many Westerners think the stimulation of certain nerves, muscles and connective tissues increases the body’s blood flow and release of endorphins which can lessen discomfort.
How It Works
An initial evaluation can take about an hour. Exact details depend on the practitioner and his or her approach but it may include examinations of the area in pain along with the tongue, face color and wrist pulse. Discussion of general health, lifestyle and behavior factors may also occur. After the first meeting, treatments generally last about 30 minutes. Depending on the problem 6 to 12 appointments over several months is often typical. Between 5 and 20 very thin needles are inserted in various locations of the body (sometimes some are nowhere near the area in pain). Discomfort should be very minimal or nonexistent. Once the needles are in the practitioner has a variety of options from twirling them to heating them to applying light electrical pulses to them. After 10 to 20 minutes the needles are removed.
Acupuncture can by tried for a number of painful ailments ranging from headaches, back pain and dental pain to fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and even labor pain.
Accupuncture is beginning to emerge as a combination therapy across western medicine that has been shown to show relief for patients after surgery.
When approaching menopause, accupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce the duration and intensity of hot flashes and other symptoms associated with that phase of life.
Acupuncture is generally considered pretty safe but there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, practitioners should always use sterile, disposable needles to prevent infections and exposure to serious diseases. A little bit of soreness or even small amounts of bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted is possible. In rare cases needles can puncture organs if they are pushed in too far. Individuals with bleeding disorders or who take a blood thinner may not be good candidates for acupuncture. Similarly anyone with a pacemaker should likely avoid this treatment as the electrical impulses to the needle could affect the pacemaker. Finally, acupuncture in some forms may trigger labor so pregnant women may need to avoid it.
Acupuncture is an ancient Asian treatment that involves very thin needles inserted in certain locations to help relieve pain.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction.htm
Mayo Clinic mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946