Acupuncture: some people swear by it and others attribute it to nothing more than a placebo effect. It is an ancient Chinese Medicine practice of strategically placing very fine needles into the skin to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions.
The job of the needles is to recreate balance by stimulating Qi. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is what the Chinese refer to as the life force of the body. It is this stimulation that begins to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and diminish symptoms of some diseases.
Acupuncture is gaining credibility in the Western world as being an effective partner with institutional medical practices for combating certain diseases and ailments.
An ultrasound study, from the University of Vermont, showed that when acupuncture needles were used on specific meridian points, the tissue in the vicinity of the needles sent signals throughout the body that stimulated blood flow and tissue regeneration.
One area where Western medicine and this ancient traditional practice are working together is when surgery is required. There are a plethora of studies that show recovery time from surgery and the need for pain medication following surgery is significantly lowered when acupuncture is performed before and after the surgical procedure.
Even the World Health Organization (WHO), an international authority on health-related matters, weighs in on the effectiveness of acupuncture. In a report it issued on the effectiveness of acupuncture for a variety ailments, it says:
“Over its 2500 years of development, a wealth of experience has accumulated in the practice of acupuncture, attesting to the wide range of diseases and conditions that can be effectively treated with this approach.”
The biggest question most people have when contemplating acupuncture is “does it hurt?”
There is something about the fact that needles are used that cause people to pause. Today, acupuncture needles are about as thick as a strand of hair, are sterilized and designed for single use. They do not actually cut the skin like needles used for injections, but instead they separate the skin for easier and pain-free penetration. It doesn’t generally hurt and most likely you will feel only a slight prick.
Acupuncture is rarely a one-time thing. The initial appointment is almost always a thorough exam that includes questions about your symptoms, behaviors, and lifestyle. You might be questioning the decision to try acupuncture when your acupuncturist is asking about how you’ve been sleeping, what you’ve been eating and your stress levels when all you are looking for is a little relief from your back pain.
Every ailment, according to Chinese Medicine, is an interruption in the flow Qi. Acupuncture is a total well-being practice, and it is important that a complete picture is gathered before the course of treatment is decided. A course of six to eight treatments is common, but the number may vary based on why you are being treated and how severe the condition is.
The next big question often asked is, “what can acupuncture heal?” Well, it might be easier to list what it can’t heal or at least treat and relieve symptoms for. From that same WHO report mentioned earlier,
Here are 25 of the most common conditions the ancient practice of acupuncture can heal:
Low Back Pain
Mild and Severe Sprains
Facial Pain, including Lockjaw
Headaches and Migraines
Dental Pain and Gum Disease
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Joint Inflammation
Induction of Labor
Correction the Fetus in the Breech Position
Nausea and Vomiting
Postoperative Pain and Stiffness
Adverse Reactions to Radiation or Chemotherapy
Asthma, Hay Fever and Irritation of the Nose
Depression both Chronic and Situational
Acute and Chronic Gastritis
The above is not a complete list of acupuncture benefits by any means. In fact, the studies into the effectiveness of acupuncture on specific diseases and conditions are ongoing, and more ailments are added to this list as the information becomes available.
If you are undecided about whether to try acupuncture or not, do your research and start to look at healing yourself in a new and integrative way. It doesn’t have to be all of one type of medicine, and if the latest findings are any indication, then an approach that combines the best of Western and Chinese medicine may be right for you.
Acupuncture practices are popping up in hospitals, clinics, and private facilities. And because acupuncturists can operate without the need for electronics and machinery, they can even be found in war zones, refugee camps and disaster sites around the world.
Acupuncture is certainly worthy of further investigation. It may or may not be right for you, but if you have a specific condition that you believe might be a candidate for treatment with acupuncture, it is worth having a discussion with a trained professional and your doctor.