Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific acupoints along the skin of the body involving various methods such as the application of heat, pressure, or laser or penetration of thin needles. It is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine, which aims to treat a range of conditions. It is a complementary health approach. According to traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating specific acupuncture points corrects imbalances in the flow of qi through channels known as meridians.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing systems in the world dating back 3500 years. It has only become popular in the last three decades in the United States and since 1993 has been used to treat over 12 million people.
It is estimated that there are as many as 2000 acupuncture points on the human body that are connected by 12 energetic pathways called meridians and 8 secondary pathways. Energy is conducted from the surface of the body to the internal organs by means of these pathways. The concepts of qi, yin and yang as negative and positive forces are used in treatment to balance the energy of the body to restore health.
There are several theories as to how acupuncture works. One suggests that pain impulses are blocked from reaching the spinal cord or brain at certain “gates” to these areas. Another is that acupuncture releases pain-releasing substances, or that it stimulates the body to produce narcotic-like substances called endorphins.
Acupuncture needles are hair-thin, and virtually painless. They are rarely inserted more than a half-inch to an inch depending on the treatment area. Most find treatment relaxing, and rarely is pain an issue.
When done properly, acupuncture is quite safe. Keep in mind that acupuncture is drug-free, and a much better alterantive than treating a condition with several administrations of medical drugs. There are two exceptions: Patients with pacemakers should not have electroacupuncture because of possible interference with the frequency, and hemophiliacs and people who bleed or bruise easily.
The World Health Organization declared that acupuncture and Oriental medicine could successfully treat over four dozen common health problems. Included in the list were musculoskeletal disorders, emotional and psychological disorders, circulation disorders, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders.
A number of insurance companies have now included acupuncture in many of their plans. Many patients are referred simply because the doctors have exhausted their efforts, and patients refuse to continue to be walking pharmacies. Last, but not least, insurance companies have found acupuncture to be inexpensive, effective medicine. It is important for the patient to suggest acupuncture as it won’t ususally be initiated as a first course of treatment. Only after multiple prescriptions of pain killing drugs have been prescribed, will the doctor recommend acupuncture. The importance of being proactive in this regard can only benefit the patient.
The first visit to the acupuncturist will involve taking a detailed health history. Based on this information, the practitioner will make a diagnosis and formulate a plan based on the principles of chinese medicine that will be benefit the patient. The first treatment lasts about an hour, and a half hour thereafter. Patients are encouraged to ask questions and express any concerns that they may have. Good communication between patient and practitioner is very important to the outcome of the treatment.