What is acupuncture?
The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical points on the body called acupoints or acupuncture points, using a variety of techniques for therapeutic purposes. The technique that has been most extensively studied involves penetrating the skin with very fine needles that are manipulated by hand or by electrical pulses.
Along with the usual method of puncturing the skin with fine needles, practitioners of acupuncture also use heat, pressure, friction, suction, or impulses of electromagnetic energy to stimulate the points.
Acupuncture evolved in antiquity, long before development of modern physical laws and the scientific method. For this reason ancient practitioners of Chinese Traditional Medicine sought to explain the observed effects of stimulating acupoints with a philosophy that described the movement of an energy known as Qi through pathways known as meridians to restore health by balancing the life-forces of yin and yang.
Integrative practitioners are moving away from such traditional explanations.
Current research efforts to pinpoint the scientific mechanism of acupuncture’s efficacy are numerous and ongoing. The most common theories focus on the release of endorphins; the stimulation of sub-cutaneous electrical signals; impacts on the central nervous system including the release of adenosine, which has known anti-nociceptive effects; impacts on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system; promotion and suppression of gastric peristalsis; activation of the vagus nerve; deactivation of inflammatory microphages; and deactivation of limbic brain areas.
What does acupuncture treat?
The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating at least 43 clinical conditions. This number is expected to grow as scientific studies are completed which further demonstrate the efficacy of acupuncture. In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the WHO has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture.
- Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
- Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
- Biliary colic
- Dysentery, acute bacillary
- Dysmenorrhoea, primary
- Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute & chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
- Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
- Hypertension, essential
- Hypotension, primary
- Induction of labor
- Knee pain
- Low back pain
- Malposition of fetus, correction of
- Morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain
- Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
- Periarthritis of shoulder
- Postoperative pain
- Renal colic
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis elbow
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture needles are super thin, sterile, disposable and approved by the FDA. They are up to 30 times thinner than hypodermic needles. Often, depending upon location, there is no pain at all when the needle is inserted. All medical procedures carry some element of risk, but the incidence of problems with acupuncture is almost insignificant.
How many treatments will I need?
Each case is unique and follows its own time line, since every individual’s constitution and lifestyle is different. A general rule of thumb is to allow one month of treatment for every year the ailment has existed. Children, however, respond very well to Oriental medicine, and sometimes recovery can be quite quick.