Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine and Eastern Medicine that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. It is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy, called “qi” (pronounced chee) that circulates through twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of qi throughout a meridian is how disease begins.
Acupuncturists insert needles into specified points along meridian lines to influence the restore balance to the flow of qi. There are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body. In 1997, acupuncture needles were reclassified from “experimental” to “medical device” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The National Institutes of Health released a consensus statement in the same year endorsing acupuncture for the treatment of a variety of conditions such as post-operative pain, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Acupuncture is one of the best known of the alternative therapies. The FDA estimates that people in the United States spend more than $500 million annually on acupuncture treatments. There are numerous theories about how acupuncture works.
Some of them include:
- acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins
- acupuncture influences the release of neurotransmitters, substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain
- acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system
- acupuncture stimulates circulation
- acupuncture influences the electrical currents of the body
The most recent research on Acupuncture acknowledges the desired result of each study participant, but how the results were achieved cannot be scientifically documented from the standpoint of measuring how the endorphin release, etc. occurs. A Chinese Medicine practitioner would explain the results in a more philosophical way, not based in scientific research. Personally, I don’t think it matters, the results speak for themselves – Acupuncture works.
Conditions Treated By Acupuncture
- migraines and tension headaches
- common cold
- quit smoking
- trigeminal neuralgia
- chronic pain
- Meniere’s disease
- tennis elbow
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- menstrual cramps
- pregnancy-related ailments
- menopausal symptoms
- low back pain
- weight loss
What a Typical Acupuncture Treatment is Like
Before the initial appointment, clients usually complete a health history questionnaire. The acupuncturist then interviews the client, asking about his or her primary health concern, lifestyle habits, diet, emotions, menstrual cycle, sleep, temperature, appetite, stress, and sensitivity to foods, temperature, and seasons. During the interview, the acupuncturist examines the client carefully, noting his or her face color, voice, and even tongue color and coating if necessary. There are also three pulse points at the wrist of each hand that the acupuncturist will assess to further determine the health of the 12 meridians.
After the interview, the acupuncturist gives a diagnosis and begins treatment. Typically, the acupuncturist will use 6-12 needles during the treatment. The number of needles used does not correspond with the intensity of the treatment, rather it is the precise placement of the needles that is important.
Upon insertion, the client may feel a slight sting or prick. Once the needle is inserted, there should be no pain. The patient should feel comfortable during the treatment. Treatment length varies from seconds to longer than one hour. The typical length is about 15 to 30 minutes. The acupuncturist may use the following techniques during the treatment:
- herbal medicine – Chinese herbs and botanicals, as well as nutritional supplements may be given in the form of teas, pills, and capsules to supplement acupuncture treatment.
- Electrostimulation – a micro current machine can be attached to two to four acupuncture needles and can tonify (stimulate) the points and assist with pain relief and muscle pain.
- laser acupuncture – non-needle stimulation of needle can be used for infants or those for which needle acupuncture may be contraindicated.
Most people report a feeling of calm and well-being during and after their treatment. A course of care may involve any number of treatments based on the health of the patient, the chronicity of the problem at hand and the stressors, such as emotional stress and toxicity from poor eating habits or drug use. A research study that focused specifically on knee arthritis in subjects over the age of 55 found that the average number of treatments needed to significantly mitigate knee pain was 12 treatments.
For anyone looking for an alternative to medication for a wide variety of conditions, acupuncture could be the key to symptom relief and better health. I have 4 years of postgraduate study in Acupuncture and Meridian Therapy. If you’d like to schedule an appointment for an evaluation for acupuncture, please call my office at (239) 243-8735.