What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese 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", 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.
How does Acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is the Chinese art of healing. It involves inserting fine, sterile, disposable needles into specific body parts. Acupuncture stimulates the body's immune and healing systems. Herbal therapies may be combined with acupuncture treatment. Herbs may be taken as tea, pills, tinctures, and powdered extracts. By combining Western knowledge and techniques, acupuncture has become an acceptable and sought after treatment for many disorders including neck and back pain.
There are numerous theories about how acupuncture works. Some of them are:
- 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
Conditions Treated By Acupuncture
- migraines and tension headaches
- common cold
- addictions, quit smoking
- trigeminal neuralgia
- Meniere's disease
- tennis elbow
Currently, one of the main reasons Americans seek acupuncture treatment is to relieve chronic pain, especially from conditions such as headaches/migraines, arthritis, lower back disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome. Clinical studies show that acupuncture is effective in relieving both chronic (long-lasting) and acute or sudden pain. They also have found that using acupuncture lowers the need for conventional pain-killing drugs and thus reduces the risk of side effects for patients who take the drugs.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), promising results have emerged showing acupuncture is beneficial in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Clinical research also supports the use of acupuncture for many other health conditions including: insomnia, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, menstrual cramps, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke rehabilitation. Acupuncture may also be included in a comprehensive program to help quit smoking, lose weight, and/or increase vitality.
Which Acupuncture Style is Best for You?
The answer to this question really depends on your treatment needs and personal preferences.
Some acupuncture protocols are designed to provide temporary relief of symptoms, while other acupuncture protocols are designed to address symptoms’ root causes. Some styles may be gentler or more intense than other styles. Some health problems may be more responsive to a particular style of acupuncture, while other conditions may respond favorably to other acupuncture styles. It is also true that some conditions may respond well to any style of acupuncture, while other conditions may not respond to acupuncture treatment at all.
Treatment length varies depending on which technique is used. A treatment can last from a few minutes to longer than one hour. Typically a technique will be about 20 to 30 minutes.
The Acupuncturist may use one or a combination of the following techniques during the treatment:
- moxibustion - heating of acupuncture needles with dried herb sticks to activate and warm the acupuncture point. Also known as "moxa".
- cupping - the application of glass cups to create a suction on the skin. This is to relieve stagnation of qi and blood, e.g. in sports injury.
- herbal medicine - Chinese herbs may be given in the form of teas, pills, and capsules to supplement acupuncture treatment.
- electrostimulation - provides electrical stimulation to two to four acupuncture needles. Can be used for pain relief and muscle pain.
- laser acupuncture - non-needle stimulation of needles
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