Acupuncture has been responsible for the treatment of pain on countless numbers of people for over 4000 years in China. This modality has been definitely ingrained into the culture of the East. In the United States, acupuncture has gained in popularity over the past few decades. What made it more popular were the endorsements it got from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the WHO (World Health Organization) acknowledging the treatment’s ability in treating scores of different health problems.
Acupuncture works on the theory of the existence of energy channels known as meridians. These are pathways where energy known as Chi or Qi travels throughout the body. The human body has 12 meridians that are classified into sets known as Yin and Yang.
In both lower and upper extremities there are three Yin and three Yang energy channels. Eight meridians also exist that have no specific designation. Diseases come about when the meridians become blocked causing the flow of Chi to slow down. By inserting fine needles into the affected meridian, acupuncture can restore Qi flow and help treat the disease.
The NIH believed in 1997 that there was enough evidence to prove that acupuncture is as effective as conventional medicine in treating certain types of illnesses. Medical researchers believe that acupuncture works by stimulating the production and release of endogenous opiates that help relieve pain. The treatment also releases natural pain relievers called endorphins in the body.
Further studies have demonstrated that acupuncture raises the levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the body which is also known to be the body’s own natural pain relievers. Other tests have revealed acupuncture ability to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, cancer pain, sciatica, and arthritis.
A typical acupuncture procedure involves the use of filiform needles that are sterilized and used only once. The needles are so thin that most patients do not actually feel them being inserted. The needles are left inserted for around 15 to 45 minutes. During the procedure, a lot of patients become so relaxed that they usually fall asleep.
There are actually various acupuncture techniques and each patient will get a different type of technique. They include electric stimulation, incense, tapping, and rotation.
When performed by a qualified and experienced practitioner, the risks of acupuncture are very minimal. Even so, there are still risks and they may include the risk of infection and the risk of the needles being inserted too deeply.
In the United States, acupuncture can be performed by two groups of people: those who have obtained a licensed acupuncturist degree and medical doctors, registered nurses, chiropractors, and DOs who have taken special courses in order to legally integrate medical acupuncture into their practice.