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What is Acupuncture?

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

The popularity of Acupuncture and other Chinese medicine techniques has increased dramatically in Western countries in recent years. According to a study performed by the National Institute of Health on complementary health approaches in 2007, 3.1 million Americans received Acupuncture that year. Acupuncture visits increased threefold between 1997 and 2007, as indicated by the survey.

Acupuncture is one of the most well-known components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the West today. 2,500 years ago, TCM was born as a complementary healthcare approach. Since then, it has continued to evolve. TCM practitioners use various holistic techniques to treat a wide range of illnesses, pains, and stress-related symptoms, including Acupuncture, herbal medicines, qi gong, tai chi, massage therapy, and other 'mind and body techniques.'

The rise in the utilization of Acupuncture and other TCM techniques in the U.S. and other Western nations has been impressive over the last several decades. In 2007, a National Institute of Health study determined that at least 3.1 million Americans had tried Acupuncture. Furthermore, between 1997 and 2007, the number of people visiting acupuncturists tripled.

What is Acupuncture?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncturists insert fine needles into specific locations on the body to promote health. The most common response to this therapy is, 'Is it painful?' Even though acupuncture needles are used, the procedure is relatively pain-free. In reality, a significant draw of Acupuncture is its ability to reduce long-term pain throughout the body without the use of drugs that have adverse effects.

So far, most studies have been conducted investigating whether Acupuncture can safely decrease pain. Still, in the coming years, researchers will continue to examine whether it can assist with other problems, including anxiety, depression, inflammation, hot flashes, chemotherapy side effects, and sleep deprivation.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is thought to be a group of techniques, not one specific approach to pain or disease management. Acupuncture is performed by stimulating specific points on the body using various methods, usually needles. The type of Acupuncture that has been most extensively researched in clinical, scientific settings is the one that uses thin, metal needles to prick the skin lightly.

A qualified practitioner inserts very shallow acupuncture needles into specific points on the body using his hand. Usually, 10 to 20 thin needles are employed at once. Because the needles are small enough to fit inside a standard syringe used to draw blood, the procedure is painless for most people.

Acupuncture that employs light electrical pulsations flowing through the needles, or no needles at all, is also available. For instance, acupressure is often considered as simply "acupuncture without the needles" and uses massage-style methods to stimulate energy in the body by pressing on specific points.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupoints are precise locations on the body where acupuncture treatments are focused. TCM defines Acupuncture as a method for "balancing the circulation of life energy," with energy being accessible by stimulating small, specific channels in the body.

According to TCM practitioners, specific "meridians" in the body are home to a flow of energy known as "qi" or "chi." If chi is out of balance, sickness, pain, poor sleep, and exhaustion are all possible.

The following are some of the major acupuncture meridians:

What is Acupuncture to Treat?

Acupuncture is currently used to treat the following conditions:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says,

For example, promising effects have appeared, showing the effectiveness of Acupuncture in treating postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting in adult patients and postoperative dental pain. In addition to addiction, stroke rehabilitation, menstrual cramps, headache, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, myofascial pain, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma, Acupuncture may be utilized as adjunctive therapy for a variety of conditions.

7 Benefits of Using Acupuncture

#1 > Acupuncture Reduces Headaches

Researchers from the Center for Complementary Medicine at the University of Munich examined over 11 studies involving 2,137 acupuncture patients in 2009, and concluded that acupuncture "could be a beneficial non-pharmacological tool in patients with frequent chronic tension-type headaches."

A review of clinical trials comparing the effects of Acupuncture to placebo-like Acupuncture and no treatment at all for migraine headache pain relief was examined. Specifically, both groups with randomly placed needles and those with strategically placed needles had decreased headache symptoms. The control group did not experience any change.

However, the honest acupuncture group continued to show a decline in headache days and pain intensity in the follow-up survey.

#2 > Acupuncture Improves Chronic Pain

In a 2006 study published by the University Medical Center of Berlin, Acupuncture was shown to be more effective than no treatment for treating chronic back pain. Patients with chronic low back pain experienced a significant reduction in discomfort after eight weeks of acupuncture treatment versus those without no treatment.

A 2012 study by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics sought to determine the effect of Acupuncture on four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, arthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain.

The authors reviewed 17,000 patients' participation in clinical trials to determine whether Acupuncture or a placebo control group provided more relief from back and neck muscle pain, osteoarthritis, or chronic headaches. According to the researchers, Acupuncture is an effective method for treating chronic pain and is, therefore, a legitimate referral option for physicians.

#3 > Acupuncture Helps Treat Insomnia.

A meta-analysis conducted at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine in 2009 revealed that acupuncture therapy was more effective at reducing insomnia symptoms than no treatment. According to the meta-analysis, patients taking drugs or herbal remedies to help them sleep benefited more from acupuncture therapy than from taking the medicines or herbs alone.

The acupuncture sessions had no negative repercussions, in contrast to many sleep medicines.

#4 > Acupuncture Improves Cancer Recovery

Several studies published by the National Cancer Institute indicate that Acupuncture can enhance the immune system and hasten cancer recovery. For example, an experiment where participants received no acupuncture or acupuncture treatment after radiation therapy or chemotherapy found that immunity, platelet counts, and healthy cell counts improved.

Patients in both acupuncture treatment groups experienced less pain from treatments, improvements in quality of life, and a decrease in various adverse side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, according to researchers.

#5 > Acupuncture Helps Prevent Cognitive Decline

Early research has revealed new information about the effectiveness of Acupuncture in treating Parkinson's disease. Neural activity in the putamen and thalamus, two regions particularly affected by Parkinson's disease, has been shown to improve age-related cognitive decline symptoms.

According to a 2002 study conducted by the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, after 20 Parkinson's patients received acupuncture treatments for 16 sessions, 85 percent reported improvements in specific symptoms, including tremors, walking, handwriting, slowness, pain, sleep, depression, and anxiety. There were no adverse consequences.

#6 > Acupuncture Supports Pregnancy

Doctors are now suggesting Acupuncture as a method to reduce stress, balance hormones, and ease pregnancy and labor pain and anxiety.

Physical and emotional burdens posed by pregnancy can be alleviated by using colon hydrotherapy. Colon hydrotherapy is considered a safe method to help with postnatal mood and mental problems and any physical or mental issues the mother might have. It may even be used just before labor to prepare the body.

Do the research and ensure that your acupuncturist is appropriately licensed for the best care. In addition, acupuncturists who are trained tend to avoid a few acupuncture points that are not recommended during pregnancy.

#7 > Acupuncture Helps Stop Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

According to experts, Acupuncture may help those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most typical endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age, by "increasing blood flow to the ovaries, decreasing ovarian volume and ovarian cysts, increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose and insulin levels, lowering cortisol levels and supporting weight loss and anorexia." Similarly, another study found electroacupuncture more advantageous than physical exercise or no intervention for individuals with PCOS.

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