Acupuncture Can It Help?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin, to various depths at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but over the past two decades its popularity has grown significantly within the United States. Although scientists dont fully understand how or why acupuncture works, some studies indicate that it may provide a number of medical benefits from reducing pain to helping with chemotherapy-induced nausea.
What happens during an acupuncture session?
Acupuncture therapy usually involves a series of weekly or biweekly treatments in an outpatient setting. Its common to have up to 12 treatments in total. Each visit typically includes an exam and an assessment of your current condition, the insertion of needles, and a discussion about self-care tips. An acupuncture visit generally lasts about 30 minutes.
Before the needles are placed, you will lie down on a comfortable surface. Make sure that your acupuncturist uses single-use sterile packaged needles. You may feel a brief, sharp sensation when the needle is inserted, but generally the procedure isnt painful.
Its common, however, to feel a deep aching sensation when the needle reaches the correct depth. After placement, the needles are sometimes moved gently or stimulated with electricity or heat. As many as a dozen needles may need to be placed for each treatment. Once the needles are inserted, theyre usually left in place for five to 20 minutes.
How does acupuncture work?
The traditional Chinese theory behind acupuncture as medical treatment is very different from that of Western medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, health results form a harmonious balance between the complementary extremes (yin and yang) of the life force known as qi or chi. Qi is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through more than 350 acupuncture points. Illness results from an imbalance of the forces. By inserting needles into these points in various combinations,acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will rebalance.
In contrast, the Western explanation of acupuncture incorporates modern concepts of neuroscience. Many practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your bodys natural painkillers and increase blood flow.
Who is acupuncture for?
Acupuncture seems to be useful as a stand-alone treatment for some conditions, but its also increasingly being used in conjunction with more conventional Western medical treatments. For example, doctors may combine acupuncture and drugs to control pain and nausea after surgery.
Scientific studies generally test treatments against placebos, such as sugar pills. Its difficult to conduct valid scientific studies of acupuncture, because its difficult to devise sham versions of acupuncture. In fact, several studies have indicated that sham acupuncture works as well or almost as well as real acupuncture.
Preliminary studies indicate that acupuncture may offer symptomatic relief for a variety of diseases and conditions, including low back pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, migraines and osteoarthritis. Acupuncture may help manage postoperative dental pain, alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and offer relief for chronic menstrual cramps and tennis elbow.