Acupuncture is an ancient healing art that originated in China 3,000 – 5,000 years ago. It involves the placement of thin needles through the skin at defined locations that induce a change in the body’s natural healing and pain relief mechanisms.
Acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a physician trained and licensed in Western medicine who has also had thorough training in acupuncture as a specialty practice. Such a doctor can use one or the other approach, or a combination of both as the need arises, to treat an illness.
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:
The number of treatments is different from person to person. In general, the longer a condition has been present and the more complex a patient’s medical condition, the longer the course of treatment will need to be.
Patient visits are usually scheduled once a week, although two or three visits per week may be necessary. Visits may be scheduled every two or three weeks as patient conditions improve. Patients with chronic pain typically require maintenance treatments at four, six or eight-week intervals, depending on their response to treatment.
Usually not. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Often the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work. It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome. Because we use disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle.
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