How Does Acupuncture Work? 10 Facts You Didn’t Know?
Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the body along energy lines for the treatment of various conditions. It is an over 2500-year old healing technique that is a component of the Chinese health care system; different variations of the technique have sprung up in Japan and Korea.
Acupuncture is based on the premise that there exist patterns of energy flow (Qi) and these patterns are essential to health, any disruption of these patterns is believed to be the cause of diseases and illness. It is a part of a family of procedures used in the management of pain and diseases, acupuncture is said to improve the body’s function and encourage the self-healing process through the stimulation of specific points on the body known as acupuncture points or acupoints, and this is typically done through the insertion of fine sterile needles (usually between 10 and 20 needles) into the skin. Pressure, heat or electrical stimulations may be used to further heighten the effects.
Acupuncture is most often performed by hand with a trained practitioner inserting the needles into the body through the acupoints. The process is painless because the needles used are typically smaller than needles used to take blood.
The ancient philosophy believed by traditional Chinese Medicine experts describes the state of well-being as a result of harmonious balance of two opposing forces: the “yin” and the “yang”. A state of balance of these forces makes the body healthy; energy called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) flows along specific pathways throughout the body, these pathways are referred to as meridians. When this flow of energy is disrupted or blocked, it can lead to pain or disease and it also signals an imbalance in the yin and yang. How acupuncture works in this situation is to release the blocked qi through any of the 350 acupoints in the body. It helps the body heal by inducing the body’s inherent healing process through various physiological systems.
Acupuncture for pain is not the only use of acupuncture, it is also effective in the treatment of; high and low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting brought on by chemotherapy, period cramps, migraines, depression, dysentery, allergic rhinitis, morning sickness, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, inducing labour and much more. If done properly and by a professional, acupuncture can be safe, has very few side effects, is effective in controlling a lot of types of pain, may be combined with other forms of treatment, and can help patients who are not open to pain medication. In spite of all these, acupuncture should only be performed by a professional.
An effective acupuncture session will begin first by the acupuncturist examining you the patient and assessing your condition and what it requires, then he/she will proceed to look at your tongue and vital organs and pulse to see determine what might be causing the imbalance with the Qi. Doing these helps the acupuncturist determine the nature of your treatment. Once this is done, you will be asked to lie down on a table either on your back, front or side depending on your treatment; he/she will then proceed to insert sterile single-use needles along the meridian necessary for treatment. The needles are sometimes heated or stimulated with electricity and stay in for between 5 to 30 minutes, this is usually painless.
While the needles are in, the practitioner will place his/her hands on your body to feel the flow of the energy, redness at the spot of a needle is a sign of energy imbalance at that spot. The frequency of your treatment will depend on the assessment of the acupuncturist, one session of acupuncture is enough for some people while people with chronic ailments may require several sessions over a number of months.
Here are some facts about acupuncture:
- The word acupuncture comes from the Latin words “acus” and “punura” meaning “needle” and “to prick”.
- Acupuncture is based on the principle in which the impulses the needles send travel faster than the pain impulses thus blocking them and it also releases endorphins into the bloodstream.
- Acupuncture needles are much smaller than typical needles and about the thickness of two human hairs in diameter. They do not draw blood when they prick the skin, these needles were not originally made of stainless steel but bones, stones and bamboo.
- A qualified acupuncturist will check your pulse and tongue to get information about the state of your health. A pink tongue is a healthy tongue, red or swollen tongue indicates an allergy or infection and smoother than normal tongue signifies nutrient deficiency.
- The US FDA classifies acupuncture needles as medical instruments and guarantees their safety.
- Acupuncture points have shown to have more electrical conductivity than other areas of the body without acupoints.
- Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine still in practice today; it is over 2500 years old.
- Treatment through acupuncture is very personalised such that people with similar symptoms will have different acupuncture points used for their treatment.
- Acupuncture was endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its report: Acupuncture: Review of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials. In this report, WHO endorses acupuncture for the treatment of more than 200 symptoms and diseases and a consensus was issued by the US National Institutes of Health recommending acupuncture as a healing intervention for complementary medicine.
- Doctors can be acupuncturists but acupuncturists do not necessarily have to be doctors. A licenced acupuncturist attends a 3-4 years graduate program and completes over 200 hours of clinical internships and must continue their education to maintain their license.
Acupuncture is an effective and painless treatment, and when done properly and by a professional, is usually risk and side effect free. It is done by both medical professionals and trained practitioners with a lot of evidence supporting it and advocating it as an effective treatment. Make sure to find a certified acupuncturist if you want to give it a try.