Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine-based approach to treating a variety of conditions by triggering specific points on the skin with needles.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected by pathways or meridians. These pathways create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced “chee”) through the body that is responsible for overall health.
Disruption of the energy flow can cause disease. By applying acupuncture to certain points, it is thought to improve the flow of Qi, thereby improving health.
How Acupuncture Works
Each acupuncture needle produces a tiny injury at the insertion site, and although it’s slight enough to cause little to no discomfort, it’s enough of a signal to let the body know it needs to respond.
This response involves stimulation of the immune system, promoting circulation to the area, wound healing, and pain modulation. Contemporary research on acupuncture relies mainly on this theory. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system.
This, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.
Benefits of Acupuncture
There are many benefits to acupuncture. And it can be effectively combined with other treatments. Effective acupuncture can help manage chronic pain, migraine, and headaches. It is a flexible form of treatment that can target numerous health concerns at once.
However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) advises people not to use acupuncture as a replacement for conventional medical help.
Acupuncture carries little risk of side effects, and practitioners must carry a license to perform acupuncture procedures. Studies show that acupuncture can help manage chronic pain, OA, headaches, and migraine. Other studies suggest that acupuncture can also assist in the treatment of:
- Anxiety and depression
- Menstrual cramps and PMS
- Digestive disorders
- Stroke rehabilitation
Acupuncture involves inserting needles into the body to stimulate sensory nerves in the skin and muscles. This may help treat chronic pain and other physical conditions.
Acupuncture has roots in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and is now a common complementary treatment worldwide.
However, the exact way in which acupuncture works remains unclear. Some people believe it works by balancing vital energy, while others believe it has a neurological effect. Acupuncture aims to balance the life forces known as Qi that are responsible for different health issues.
Theories on the Effectiveness of Acupuncture
There are several theories behind the effectiveness of acupuncture, although researchers don’t fully understand how it works. One theory is that acupuncture may stimulate the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.
Another theory is that acupuncture may influence the autonomic nervous system, and needle placement may impact breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.
One of the most well-known theories behind acupuncture is the Gate Theory of Pain. This theory explains that acupuncture works through the nervous system to alleviate pain. The theory states that in the nervous system, there are nerves that both transmit and inhibit pain.
These fibers come together in the substantia gelatinosa of the spinal cord. Acupuncture needles can stimulate these fibers and activate inhibitory neurons that block pain signals from being transmitted to the brain.
Acupuncture is also embedded in naturalistic theories that are compatible with Confucianism and Taoism. Such ideas as yin-yang, qi, dampness, and wind represent East Asian conceptual frameworks that emphasize the reliability of ordinary, human sensory awareness.
Are there any risks or side effects associated with acupuncture?
As with any medical treatment, acupuncture carries some risks and side effects. However, the risks and side effects of acupuncture are generally considered to be low.
According to a study by the Acupuncture in Medicine, the risks connected to acupuncture are lower compared to the risks involved with other common medical treatments.
The most common side effects of acupuncture are mild and include bleeding, bruising, and soreness at the insertion sites. Additionally, some people may experience dizziness.
While serious complications from acupuncture are rare, they can occur. According to a list published by the World Health Organization (WHO), serious side effects of acupuncture include blood vessel and nerve injury, complications from the needle breaking during treatment, organ injuries, as well as brain and spinal cord injuries.
However, a research done by the Royal Society of Medicine shows that serious events seem to occur rarely in the hands of well-trained, experienced acupuncturists.
It is also important to ensure that the needles used are sterile. If non-sterile needles are used, hepatitis B and other infections may be contracted.
Improper needle placement can cause internal organ damage or a collapsed lung.
In rare cases, acupuncture can cause a “healing crisis,” where symptoms may temporarily worsen before improving. This is usually a positive sign that the body is beginning to heal.
Acupuncture can awaken the body’s self-healing capabilities, which can cause heightened sensitivity or intolerance for things that previously felt normal.
It is important to discuss any potential risks or side effects with your doctor before undergoing acupuncture treatment. It is recommended to find a licensed and experienced acupuncturist to minimize the risks associated with this treatment.
Are there any factors that would make someone unsuitable for acupuncture treatment?
While acupuncture is generally safe, there are certain factors that may make someone unsuitable for acupuncture treatment.
If you have a bleeding disorder or take anti-clotting drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin), you may be at greater risk of bleeding or bruising from the needles.
If you have a pacemaker, acupuncture that involves applying mild electrical pulses to the needles may interfere with the pacemaker’s operation. If your white blood cell count is low, such as after certain types of chemotherapy, your healthcare provider may recommend against any disruption of your skin to prevent infection.
If you are pregnant, you should also be cautious about receiving acupuncture treatment. While some studies have suggested that acupuncture can help manage pregnancy-related conditions such as nausea and back pain, there is not enough evidence to support acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for pregnant women.
Furthermore, it is important to ensure that the needles used are sterile. If non-sterile needles are used, hepatitis B and other infections may be contracted.
It is important to discuss any potential risks or concerns with your doctor before undergoing acupuncture treatment. Additionally, it is recommended to find a licensed acupuncturist to minimize the risks associated with this treatment.
Experience the Benefits of Acupuncture at SeeBeyond Medicine
Acupuncture has been recognized for its potential to alleviate pain, balance energy, and promote overall well-being. By choosing a licensed and experienced acupuncturist, you can minimize risks and enjoy the numerous benefits this ancient practice has to offer.
At SeeBeyond Medicine, our team of experts will ensure a safe and personalized acupuncture experience tailored to your specific needs.
To learn more about how acupuncture can enhance your health and wellness journey, visit SeeBeyond Medicine and take the first step towards a more balanced and pain-free life.