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Acupuncture is the practice of inserting extremely fine needles into specific points on the body to restore balance and encourage healing. It has been an important component of Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. These points, or acupoints as they are also called, stimulate energy pathways throughout the body to obtain a desired outcome. Acupuncture is based on a complex medical system of ideas and theories formulated over thousands of years. It is a major part of a whole medicine that includes several modalities like heat therapy, Chinese herbal medicines, moxibustion, cupping, dietary therapy, and energy practices such as qigong. Acupuncture is recognized as one of the fastest growing alternative medical practices by the World Health Organization and is the oldest written medicine continuously practiced in the world. How and where the needles are inserted encourages the body to promote natural healing by enhancing recuperative power, immunity, physical and emotional health and improves overall function and well-being. As a holistic, 'whole-body-wellness' approach to health, Acupuncture works on the physical as well as the emotional self. Acupuncture balances and maintains our health in a natural way.

The oldest continuously used medical textbook is the “Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic", which was compiled about 2,000 years ago yet remains a valuable reference on the theory and techniques that practitioners still use today. The philosophical bases of Chinese medicine extend even further back in time. Throughout the ensuing centuries, the practice of Acupuncture has evolved and changed - many new techniques have been and continue to be developed today, including the use of electrical stimulation on the needles.

Acupuncture needles are hair-fine, flexible, and manufactured to exacting specifications. They are different from medical hypodermic injection needles, which are stiff, hollow, and thick. Depending on the intention behind insertion and the style of Acupuncture employed, you may feel some heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected meridian, or energy pathway. These sensations are minor, generally dissipating quickly, and are related to the body’s healing response. First-time patients are usually amazed at how comfortable they are during treatment, and most patients find Acupuncture relaxing and soothing, some even falling asleep.

Acupuncture is extremely safe when performed by a trained professional who has completed all licensing requirements. In most states, this means completing a minimum three-year Masters degree program that includes hundreds of hours of supervised hands-on clinical training. Most states also require practitioners to pass written national board exams. Most acupuncturists in the United States are rigorously trained in clean needle technique and use pre-sterilized, single-use disposable needles to avoid the risk of infection or contagion.

That depends upon the nature of the problem, the location of the points selected, the patient¹s size, age, and constitution, and upon the acupuncturist¹s style or school. Usually, needles are inserted from 0.5 to 1 inch in depth.

The World Health Organization has recognized over 40 common health problems that Acupuncture can effectively treat. Most people are aware that Acupuncture treats pain, but many do not know the wide range of painful conditions that are commonly improved with Acupuncture. Acupuncture treats pain anywhere in the body, including but not limited to back pain, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ, trigeminal neuralgia, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, shingles pain and migraines. But Acupuncture can also treat digestive disorders such as nausea, acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome. It is commonly used to treat asthma and sinus problems. Acupuncture is very powerful to treat gynecological problems including PMS, menopausal symptoms, endometriosis and even infertility. Depression, anxiety and insomnia often improve with Acupuncture treatments. Meniere’s disease, Bell’s palsy and post-stroke paralysis patients can also be helped with Acupuncture treatments.

You may feel a slight sensation resembling a pinch or a mosquito bite when the needle is inserted. Once the needles are placed there may be a slight tingling, numbness or heaviness in the area while the practitioner is stimulating the point. These are positive signs that the needles are affecting the Acupuncture point. Usually you will be lying on a comfortable padded table or in an easy chair. Often, people become very relaxed and fall into a light sleep during the session.

Acupuncture points reside on energetic pathways that run throughout the entire body. These pathways (or “meridians”) are linked to each other as well as to different organs. Using his knowledge of the interrelationship between the meridians and organs, an Acupuncturist will choose points to effect changes that will restore balance in the body’s systems, promoting health. The key to deciding which points to use is the review of the patient's symptoms and the diagnostic process followed by the practitioner leading to a Chinese medicine diagnosis. There are many styles of Acupuncture, several “micro-systems” of Acupuncture, and many theories on how to pick the location of points to use to treat a given problem, all of which work when followed consistently. For example, Auricular Acupuncture maps the whole body on the ear, while Korean-style Acupuncture maps the whole body on the hand. There are also several styles of scalp Acupuncture, and also a style that only uses the abdomen. Knowledge of the fundamentals as well as various styles or systems of applying it allows an experienced Acupuncturists to match appropriate points to patient’s condition.

Dogs, cats, horses and even guinea pigs respond well to Acupuncture treatment, and since placebos do not apply to animals, Acupuncture must be having a real therapeutic effect for this to happen. Many of the effects occur without the conscious knowledge of the patient, but these changes can be, and have been measured by scientific investigation such as functional MRIs and blood analysis.

In Chinese medical theory, Acupuncture works by balancing the body’s Qi. Qi can be described as a form of bioenergy (like electricity) that runs along 12 major channels or pathways. A blockage of Qi can engender an imbalance in the body which, if not corrected, can lead to pain or illness. Chinese medical theory allows us to diagnose the imbalance and balance it, resolving the health condition. Western medicine cannot yet completely explain how Acupuncture works. It appears to work by stimulating the release of natural biomolecules such as neurotransmitters, vasodilators, hormones, and other physiological messengers. More research is being conducted that confirms the effectiveness of needling the acupoints. In some studies, magnetic imaging has shown changes in the brain when certain points are stimulated. We do know that Acupuncture improves circulation, reduces inflammation, and can boost the immune system. Acupuncture has a powerful effect on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and hence can regulate the whole body.

In general, no. Acupuncture and related modalities will not interfere with most medications or other medical treatments. However, it is important to disclose exactly what medications you are taking and whether you have any implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers or insulin pumps, as these may influence your Acupuncture treatment. As your condition improves, you may re-discuss your treatment plan with your Western physician. You should not discontinue your prescription medications or other treatments until you and your Western physician have thoroughly explored your best options.

Yes, there are. Acupuncture originated in China but has spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, the British Isles, and America. In different countries, different styles have developed based on differing opinions as to theory and technique. And many practitioners are incorporating modern understanding of how Acupuncture works to increase its therapeutic effectiveness.

It is strongly recommended that you first seek immediate medical attention at a nearby hospital for such conditions as difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath; dizziness, fainting or feeling faint; pain or pressure in the chest or upper abdomen; sudden weakness or severe pain; sudden bleeding; injuries; falls; suicide attempts; and when surgery, tests, x-rays and life support equipment may be needed. Acupuncture can be given in certain instances, depending on the circumstances involved.

 

 

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