Although acupuncture may seem like a new treatment method as more people in the United States are turning to holistic healing practices, it has actually been studied and practiced for over 2,500 years.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine-based approach to treating a variety of conditions. The practice centers around triggering specific points on the skin with needles in order to stimulate the release of the body’s “natural painkillers.” According to a number of studies, acupuncture has been particularly successful in addressing chronic pain such as low-back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, and more.
The practice of acupuncture is explained through the Chinese principles of balance and harmony. The complementary extremes of “yin” and “yang” make up the life force of an individual or their “qi.” Illness is thought to be the result of an imbalance between the yin and yang energy. Acupuncture aims to restore such imbalances in the body by accessing an individual’s energy flow through 350 different points in the body. More specifically, inserting needles into these points, in various combinations, helps resolve imbalances. Although this may not be the explanation behind acupuncture that everyone believes in today, the practice is still known to be an effective part of the healing process for a variety of conditions.
Below we explain how acupuncture works, the conditions that it can help, and what to expect from acupuncture treatment:
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS then releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. The release of these biochemicals kick starts the body’s healing response to help address issues the body is failing to resolve. Acupuncturists may also involve pressure, heat, or electrical stimulation in order to further enhance the treatment’s effects.
Conditions that can Benefit from Acupuncture:
As acupuncture is reported to stimulate the CNS, which controls the majority of bodily functions, there is a wide range of conditions that it helps treat:
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health along with other trusted sources reported that acupuncture can benefit:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Knee pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Anxiety and depression
- Chronic pain
- Myofascial pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
What to Expect from an Acupuncture Treatment:
It is important to note that the first step is finding a licensed acupuncturist as this is a medical treatment that should only be performed by a qualified professional.
Once at your appointment, the acupuncturist will ask about your health history and any concerns you may have. Then, the physical exam begins where they will check your pulse and generally observe aspects of your appearance such as physical shape, facial color and features, and anything else that can be used as insight into your state of health.
It is also common for the acupuncturist to examine the size, shape, color, and texture of your tongue as the tongue is considered a map of the rest of the body. This is because as the beginning of the digestive tract, the tongue can reflect the state of your gut health and any food intolerances, toxins, and anything else that is taking a toll on the digestive system. Moreover, it is believed that the tongue corresponds to different parts of the body. For example, the far back of the tongue is said to reflect the state of the kidneys.
To begin the actual treatment, you will lay on a treatment table while precise points are stimulated with a needle (there is typically no or minimal discomfort with the insertion of the needles). The needles usually remain in place between five and thirty minutes. The session itself can be anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes.
The acupuncturist will be able to recommend a specific treatment plan for your conditions and concerns. The frequency and number of treatments differ from person to person. The relief experienced after treatment also varies. For those suffering from long-term chronic conditions, one to two treatments per week for several months is typically recommended. Other conditions may just require eight to ten visits in total. You and your acupuncturist can discuss your individualized treatment plan during your initial visit.
Acupuncture can be an intimidating treatment to consider but it has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment option for many. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and they will look at your symptoms and medical history in order to help you determine if acupuncture is the right treatment for you.