How Does Acupuncture Work?
According to principles developed by ancient doctors, Qi (pronounced chee), or energy, travels through the body in channels or pathways called meridians. At certain points along the body, this Qi rises to the surface of the body creating an Acupoint. The needles are inserted into the Acupoints in order to bring about a healing response. Early acupuncture theories were formed from empirical experience. For example, ancient doctors found that for treating pain and other symptoms of the genitals, lower abdomen and lumbar areas, needling certain points on the foot or lower leg was more effective than anywhere else. They drew lines to connect the effective needling points with the parts of the body that were most affected by the needling, making a visible representation of the meridian or channel. The theory of meridians, or channels, became one of the cornerstones of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Modern scientific studies have been conducted to examine how acupuncture works in the body biomedically. We now know that acupuncture works through the central and peripheral nervous system, which then further stimulates the endocrine, immune and cardiovascular systems to normalize the activities of the whole body. Thus acupuncture can be defined as a physiological therapy coordinated by the brain, which responds to the stimulation of peripheral nerve fibers by electrical or manual needling. At the needling site, a cascade of reactions occur on a cellular level which travel up the spinal cord to the brain, and then the brain instructs the body to heal itself. Acupuncture, therefore, promotes “homeostasis” which is a return to balance within the systems of the body. Simply said, acupuncture promotes self-healing. Because we are bringing the body back into balance with acupuncture therapy, it is very commonly seen that when patients come in for treatment of symptom A, they experience simultaneous relief of symptoms B and C.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
Acupuncture needles are inserted into the body in order to bring about a healing response. The treatment is relatively painless - especially compared to many other medical procedures. Occasionally, a patient might experience a slight “aching” sensation at the sight of needle insertion. However, the health benefits achieved through this natural, gentle therapy far outweigh one or two seconds of minor discomfort.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
In light of the millions of people treated each year and the number of needles used, relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA. The most common side effect is minor bruising and/or soreness at the sight of needle placement, which resolves within a day or two. The National Institute of Health has stated, “One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions.” As an example, musculoskeletal conditions such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, low back pain and tennis elbow are conditions for which acupuncture may be beneficial. In Western medicine, these painful conditions are often treated with anti-inflammatory medications and/or steroid injections. Both of these conventional medical interventions have a potential for deleterious side effects but are still widely used. In addition, the evidence supporting these therapies is actually no better than that for acupuncture.
What Will My Doctor Say About Acupuncture?
The whole-person approach of acupuncture therapy is of great value and deserves a place in the modern health care system. Because acupuncture is a natural, drug-free therapy and is free from deleterious side effects, it is an excellent complement to the care you receive from your doctor. It is always better to have a team working together towards the ultimate goal of your good health and well-being. By working with your doctor, it may be possible to reduce some of the medications you are currently taking. It is recommended that you advise your doctor you are seeing an Acupuncturist. If your doctor would like to discuss my treatment strategy, I will gladly make myself available. It is important for you to discuss any changes you wish to make regarding your medications with your doctor first.
History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture, along with Chinese herbal medicine, is among the oldest healing medicines in the world. It has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years and has provided effective relief for millions of people throughout the ages. During the Stone Age, approximately 10,000 years ago, primitive man used needles made from sharpened stone called Bian. These stone needles were used therapeutically to drain boils and abscesses and to let blood and pus. As time progressed, man experimented with different shapes, sizes and lengths of Bian stones. The more advanced ones had ends that were shaped like semi-circles, cones and pyramids. About 2,000 years ago, metal needles replaced Bian stones. As recorded in classic texts, 9 types of metal needles were used for puncturing, surgical incision and massage, and were initially made of bronze, gold or silver.
Technology has come a long way in 10,000 years! Today, acupuncturists use solid, sterile, disposable needles that are very thin – about the size of a cat’s whisker! At Jacksonville Acupuncture Wellness, PA, Seirin needles are used. These needles cost about twice as much as other brand names but are vastly superior. They are made from the highest quality stainless steel, and during the manufacturing process, they are highly polished and buffed in order to ensure an ultra-smooth finish for a gentle, painless insertion. Extensive sterility, biological and chemical tests are performed on the needles to ensure they are sterile and hygienic before they leave the factory. Once they make their way to our clinic, they are used only once and then disposed of to eliminate the spread of infection.
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"To create health, you need a new kind of knowledge, based on a deeper concept of life"
Deepak Chopra, MD