Acupuncture is a popular alternative to conventional medical treatments. In 2013, after 20 of years of extensive research, the World Health Organization published a report that asserted its effectiveness in the treatment of 28 types of medical conditions.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment for internal medical conditions. This alternative medicine is popular for its analgesic effects on chronic back pain, reducing nausea from chemotherapy treatment, and treating rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that involves inserting extremely thin, flexible stainless steel needles into the skin at specific points along certain lines of energy (meridians).
Different techniques determine the duration and placement of the needles. It is mostly used for reducing pain and other related health problems. Moreover, most people seek it out for treatment of musculoskeletal problems.
This practice originated from China and has been in existence for thousands of years. The earliest reference to this practice was found in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic, which dates back to 156 B.C.E, though it has evolved over the years, as the practice spread to more regions and changed depending on the differing philosophies of its practitioners.
The Traditional Chinese and Western Adaptations of acupuncture are the two major types practised in most countries. Although, some countries, such as Korea, Thailand, and Japan, practice different types.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
As mentioned earlier, there are different techniques, although they all share a common process of inserting needles along specific lines of energy or qi. Generally, acupuncture promotes natural self-healing processes by stimulating specific sites on the body. The most common method is the insertion of thin, sterile needles into the skin. To start the treatment, you lay on a table while specific acupoints are stimulated on different areas of your body. Six to eight needles are usually required in a typical session, though up to 10 needles may be used when two or more symptoms are being treated.
Acupuncture needles are usually within 0.00254 and 0.00325 inches in diameter, i.e. the width of a strand of hair. Most people experience little to no pain during the insertion of needles. These needles are placed in strategic points on the body that correspond to a specific medical condition. Other factors like pressure, electrical stimulation or heat can enhance the effects of treatment.
In Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, ultra-thin, sterile needles are used to release clogged up energy responsible for a particular ailment. Needles are kept in the body between 5 – 30 minutes, depending on the type of medical condition being treated. Most people feel relief immediately after treatment, while some will require additional visits to the acupuncturist.
Benefits of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the most sought-after alternative medicines. In biochemical terms, it involves the stimulation of the nerve endings to provide relief from a variety of health conditions.
Reduces Chronic Pain
This is probably one of the most popular and celebrated benefits. The impact on pain has been validated by various researchers. For example, a recent study from the Archive of Internal Medicine shows that it reduces different types of body pain by 15 percent. It is primarily used to treat chronic back pain that may be the result of poor body posture, diet, and sleep.
Acupuncture treatments have shown great success in relieving and reducing the frequency of headaches and migraines. Although the exact mechanism to prevent these conditions is not fully understood. However, treatments of the face, hand and scalp have always produced great results in reducing these. There’s also a lower chance of side effects from acupuncture than strong migraine drugs.
Reduces Nausea and Vomiting
There is strong evidence to back up the fact that acupuncture is effective against nausea and vomiting. There is an acupoint on the underside of the hand that’s responsible for this effect. It’s no surprise that recent studies published in Cochrane Library point to its effectiveness when compared to antiemetic drugs. You should know that acupuncture is preferable to antiemetic drugs since it does not change the body’s chemistry. It also helps to delay nausea on the day of chemotherapy treatments.
Acupuncture treatments have profound effects on different types of anxiety, from anxiety neurosis and generalized anxiety to perioperative anxiety. Although the exact mechanism of how it treats anxiety is unknown, clinical trials show a corresponding reduction in anxiety following treatment. Furthermore, the dosage of anti-anxiety drugs is often reduced when combined with acupuncture.
Insomnia is a common disorder in today’s society. It’s primarily caused by work-related stress and societal pressures. Acupuncture is a good way to let go of all that accumulated stress, thereby reducing the frequency of insomnia. Recent studies published in NCBI revealed that it stimulates the production of nocturnal melatonin, which is responsible for sleep. This study showed that regular treatments over the course of 5 weeks reduced the incidence of insomnia in the test group.
Safety Concerns and Contraindications of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is considered an invasive procedure since the needles used in treatment penetrate the skin. Therefore, there are risks of complications, especially if it’s not performed by a professional acupuncturist. Safety concerns include the following;
Risk of injury
There’s a slight chance of injury to important nerves and other structures. Since it’s an invasive procedure, there’s a risk of bleeding and injury. However, this is rare with professional acupuncturists. To overcome the risks of this invasive procedure, you can try the Japanese styles of acupuncture. It involves bringing the needle in contact with the skin without breaking through. Also, there are chances of infection through contaminated or re-used needles.
Risk to Pregnancy
Studies from News-Medical reveal that certain acupuncture points can cause harm to an unborn foetus, and may lead to the termination of the pregnancy.
For centuries, ancient Chinese civilisations have harnessed the myriads of benefits of acupuncture for different types of medical conditions. Besides its benefits, it is also more affordable than conventional medical treatment.