Acupuncture is one of many methods used in Chinese Medicine to promote health and well-being. Scientifically, acupuncture works through the nervous system. The channels are thought to represent the nerves that originate in the spinal cord and spread throughout the body. When an acupuncture needle stimulates these nerves, signals are sent to the brain where chemicals (called neurotransmitters) are released, triggering the body's self-healing mechanisms.
Styles of Acupuncture
Most non-physician acupuncturists are trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet counseling, exercises and relaxation techniques. Physicians most often are trained in the European scientific theories of acupuncture that complement their western medical knowledge. The acupuncturist should be licensed and certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
Conditions that Acupuncture Can Help
Acupuncture can be used to promote general health and well-being as well as help with specific conditions:
- Circulation disorders: leg swelling, cold extremities
- Digestive disorders: indigestion, reflux, nausea, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, colitis
- Ear, nose, mouth and throat disorders: toothaches, laryngitis, canker sores, ringing in the ears, sore throat, TMJ
- Muscular disorders: neck pain, back pain, sciatica, frozen shoulder, bursitis and tendonitis, arthritis, sprains, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, tennis elbow; can also aid with rehabilitation for healing fractures, joint injuries and chronic pain
- Neurological disorders: headaches, carpel tunnel syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, vertigo, pain from shingles, peripheral neuropathy
- Psycho-emotional disorders: stress and tension, anxiety, depression, insomnia
- Relief of symptoms related to cancer treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, skin rashes, allergies
- Urinary and gynecological disorders: urinary incontinence, PMS, infertility, symptoms of menopause
Acupuncture can also be used with regular medical treatments to help alleviate many other conditions. Given the evidence of its effectiveness, acupuncture is increasingly being incorporated into mainstream health care as a complementary therapy.
Number of Treatments and Common Reactions to AcupunctureThe number of treatments differs with each person. It could be as few as one treatment for three to four weeks, or could be a weekly or monthly treatment for 10 to 12 treatments. Usually a condition chronic in nature requires a longer period of time to treat. Each visit lasts about an hour and is usually very relaxing.
Some people experience minor discomfort and others don't feel any pain at all. The needles are very thin, made of stainless steel, have a very sharp point and generally are not as painful as needles that are used to draw blood. The needles are sterile and disposable, reducing the risk of any infection.
Sometimes, a small bruise can happen after a treatment, and sometimes the symptoms being treated can worsen for a few hours to a few days after the first or second treatment. This is an indication that the acupuncture treatment is beginning to work. Some people experience a sense of deep relaxation and will feel the need to nap during or after a treatment, while others may feel a boost of energy following a treatment: each of these responses is normal.
Community AcupunctureCommunity acupuncture allows people to receive acupuncture in a group setting while in a quiet, common room. Points on the hands, feet and head are used to treat problems throughout the body. Acupuncture is an ongoing healing process typically requiring a series of treatments. On your first visit, your practitioner will suggest a course of treatment based on your individual condition.
Benefits of community acupuncture include:
- promotes powerful, collective healing synergy
- alleviates isolation associated with illness
- provides an opportunity for friends and family members to receive treatments together
- patients stay as long as they like, usually between 20 and 40 minutes
- American Academy of Medical Acupuncture
- National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH/Acupuncture)
- American Cancer Society