Acupuncture - An Alternative Health Treatment
Acupuncture is one of several popular alternative therapies tracing its roots to Chinese traditional holistic medicine of more than 5,000 years ago. Although the treatment is regarded as one of the most common and oldest worldwide, acupuncture only started to become recognized in the US after New York Times journalist James Reston wrote a feature on how his post-surgery pain was eased by doctors in China in 1971 using the procedure.
The Basis Of Acupuncture
The treatment assumes something called qi (pronounced key) - energy in living beings that passes through twelve meridians or invisible energy lines within the body. Each line links to a specific organ system; the belief is that any imbalance in qi flow leads to a disease. The key component of acupuncture treatment is the insertion of needles into key points on the meridian lines to renew balance. These extremely thin, metallic needles are aimed at specific anatomical points and controlled manually or by electrical stimulation. An individual usually feels relaxed and energized after acupuncture.
The US Food and Drug Administration reclassified acupuncture needles as medical devices in 1997, from the earlier classification as experimental. The administration notes that over $500m is spent by people throughout the world every year for the acupuncture treatment, for which a good number secure insurance coverage. The agency’s main restriction for needles is that they be non-toxic, sterilized and that they be used only once.
- Acupuncture is endorsed by the National Institute of Health
- Is practiced by dentists, doctors and other health practitioners
Increasing acceptance of acupuncture was highlighted by the National Health Interview Survey in 2002, which indicated that the number of American adults turning to the treatment surged from 2.1 million in 2001 to about 8.2 million the following year. The interest in acupuncture also received a boost from individuals that express dis-satisfaction of conventional medicine for some health problems.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture reportedly induces the release of endorphins in the body, relieving an individual from pain. Other effects attributed to the therapy include influence over neurotransmitters, or substances transporting nerve impulses; promotion of circulation; and effects over the body’s electrical currents and autonomic nervous system. Many common ailments and undesirable conditions are addressed by acupuncture treatment.
Commonly Treated Conditions
- The common cold
- Smoking and other addictions
- Tennis elbow
- Menstrual cramps
- Low-back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Dermatology issues
On the first meeting, acupuncturists usually ask new clients to complete a personal health record prior to an interview. A session with the therapist then has the client answer questions that cover main health issues, diet, emotional and psychological profile, and overall lifestyle. The therapist should also be informed by the individual of any current medication and treatment being taken. During this interview, one can also expect the practitioner to evaluate pulse points and establish how healthy the individual’s twelve meridians are. A diagnosis is then given, followed by the insertion of 6 to 12 needles as treatment is commenced. Patients considering acupuncture must realize that the exact placement on target points along the meridians is of high importance, the number of needles used is a secondary factor.
The initial insertion may make the patient feel pricked or stung. However, the treatment should be relatively painless and comfortable for the duration that could extend to an hour or more. An individual should immediately tell the acupuncturist to discontinue if he feels any numbness, discomfort or pain.Variations of the treatment may involve use of herbal medicine - capsules, tablets or tea made from Chinese herbs to complement the therapy. Some practitioners also integrate cupping - a suction effect created with the use of glass cups on the skin, in part to promote blood circulation and continuous qi flow.
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