Acupuncture is believed to have originated around 100 BC in China, around the time The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Huangdi Neijing) was published, though some experts suggest it could have been practiced earlier.
Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting very thin metal needles into the skin at precise points on the body to clear energy channels, with the aim of restoring and maintaining health. The spots of insertion are picked based on a complex network of lines of energy, termed meridians. Meridians are thought to encircle the body like global lines of longitude and latitude.
Acupuncture is a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine, which has been practiced for thousands of years. The Chinese healing tradition sees the body as a delicate balance of yin and yang. These are two opposing, but inseparable forces. According to traditional Chinese medicine, disease occurs when the forces of yin and yang are out of balance.
Imbalance, it is believed, blocks the flow of qi, a vital energy that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance, along meridians. By inserting needles at specific points on the body that connect with these meridians, acupuncture is believed to unblock the flow of qi, restoring health to the body and mind.
Western medicine explains acupuncture’s effects within a different framework. Some Western scientists believe that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, signaling the body to release various substances including endorphins, immune system cells, opioids, neurotransmitters, and neurohormones. These may help control pain, change how the body experiences pain, and promote physical and emotional well-being. Some research also indicates that acupuncture influences involuntary central nervous functions, such as blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature regulation.
What It's Used For
Acupuncture is used for a wide variety of ailments, such as:
Persistent painful conditions including low back pain and pain related to arthritis.
Adverse reactions to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
It can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or alongside more traditional medical treatments like prescription medication or surgery.
The effectiveness of acupuncture is difficult to assess using traditional Western standards of scientific research.
Benefits of Acupuncture
1. Reduced Stress
Stress is one of the top reasons people seek acupuncture treatment. Whether it be demands from our job or personal pressures we place on ourselves, nearly 77% of us admit that we experience the physical symptoms of stress. While work is a major trigger, acupuncture has been proven to lower stress hormones and moderate mood to reduce anxiety and improve overall feelings of happiness.
2. Reduced Back Pain, Neck Tension and Relieve Joint Pain in the Hands and Arms
Keyboards, heavy backpacks, cell phones, and poor posture are just a few of the culprits that create the type of pain that penetrates into our workday and keeps us up at night. Acupuncture provides drug-free pain relief while also reduces swelling and inflammation.
3. Relief from Headaches
Acupuncture has been used to treat headaches for thousands of years. Recent studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce days with migraines and may have lasting effects. With the most common side effects being a sense of euphoria and relaxation, acupuncture is a choice treatment for those seeking a less invasive, drug-free option.
4. Reduced Eye Strain
Acupuncture can relive eye strain that is often connected to neck tension. Acupuncture also treats many eye ailments including myopia (short-sightedness), hypermetropia (long sightedness), cataract, glaucoma, presbyopia, astigmatism, amblyopia (lazy eye), diplopia, color blindness, and night blindness.
5. Improved Immune System and Reduced Sick Days
Acupuncture can help fight off pathogens by boosting the body’s immune system. Acupuncture treatment can also reduce the duration of a cold and relieve debilitating symptoms that keep you feeling miserable and away from work.
6. Enhanced Mental Clarity and Increased Energy
Acupuncture patients report enhanced mental clarity and often experience a surge of increased energy. Improved sleep is additional benefit, which is why acupuncture is used to treat sleep disorders like insomnia.
7. Relief from Digestive Conditions
The link between digestive health and overall health is inescapable. Acupuncture can effectively regulate the digestive system, which is good news for those plagued by gastrointestinal problems.
8. Allergy Relief
Acupuncture can be key in preventing allergies but it is important to being treatments to strengthen your body before allergy season begins. Acupuncture may also reduce allergy symptoms and can be used in place of or in conjunction with antihistamines.
9. Reduced Cigarette Craving
Acupuncture can be effective in the road to quitting or reducing smoking habits. In addition to helping ease jitters, curb cravings, and lessen irritability, it also promotes lung tissue repair while increasing relaxation and detoxification in the body.
10. Fewer Injuries on the Body Due to Repetitive Strain
Repetitive stress injuries are some of the most common job-related injuries and can lead to a high number of days away from work. Acupuncture is effective in treating repetitive stress injuries and can eliminate the need for surgery or drugs.
The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles. Common side effects include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use, disposable needles are now the practice standard, so the risk of infection is minimal. Not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture. You may be at risk of complications if you:
- Have a bleeding disorder: Your chances of bleeding or bruising from the needles increase if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re taking blood thinners.
- Have a pacemaker: Acupuncture that involves applying mild electrical pulses to the needles can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation.
- Are pregnant: Some types of acupuncture are thought to stimulate labor, which could result in a premature delivery.