What is Acupuncture?
Short version: I’m going to poke you with my ultra tiny pin and like magic, your ailment will often improve right there in the chair. Okay, but what is it really?
Acupuncture is an ancient healing therapy that has been practiced for thousands of years. That’s right! Thousands of years. There is nothing new about acupuncture. In fact, Otzi the iceman had tattoos on many acupuncture points. More people have been treated with acupuncture than any other form of treatment in the time of history. Acupuncture is a very safe, effective treatment that is used to treat illness, prevent disease, improve health and well-being, and more. During a treatment small, hair-thin needles are inserted into specific points in the body, gently stimulated, then retained to elicit the body’s natural healing response.
How does it work?
There are multiple schools of thought on this. According to traditional acupuncture theory, there are twelve regular energy channels called “meridians” and eight extraordinary vessels running along the length of the human body. The twelve regular meridians are each linked to a specific organ system in traditional Chinese medicine. Illness is caused by stagnation or deficient energy flow in the meridian or its corresponding organ. Acupuncture therapy stimulates meridian flow and harmonizes the body’s energy to influence the health of both body and mind.
Science Behind Acupuncture
Efficacy of acupuncture has been often criticized in the past because of an inability to translate treatment principles into western medical terms and little to no scientific explanation on how acupuncture works. However, that is changing. Researchers have begun to examine in Western medical terms the mechanisms by which acupuncture brings about physiological change. Studies have shown that acupuncture influences both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Further evidence indicates that acupuncture stimulates the release of brain chemicals such as endorphins, which function to relieve pain. Research also suggests that acupuncture increases immune system functioning, improves the circulatory system, decreases muscle tightness, and increases joint flexibility and more. Evidence of the meridians themselves is beginning to emerge as having a correlation to connective tissue in the human body. More clinical trials are being developed every day to bridge the gap of understanding of this remarkable healing art and western medicine.
History & Acceptance
In countries such as Japan and China, which make up about a fifth of the world’s population, acupuncture has been established as a primary form of health care for thousands of years, where the acupuncturist’s role was comparable to that of the physician. Today in such countries, acupuncture treatment remains an integral component of the health care system, offered in conjunction with Western medicine. In North America, acupuncture has drawn growing public attention in recent years. The flood of headlines in the mass media describes this expanding interest and acceptance. Also the number of integrative health clinics, hospitals, and specialist that are using and recommending acupuncture is growing.
In 1995, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reclassified acupuncture needles from the Class III (investigational device) category to the Class II (safe and effective but requiring restrictions) category. In November 1997, the US National Institute of Health held a major conference to discuss the use, efficacy, and safety of acupuncture. Based on their conclusions, the NIH issued a report entitled “Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement 1997 Nov 3-5; 15(5):1-34” The NIH stated that acupuncture is a useful method for the treatment of a variety of conditions such as post-operative pain, nausea, migraines, arthritis, menstrual cramps, low back pain, and tennis elbow. Furthermore, the NIH acknowledged that the side-effects of acupuncture are considerably less compared with other medical procedures such as drugs and surgery. In addition, the NIH made a recommendation to US insurance companies to provide coverage of acupuncture treatments for certain conditions.