Have you ever tried acupuncture? What type of health concerns can it help with? Are there any risks involved? Imagining a treatment session may conjure up images of tiny needles sticking out of your skin, but there is much more to this form of alternative medicinea whole philosophy of healing, centuries of practice, and possibly some health benefits for those who seek out experienced practitioners of this ancient healing art.
Balancing energy flow for well-being
It is true: In most cases, an acupuncturist does stick tiny, metal needles into the skin, but this is not something to be afraid of! The purpose of this procedure is to stimulate points along the body in order to affect the body’s flow of subtle energy. This energy is known as “qi” in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, of which acupuncture is a part. According to TCM, qi circulates through the body via a system of invisible pathways known as “meridians.” The meridian system is connected to the physical body. Maintaining balanced energy flow on the subtle energy level is necessary for well-being on the physical level. By stimulating specific points, energy flow may be unblocked or corrected and the body can return to a state of health. This healing philosophy may be very different from the concepts of Western medicine, but that doesn’t mean that it is not beneficial.
Does acupuncture work?
According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, approximately 3.1 million adults in the United States used acupuncture in 2006. This form of healing is frequently used for pain relief, with solid research to support its benefits for the treatment of chronic lower back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It may be beneficial for headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. It may help with managing stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. People also use this form of medicine to support the immune system and to relieve common respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies. There is not enough research to verify all of these claims, although studies are being done to find out more about how this therapy works and the benefits it may have for well-being.
What are the risks?
Is there any danger in trying this type of treatment? Do the needles hurt? Acupuncture needles are extremely thin and generally do not cause pain, although some patients describe a momentary, mild sensation when they are inserted. As these needles are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration, you can feel secure that they are sterile, nontoxic, and safe for use, as long as you receive treatment from a licensed acupuncturist. Complications are extremely rare, but can happen if needles are not properly sterilized or if used incorrectly. To be safe, make an appointment only with a qualified acupuncturist. This form of healing takes years of study and experience, just like any other form of medicine!
Acupuncture has many potential benefits for patients seeking help with common health problems, without the side effects of drug therapy. It is not recommended as a substitute for regular medical care, but it can be an invaluable form of complementary medicine, relieving problems like anxiety, pain, and poor immune healthproblems that can compromise the quality of everyday life. Talk to your health care provider about a referral for a qualified, licensed practitioner and try it out if you feel that it is right for you.
Photo source: Flickr