Definition & Overview

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves puncturing specific areas of the body with sharp thin needles to unblock chi pathways called meridians. Although the method has not been scientifically proven, many believe that it can cure numerous illnesses as well as reduce significant amount of pain.

Throughout the years, the popularity of acupuncture has spread beyond the boundaries of China. Today, acupuncturists can be found in almost every part of the world. Acupuncturists, in general, do not have a medical degree, unless they received formal training in medicine. Many modern doctors practice this traditional form of Chinese medicine together with their own specialty in the medical field. In some countries, acupuncturists need to be licensed before they can practice.

What illnesses acupuncture cure

Chinese medicine believes that the common cause of illnesses is a blocked meridian, which results in the inability of a person’s chi to flow naturally throughout the body. Therefore, acupuncture is used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, but majority of the time it is used to reduce pain, such as low back pains, myofascial pain, menstrual cramps, dental and labor pain.

Acupuncture is used in stroke rehabilitation. Patients have better prognosis in functioning normally again after stroke.

In drug addiction treatment, acupuncture can help the patient deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. In time, it can also help prevent the patient from relapsing.

Safety of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is considered to be a safe procedure, but only if it is performed by a certified acupuncturist. If you’re interested in acupuncture but reside in an area where acupuncturists do not need to be certified, you may want to inspect the credentials of the practitioners to check if they’ve been certified in other areas or countries.

You will need to be concerned about infections. Always make sure that the acupuncturist uses a new set of sterilized needles every time you undergo the procedure.

You may also want to discuss the procedure with your doctors and ask for a recommendation if they agree that the procedure can help treat your condition.

What to expect

Before you undergo the procedure, the acupuncturist will normally conduct an interview to find out your medical condition and decide on the form of treatment. You will then be informed of what will happen during the procedure and the areas where the needles will be inserted. Some acupuncturists will even explain what they believe is causing the problem and why certain areas of your body need acupuncture treatment.

Once everything has been explained to you in detail, the acupuncturist will find the areas to insert the needles. These areas usually have landmarks like muscles and bones. The practitioner will then tap very thin needles on the marked areas. Some needles will need to go deeper than the other needles, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. You might feel a bit of mild discomfort or some itching in the area where the needles were inserted.

In some cases, heat or a small amount of electric current may be passed through the needles to help unblock that particular area of the meridian.

The whole procedure can last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. The acupuncturist may schedule a few more appointments depending on your perceived condition. For some people, undergoing acupuncture has become a way of life and they have it performed on a regular basis.

Resources:

  • American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/
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