Most people know that acupuncture helps to reduce and relieve pain as well as muscle tension, but it also is recognized to treat a wide variety of other conditions. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) conducted a study and released a report titled “Acupuncture, Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials” which endorsed the use of acupuncture to treat many conditions including:
- Digestive disorders including ulcer and gastritis
- Gynecological Disorders including PMS and dysmenorrhea
- Depression, anxiety and stress
- Chronic Fatigue
- Morning Sickness
- Adverse reaction to Chemotherapy or radiation
- Rhinitis, including hay fever
For a more extensive list of conditions treated, visit www.evidencebasedacupu
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Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through the skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain and reduce inflammation.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force – known as qi or chi (CHEE) – believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body.
By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.
CHOOSING A PRACTIONER
If you’re considering acupuncture, do the same things you would do if you were choosing a doctor:
- Ask people you trust for recommendations
- Check the practitioner’s training and credentials. Most states require that nonphysician acupuncturists pass an exam conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
- Interview the practitioner. Ask what’s involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost
- Find out whether the expense is covered by your insurance
Ask your primary care doctor about acupuncture. He or she may be able to tell you about the success rate of using acupuncture for your condition or recommend an acupuncture practitioner for you to try.
What you can expect
Each acupuncturist has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine. The initial consult can take up to 1.5 hours and follow up appointments are typically an hour or less. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you many questions about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:
- The parts of your body that are painful
- The shape, coating and color of your tongue
- The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist
A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve six to 12 treatments, scheduled over a few months.
Acupuncture points are located in all areas of the body and sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Acupuncture needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes no discomfort. Between 5 and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment, and in most cases needles remain in from 15 to 25 minutes while you lie down and relax. Most people fall asleep during treatment.
Most people feel relaxed after an acupuncture treatment and experience relief from symptoms.
Many people have benefited from acupuncture. Since it has few side effects, acupuncture may be worth a try if more-conventional methods have not been effective.
The risks of acupuncture are quite low. Patients may experience some soreness and bruising at the needle insertion site. Let your acupuncturist know if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners as your risk of bleeding or bruising from the needles will be increased. If you have a pacemaker let your practitioner know so that they will avoid the use of e-stim, a type of acupuncture that is sometimes used that applies mild electrical pulses that can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation. Tell your acupuncturist if you are pregnant and they will be careful to omit any acupuncture points that may in any way stimulate labor.