What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient practice used primarily for the prevention and treatment of diseases and to manage pain. This treatment method has been practiced in Asian cultures for thousands of years. It is performed by applying very thin needles through the skin at various acupressure points along the meridians in the body. Meridians are energy pathways where qi (chi) flows. Qi is the circulating life energy force in all of us. The needles are used to open up blocked areas of qi to promote healing.
The History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture dates back approximately 4,000 to 8,000 years to the New Stone Age in Taoist China. Taoist philosophy is based on the flow and balance of life, also known as ying and yang. During this time stones where sharpened to be used as medical instruments. These were known as “bian”. Bian means using a sharp edge to treat disease. Over many centuries, the stones became more refined into small needle-like instruments. These needles went through an evolutionary process of being made from bone and bamboo, then being made from bronze or iron, and eventually from gold and silver. As the materials changed, the needles became thinner. Today, acupuncture needles are commonly made from stainless steel and are sterilized.
When ying and yang are out of balance the body is believed to be in a state of ill health. Acupuncture is a treatment method that restores the balance by inserting needles into acupressure points. The practice was introduced to western cultures approximately 300 years ago. It is now recognized around the world as a viable alternative therapy to treat diseases, manage pain, assist with weight loss and smoking cessation, and even to help with stress. Acupuncture remains a prominent method of treatment in Traditional Oriental Medicine today.
The Benefits of Acupuncture
Anyone can benefit from seeing a certified acupuncturist. The needles are so thin that they are barely felt, and the side effects are few, making this treatment option a gentle approach to many conditions. Some of the commonly treated conditions are:
- Sports injuries
- Menstrual cramps
- Sinusitis and allergies
- Dental problems
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Back pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chemotherapy-related nausea
- Smoking cessation
- Weight loss
- Stress and anxiety
Acupuncture may not help everyone. The only way to decide if acupuncture is right for you is to try it. Acupuncture is not a very expensive treatment, and some insurance policies include it as a covered service.
To find a qualified practitioner your can start by checking your state licensing board or the state Department of Consumer Protection. A licensed acupuncturist will have the initials LAc after his or her name. You can also check to see if a practitioner is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Referrals from friends and doctors are always a good way to research your options.
A well-trained acupuncturist will take a detailed health history from you during your first visit. She will also look at your tongue. The condition of your tongue can tell her a lot about what is going on elsewhere in your body. She will check the pulses on both wrists to ascertain how well your vital organs are functioning. Once the state of your health is determined, you will lie down on a comfortable table for the treatment.
Acupuncture treatment varies, depending on your needs. You may receive needles with some minor manipulation by the acupuncturist. Or, you could have the needles heated with a process called moxibustion if you have a cold constitution. Electrical stimulation is sometimes used to introduce an electrical current along the meridian to enhance qi.
Acupuncture can be a very beneficial adjunct therapy to allopathic medical therapies, especially for pain management. It is a very holistic and gentle approach to healing.