Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What's the Point of Acupuncture?

Written By: Sara Police, PhD

Acupuncture: What, How & Why

Since I am visiting an acupuncturist later this afternoon – for the first time! – I thought it prudent to craft a post about this long-standing form of alternative medicine. 

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); it’s based on an ancient philosophy that describes the universe, the human body and two opposing forces: yin and yang.  According to TCM, energy, called qi (and pronounced “chee”) flows throughout the body along specific pathways, or meridians.  A constant flow of energy keeps yin and yang forces balanced.  If a flow of energy becomes blocked (think of water becoming backed up in a dam), this can lead to unpleasant symptoms, illness or dysfunction of a physiological system. 

Acupuncture therapy involves the stimulation of specific points on the body with insertion of fine, sterile needles into the skin.  (This is the part that makes me slightly nervous…)  The needles are left in place somewhere between 5 and 30 minutes.  This stimulation releases blocked qi and allows for the body’s natural healing response to occur.  Other techniques that might be used by an acupuncturist include manual massage, moxibustion or heat therapy, cupping, and the application of topical herbal medicines or linaments. 

The research supporting acupuncture’s effectiveness is actually very impressive.   According to the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, case-controlled studies have clearly demonstrated acupuncture as an effective treatment for the following:
  •  Depression
  •  Facial pan
  • Headache
  • Hypertension
  •  Knee pain
  •  Low back pain
  • Morning sickness
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Sciatica
Additional diseases, symptoms or conditions that have limited evidence of support include insomnia, cancer pain, acne, gastrointestinal distress, premenstrual syndrome, and alcohol or tobacco dependence, among many others.

From friends, acquaintances and my healthcare providers – I’ve only heard reports of positive attributes and effects of acupuncture.  Of note, there is a risk of needle site infection involved.  It’s very important to be selective of your acupuncturist and check for state licensure before choosing a practice.

What’s your experience with acupuncture?

Reference:  US San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine: How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain and Improve Sleep, Digestion and Emotional Well-being


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