What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Now acupuncture has been widely used all over the world. Acupuncture came into New Zealand since Gold Rush Era.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient’s skin at specific points on the body – the needles are inserted to various depths. All these applications are based on Chinese Medicine theory such as channels and collaterals, Zang-Fu theory, Yin-yang theory and Five elements theory etc.

According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians through which the vital energy runs which we call qi (Chi in pronunciation and written as氣in Chinese). When our body has any symptoms, we all blame it is due to qi disorder, and acupuncture can help to regulate the qi movement and get rid of the symptoms such as different kinds of pain, stress, insomnia and others.

Creating case studies that use proper scientific controls is difficult because of the invasive nature of acupuncture – a clinical study involves a placebo (sham product) compared to the targeted treatment. It is very hard to devise a sham acupuncture control that one can compare to proper acupuncture. While some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, others have indicated that there are some real benefits. This article in peer-reviewed British Medical Journal explains that the principles of acupuncture are firmly grounded in science, and you don’t need Chinese philosophy either to make it work or to practice it.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), acupuncture is effective for treating 28 conditions, while evidence indicates it may have an effective therapeutic value for many more. People with tension headaches and/or migraines may find acupuncture to be very effective in alleviating their symptoms, according to a stud carried out at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Another study at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that twice-weekly acupuncture treatments relieved debilitating symptoms of xerostomia – severe dry mouth  – among patients treated with radiation for head and neck cancer.

How does acupuncture work?

Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of yin and yang of the life force known as qi. Qi is said to flow through meridians (pathways) in the human body. Through 361 acupuncture points in the body, these meridians and energy flows may be accessed. Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. If needles are inserted into these points with appropriate combinations it is said that the energy flow can be brought back into proper balance.

Based on classical Chinese Medicine descriptions and modern scientific understanding, we now know that

Acupuncture regulates and improves the Qi flow.

  • Qi flow corresponds to nerve transmission, connective tissue planes, metabolic components carried in blood (such as oxygen, hormones, neurotransmitters and nutrients, etc.).
  • Qi flow also corresponds to the functional energy of an organ system (the meridian system) which is so integral to health.
  • Acupuncture stimulates circulation by promoting the blood flow and increasing oxygen.
  • Acupuncture stimulates nerves and connective tissue, which results in profound effects on the nervous system including regulation of key areas of the brain. The improved brain function results in the release of pain-relieving endorphins, reduction of inflammation, and a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
  • Acupuncture can also modulate the level of hormone in our body system, which makes it widely indicated for varieties of diseases (for details, please visit the session under health concerns in this website)

How is acupuncture treatment carried out?

Acupuncture generally involves several weekly or fortnightly treatments. For certain acute cases, acupuncture should be done more frequently, e.g. twice or three time per week. A visit to an acupuncturist will involve an exam and an assessment of the patient’s condition, the insertion of needles, and advice on self-care. Most sessions last about 45 to 60 minutes.

The patient will be asked to lie down, either face-up, face-down or on his/her side, depending on where the needless are inserted. The acupuncturist will use single-use disposable sterile needles. As each needle is inserted the patient should feel them, but initially without pain. However, when the needle reaches the right depth there should be a deep aching sensation (in Acupuncture practice, we call this Deqi. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion. Once inserted, the needles will remain there for about twenty minutes.

What are the health benefits and risks of acupuncture?

All therapies have benefits and risks.

The possible benefits of acupuncture are:

  • When performed correctly it is safe
  • There are very few side effects
  • It is a very effective combination treatment
  • It is effective in controlling some types of pain
  • It may be considered for patients who do not respond to pain medications
  • It is a useful alternative for patients who do not want to take pain medications.

The possible risks of acupuncture are:

  • It is dangerous if the patient has a bleeding disorder
  • It the dangerous if the patient is taking blood thinners
  • There may be bleeding, bruising and soreness at the insertion sites
  • The needle may break and damage an internal organ (very rare)
  • Unsterilized needles may infect the patient
  • When inserted deeply into the chest or upper back there is a risk of collapsed lung (very rare).

 (Retrieved from www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156488.php)