According to Chinese medicine, energy flows along 12 pathways, or meridians, that are related to the body’s major organs and functions. The aim of acupuncture is to restore and maintain healthy energy flow,
Acupuncture: A 2000-Year Track Record
Presented by Mabby Shamaeizadeh
Hailed as helpful for a wide range of conditions, this ancient Chinese practice enjoys burgeoning acceptance in the West.
needle stick doesn't usually conjure up a feeling of comfort, but a growing body of
medical evidence suggests that acupuncture—the use of carefully placed needles to promote healing and improve functioning—does help many people. It’s been used for more than 2,000 years by the Chinese, and has been growing in popularity in the United States. A national health survey found that more than eight million U.S. adults have used acupuncture to help heal their aches and pains. “Acupuncture sends a signal to the body to turn on its own rescue system,” says Ka-Kit Hui, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for East-West Medicine at UCLA.
How does it work?
According to Chinese medicine, energy called qi (“chi”) flows through the body across 12 major pathways called meridians. The meridians correspond to specific organs and body functions. If the flow of qi is blocked, you get sick. Inserting very fine needles at specific points (“acupoints”) along these meridians helps restore the flow of qi. Most doctors believe that the needle stick causes the central nervous system to release morphine-like pain killers called endorphin.
“It re-regulates the body,” says Dr. Hui. “It can help turn the pain signals off.”
Another theory is that acupuncture creates a powerful placebo effect. In other words,
acupuncture may work at least in part because a person believes it does. In general, Chinese medicine places greater emphasis than Western medicine on the close relationship of mind, body, and spirit. Acupuncture targets
Acupuncture has been used to treat everything from pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis to asthma. The World Health Organization recommends
acupuncture for many respiratory diseases, eye and mouth problems, orthopedic troubles, neurological disorders, and gastrointestinal ailments. According to the NationalInstitutes of Health Consensus Statement on Acupuncture, the therapy has also shown considerable promise in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.
Acupuncture has been used to help patients regain movement after stroke, and to treat depression, headaches, low back pain, tennis elbows—even substance abuse. A very early study in Neuroscience Letters suggests that it may even be a useful strategy for treating Parkinson’s disease
What to expect
The needles used for acupuncture are only as thick as a single human hair. You may feel a tiny prick as needles are inserted, but it should not be painful. The needles usually stay in place for five to 20 minutes, depending on your illness. Improper needle placement can cause pain—this is why you should only seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner. Treatment may take place over a few days or for several weeks or more. For best results, Dr. Hui recommends that acupuncture be part of a comprehensive wellness program that includes exercise and
healthy diet. “Our goal is to develop a model system of healthcare that will benefit people all over the world,” he says.
What You To Do?
Discuss the possible benefits of acupuncture with your doctor, and check with your insurance company to see if you will be covered, your practitioner should be certified. About 40 states have training standards for acupuncture certification. Nat all areas require an acupuncturist to be licensed. The FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used—and used only once. Make sure your acupuncturist follows these rules.
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