Q: How does acupuncture work and what is it used for?
A: Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine that has been in practice for more than 2,000 years and is recognized by the National Institute of Health to be a Complementary Alternative Medicine or CAM. It has been the subject of many grant funded studies by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and continues to grow in popularity, according to Angela Brickner, registered nurse at Firelands Regional Medical Center.
Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles at specific points in the body. It is believed in Chinese medicine that there are 2,000 acupuncture points on the body and these points connect with 12 main and eight secondary paths called meridians.
In acupuncture, it is believed that these points and meridians connect the body’s energy or “qi” (pronounced “chee”). Qi is the main focus of the Chinese theory of yin and yang or the body’s opposing energy forces.
The practice of acupuncture is believed to keep the body’s qi unblocked and keep yin and yang in balance. This practice of medicine is controversial in Western medicine because although there is scientific evidence that acupuncture does affect brain activity, it is not an exact science and there is much that is still unknown as to why and how it works.
One of the main uses for acupuncture is to help in the treatment of pain. It is believed that the acupuncture points stimulate the nervous system to initiate chemical changes in the body. It is also believed to stimulate hormonal changes and the body’s natural healing abilities. This works in three ways: by electromagnetic signals, activation of opioid systems, and changes in brain chemistry, sensation and involuntary body functions.
Acupuncture can be an added or complementary treatment to an established treatment program. It has been used for other types of health problems, including treatment for nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, headaches, fibromyalgia, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and asthma. Discuss the possibility of adding this type of intervention to a treatment plan with your physician.
Of course, there are many things to consider when deciding whether or not to choose acupuncture.
First, make sure the acupuncturist is reputable, educated from an accredited program and licensed in your state.
The three regulatory agencies for acupuncture and oriental medicine are the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
A risk to consider if using acupuncture is having a contaminated needle introduce bacteria into the body resulting in infection; if you notice an area that is red, swollen, and/or painful, notify your practitioner.