The basic principle behind acupuncture is to stimulate specific points under the skin to adjust bodily functions to optimum levels. Both ancient Traditional Chinese and modern Western practitioners can use this technique to relieve symptoms for those suffering from a chronic disease. Needling is the most common approach and is an essentially safe treatment strategy. It can be used to relieve pain, improve healing, and enhance your general well-being. A common question people ask is how is this procedure actually done and what sort of benefits can you expect?
Needle Insertion – A Gentle Process
There are two main categories of acupuncture practice in America today. These are Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Medical Acupuncture. Each has its own merits, so your choice is an individual one. Most people make their decision based on upon which philosophy they are more aligned with and which technique creates the least apprehension.
TCM practitioners work with the concept energy flow or Qi, and the meridians through which this energy travels in the body. Most practitioners insert small needles just under the skin at certain places on the body in order to reach the acupuncture meridian points. So far, modern scientific methods have found only a little evidence to prove the existence of these energy channels despite the fact that this technique has been used effectively for thousands of years across various countries to treat millions of people.
Medical Acupuncture practitioners are most often Medical doctors who graduated from western medical schools. Their needle locations are not based on the traditional acupuncture meridian points, but on anatomic data. They will often use fewer needles and leave them in place for shorter periods of time than the TCM practitioners. Advocates to TCM technique feel this is a watered-down version of the traditional approach. Nevertheless, many patients have felt relief of symptoms through this method as well.
What Acupuncture Can Treat?
The list of health conditions that can be treated with acupuncture is extensive. They include conditions from asthma to constipation, anxiety to weight loss. TCM practitioners generally believe that all health conditions are the result of an imbalance in the flow of an individual’s Qi, therefore treatable with needle therapy. Medical Acupuncturists have a relatively limited list of indications; the most common is undoubtedly pain control.
Control of pain is the most widely researched indication for acupuncture in America. Evidence has shown there is clearly a beneficial effect for a majority of patients using these techniques to help manage their pain. A few examples include migraines, premenstrual syndrome, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and diabetic neuropathy. One active theory behind its effectiveness for pain is also medically accepted and well researched. This is referred to as the “gate-control” theory of pain management. It suggests that the placement of needles can stimulate specific nerves so that they block the impulses from pain triggers.
The Acupuncture Experience
It is important to emphasize that whether it be TCM or Medical Acupuncture, it is used only along side of any existing medical treatments. At no time should you stop taking prescribed medication or ignore medical instructions from your doctor in favor of acupuncture alone. During or after undergoing an acupuncture treatment plan, your primary care physician or medical specialist can re- evaluate your condition with regards to decreasing your dosages.
A complete course of acupuncture therapy can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Of course, this depends upon the complexity of your particular medical condition. Results do vary, so it is helpful to have an open and honest discussion with your acupuncturist about expected results and their time frame. In general, most patients begin to feel positive effects after three or four sessions. Certain specific conditions may actually get a little worse before improving. This is known as a “healing reaction”. Keep your practitioner informed if you experience this sort of reaction so adjustments can be made to your treatment.
In modern medicine, using traditional healing techniques with proven results has become more accepted and widely practiced. Acupuncture has proven its value over millennia. Current practice guidelines help keep it effective and safe. It is a gift of healing from ancient healing sages that has the potential to provide relief to millions of people in the future.