By: Adam Taaffe
A National Health Survey (NHIS) found that more and more American adults are using acupuncture as a complementary approach to conventional treatment of health conditions yet many don't fully understand what it is and what it can be used for.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy which promotes the natural self-healing ability of the body by stimulating its strategic sites, known as acupuncture points. The effective method to stimulate these acupuncture points is the insertion of fine, sterile needles into the skin.
When fine needles create punctures on the acupuncture points across the body, it balances the flow of energy (qi or chi) through pathways in your body, which in turn is thought to restores greater harmony.
In terms of neuroscience, acupuncture stimulates the nerves, muscles and connective tissues—a process which leads to an increased blood flow, releasing the body’s “natural painkillers” as well. The process doesn’t involve medication or surgical incisions.
Does it Hurt?
As with any incision or procedure involving needles, there is fear of pain during treatment. The good news is that while there might be slight discomfort, acupuncture is relatively pain free. The needles are as flexible and thin as a human hair.
Here are 5 conditions that could benefit from acupuncture:
1. Headaches and Migraine
Acupuncture is a holistic treatment for headaches and migraine. In recent clinical trials, it has been found that acupuncture can minimize the frequency of headaches by 50%. The needles are usually placed near the nerves in your body to stimulate those specific nerves. This reaction triggers the release of hormones like endorphin (body’s own painkillers) which helps in relieving aches and stress.
2. Poor Sleep
Acupuncture lowers the frequency of insomnia as it increases the secretion of nocturnal melatonin, a chemical which regulates sleep and wakefulness. As an added bonus, there is no side effect associated with acupuncture, unlike many sleep medications. So, if you have trouble falling asleep, opt for an acupuncture therapy.
3. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is feeling of sickness which is accompanied by a need to vomit. It may be caused by a variety of factors like allergies, alcohol consumption, food poisoning and headaches. Cancer patients may experience nausea after undergoing chemotherapy. Acupuncture helps relieve the “triggers” that lead to nausea. It has also been found effective for women experiencing nausea in early pregnancy.
In this case, acupuncture focuses on specific pressure points on the underside of the forearm, near the wrist. The points are stimulated to lower the sensation of nausea.
4. Back Pain
The insertion of needles into the body stimulates the points to improve the flow of energy and release pain relieving chemicals into the bloodstream. This process also boosts the chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and the brain. These chemicals ease the pain or triggers bodily changes that promote a sense of well-being. For this reason, people with lower back pain have experienced relief. Lower back pain is the most common reason people try acupuncture.
5. Muscle Pain and Stiffness
People with musculoskeletal conditions often experience pain and inflammation. Here, acupuncture can be a great aid for pain relief. It has been found to bring relief for chronic pain conditions such as arthritis. It helps body release natural painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins. Moreover, it boosts the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that has also been found to act as an anti-inflammatory, helping relieve muscle pain.
While acupuncture is an ancient medicine, it does have a place in the modern world and can be an effective complement to modern medical treatments. As with any medical treatment, consult a physician prior to treatment and only use a qualified professional acupuncturist.
Featured image: Musko Gee Phoenix
Adam Taaffe is a digital marketing expert and author at Definitions Online St. John’s, Canada. One of his main interests
is engaging and educating people about health related topics and how it can be useful to them.