Most people have heard of acupuncture and have perhaps even seen it performed in popular favorite movies or commercials. It’s difficult not to be intrigued by a treatment method that involves hundreds of tiny needles stuck into the skin. However, many people are not sure exactly what acupuncture is, how it works, and how it can treat conditions like chronic pain, mood disorders, or arthritis.
If you have a medical condition that has been difficult to treat, acupuncture could be the answer you are looking for. Many conditions that acupuncture treats are traditionally treated with medications that have significant side effects or with intrusive surgery that can take years to recover from (and still not offer the relief the sufferer needs). Here is more information on what acupuncture is, how it works, and how it might be able to help you.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is certainly not a new treatment, though it is gaining popularity in western cultures such as ours. The practice actually goes back thousands of years and is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese practitioners believed that there is a life force or vital energy flowing through each human body known as Qi. The Qi flows through channels in our body referred to as meridians and each meridian connects to a specific bodily function or organ. For Qi to flow effectively, it must be balanced by its two opposing forces: yin and yang. If the balance is thrown off, there is too much or too little Qi or the Qi stagnates. This can result in illness, pain, and other negative conditions.
In the practice of acupuncture, specific points in the body are identified that have less electrical resistance than other areas and these are where the fine needles can be applied to restore the balance of yin and yang and get the Qi flowing effectively again. The application of the needles can affect the nerve reflex pathways in our nervous system and also stimulate the release of natural endorphins that can act as pain relievers. There is also speculation that the needles stimulate the pituitary gland which can result in the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals into the bloodstream.
What Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?
According to the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture is recognized as a helpful treatment for a number of conditions that involve pain, nausea, and neurological symptoms. Here are a few of the conditions that have proven to be effectively treated with acupuncture:
Chronic pain can have a number of causes and can be very difficult to treat. Pain can be the result of an injury or illness, a surgery, or a condition such as fibromyalgia that is still widely misunderstood by many health practitioners. Pain can sometimes be the result of a signal that is sent to the brain even when the cause of the pain, such as a broken bone or other injuries, has healed. It can also be due to a chronic condition that has a main symptom of pain.
Acupuncture can treat both the pain signal and many of the underlying causes of pain. The special needles can slow the interplay between the injury signal and the nervous system memory of the signal which can help the patient feel less pain. Acupuncture needles can also affect the neurotransmitters in the body which help convey the pain signal to the brain.
Acupuncture can be effective in treating the adverse reactions may have to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation as well as in treating the disease itself. Chemotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting during treatment and sometimes leads to patients discontinuing the treatment due to their inability to deal with the side effects. Acupuncture has proven to be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting that many cancer patients experience and helps them continue their treatments. It can also be used to manage cancer-related pain and fatigue.
Research also suggests that acupuncture can stimulate the production of certain factors that fight cancer cells. Though much of this research is still in the testing phase, the results are promising.
For women who are having difficulty getting pregnant, fertility treatments are sometimes their last hope. These treatments can be time-consuming, expensive, and have a number of side effects. Research has shown that acupuncture can help improve the effectiveness of treatments such as in vitro fertilization by alleviating the stress and anxiety that accompany infertility and by promoting blood flow to the uterus. In some cases, acupuncture alone can help a woman conceive even without the help of costly medical treatments.
Those who experience sleep issues including insomnia or restless sleep are often suffering from another condition such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or chronic pain. Acupuncture can help stimulate blood flow and reduce the pain and discomfort that comes from restless leg syndrome and muscle pain. It can also help unblock the restricted airways that lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
Acupuncture also leads to less stress and anxiety, two conditions that many people with sleeping issues experience. This relaxing effect helps those with sleeping problems fall asleep faster, get into the deeper levels of restorative sleep, and wake up less frequently during the night.
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that is caused by chronic inflammation and degeneration of articular cartilage. The damage occurs in weight-bearing joints as well as the joints of the hands and fingers, making daily tasks uncomfortable or even impossible. Acupuncture can address this inflammation and tension that occurs in the joints, resulting in less irritation and a decrease in pain. Acupuncture has a cumulative effect in those with osteoarthritis, which means the more treatments they get, the better they generally feel.
Where to get Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture is generally painless for those getting treatments and can even be a relaxing process that is part of an overall wellness program. If you have a condition that has been previously treated with painkillers or that is not getting better, you should look into acupuncture as a complementary or alternative treatment. If you have any questions about acupuncture and whether it may be right for you, please cal EzCare Clinic in San Francisco or schedule your appointment online.