Healthy Living

Acupuncture: Everything you Need to Know

Acupuncture is a form of treatment derived from ancient Western Chinese medicine. Needles are gently inserted at specific parts of the body for preventive or therapeutic purposes.

Acupuncture
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Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on a philosophy that describes the universe, and the body: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the body remains  healthy.  Your energy--your "qi" (pronounced "chee") flows keeping the yin and yang forces balanced. When a flow gets blocked, it can lead to emotional distress, pain or illness. Acupuncture therapy releases a poor flowing qi in the body allowing the body to go into healing mode. Research has shown the positive effects on all of the major systems in the body. 

  • Nervous system
  • Endocrine
  • Immune systems
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Digestive system

Acupuncture has been shown to be successful in helping to ease pain, improve sleep, aid the digestive function, as well as providing an improved overall sense of well-being.

How acupuncture works

Medical acupuncture involves the stimulation of sensory nerves underneath the skin and in all body muscles. This triggers the body to produce natural substances like pain-relieving endorphins. It is likely that the released constituents are responsible for the valuable effects experienced with medical acupuncture. 

A series of acupuncture treatments often create a long-lasting pain relief than a single dosage. Conventional acupuncture is based on a theory which states that energy flows through certain body channels referred to as meridians. This force is called Qi; practitioners suggest that inefficient flow of Qi across the body results in an illness.

Uses of acupuncture

Acupuncture is used to treat several health conditions. While it is considered an alternative medicine therapy, your doctor will recommend acupuncture treatment options for:

Migraines

Persistent tension-tension type headaches

Chronic lower back pain

Stress

Chronic pain

Osteoarthritis

Depression

Digestive issues

In addition, acupuncture is also used in the treatment of musculoskeletal and pain disorders, including neck, postoperative, joint, and dental pain. 

How does acupuncture work?

An initial acupuncture treatment often lasts 30-40 minutes and entails the assessment of the patient’s general health, physical examination, and medical history, followed by gentle insertion of the acupuncture prickles.

The flexible needles are inserted into acupuncture points. During each session, you will be required to lie down or sit. Your doctor might also suggest that you remove some of your clothes so that the practitioner can access specific parts of the body. The needles are usually fine and a few centimeters long. They must be pre-sterilized, single-use needles which are disposed of immediately after use.

Acupuncturists choose certain points to insert the needles according to your condition. Up to twelve points might be used during each  session, sometimes even more, depending on the severity of your symptoms. The needles can be placed just below the skin, or deeper inside the muscle tissue. Once the insertion is completed, the needles may be allowed to rest for 30 minutes before being removed. It’s more likely that you’ll experience a tingling feeling or a mild headache when the pickles are inserted but you won’t encounter pain. If you do feel pain, inform your practitioner right away.

Under some circumstances, your doctor might rotate the needles or try stimulating them with an electric current referred to as electro-acupuncture.

Safety and regulation

Today, the most commonly used is a thread-like metal filiform needle made of stainless steel.  These needles come in different sizes of lengths and diameter to be used on the various parts of the body. 

If you’re planning to have acupuncture, ensure that your acupuncturist is either a physiotherapist nurse, health professional or a registered member of a national acupuncture organization. When it’s performed by a trained professional,  acupuncture is generally very safe.

Occasionally, the patient may experience mild side effects. Be sure to inform the acupuncturist as soon as you experience any of the following:

• Feeling dizzy, drowsy or nauseous 
• Pain where the needles are inserted
• Worsening of existing symptoms
• Bruising or bleeding at the site of the needles
Lightheadedness or feeling faint

If you have a bleeding illness like hemophilia or are under anticoagulant medication, be sure to speak with your general practitioner before considering acupuncture.

Key Takeaways

  • How acupuncture works
  • Uses of acupuncture
  • How acupuncture is performed
  • How the insertion is performed
  • Safety and regulation