Acupuncture is a type of therapy involving the placement of tiny, hair-thin needles into certain pressure points on the body to relieve a variety of conditions. Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of traditional Chinese medicine, dating back to at least 100 BC. While acupuncture is accepted as a form of medicine in many parts of the world, the jury is still out in the West. Nonetheless, millions of individuals each year find acupuncture to provide relief for a surprisingly broad range of symptoms.
Can Ease Chronic Pain
Acupuncturists claim there is a form of life-giving energy called qi circulates within the body, traveling through lines called meridians. Placing acupuncture needles into certain points along these meridians can release blocked qi, which is a source of pain. Several studies over the past decade have found acupuncture can relieve some forms of chronic pain that affect the neck and back, but of course, some Western doctors have claimed this merely the placebo effect.
Can Relieve The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
Cancer patients often turn to alternative forms of medicine and therapy when Western medicine fails to cure their cancer or relieve the side effects of their treatments. Chemotherapy, one of the most common cancer treatments, involves bombarding the body with a cocktail of toxins, poisons, and even radioactive substances in an attempt to kill tumors. Chemotherapy often causes nausea and loss of appetite in patients, resulting in weight loss and reduced rates of healing. Acupuncture was found in several clinical trials to help relieve these symptoms and allow individuals to regain their appetites after chemotherapy, but, more data is needed before Western doctors confirm these results.
Can Lesson Menopause Symptoms
Menopause is a fact of women's lives, but that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable. The hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and fatigue can make menopausal years quite difficult for many women, and conventional forms of Western medicine do little to relieve these symptoms. Thus, many women turn to acupuncture to help lessen the severity of menopause symptoms. Several recent trials have found acupuncture can ease the severity and frequency of hot flashes for up to three months after treatment.
Can Help With Menstrual Cramps
Like menopause, menstrual cramps are a regular part of a woman's existence, even if they are entirely unwanted and often can be incredibly painful to deal with. For tens of thousands of years, women throughout the world have experimented with various ways to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with menstrual cramps. Acupuncture has been used in China to lessen the severity of menstrual cramps for at least two thousand years, and a handful of studies in the West have confirmed acupuncture does seem to decrease the perceived level of menstrual cramp symptoms for some women.
Can Improve Mood
The philosophy behind acupuncture revolves around the restoration of one's qi or life energy. Blockages of qi can not only create physical symptoms such as pain or illnesses, acupuncturists believe, but also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or even mental illnesses. Many acupuncturists claim weekly acupuncture sessions can relieve the symptoms of depression or anxiety for months, with results comparable to those associated with counseling. A few clinical trials have found similar results, claiming the near-imperceptible pain caused by acupuncture likely triggers the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters.
Reduces Eye Strain
Recent studies suggest acupuncture also reduces eye strain. Eye strain is a symptom associated with several conditions, including dry eye, glaucoma, and myopia (nearsightedness). Patients with eye strain may notice redness and pain in the eyes, and they might also see floaters and have itchy eyes. Some patients with eye strain have headaches, and these may be worse after looking at computer screens for long periods. Acupuncture sessions designed to relieve eye strain typically focus on improving blood circulation to the eye area. This generally involves inserting acupuncture needles at points around the eye orbit. For example, needles may be inserted in the middle of the eyebrow; this point is known in traditional Chinese medicine as Yuyao, and this area is directly implicated in cases of eye strain. Inserting needles along the Sizhukong area, located just outside of the outer corner of the eyebrow, is believed to reduce eye pain and blurry vision.
Benefits The Digestive System
Acupuncture benefits the digestive system primarily by increasing circulation. The increased blood flow that occurs as a result of acupuncture can reduce inflammation and make digestion easier. Patients who have digestive conditions such as peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, heartburn, and hiatal hernias may all find acupuncture useful. It is also beneficial for irritable bowel syndrome. Depending on the specific digestive condition a patient has, the acupuncturist can stimulate points on the body that may increase metabolism, reduce stomach acid secretion, and increase the contraction and relaxation of the gastrointestinal muscles. One of the major points utilized during most treatment sessions for digestive disorders is an area known as Sanyinjiao, which is located just above the ankle. A point called Weizhong, located on the back of the knee, is particularly beneficial in relieving abdominal pain.
Research suggests acupuncture may be effective in reducing the symptoms of certain types of allergies. For example, a recent study demonstrated acupuncture was more effective in the treatment of allergic rhinitis than antihistamines (the current standard treatment). The major acupuncture points stimulated in the study included the Hegu, Quchi, and Yingxiang areas. The study included both traditional acupuncture needles and warmed acupuncture needles. In addition to experiencing a reduction in their allergy symptoms, subjects in the study reported higher quality of life scores than those who took antihistamines. Additional studies have shown acupuncture relieves perennial allergies (non-seasonal) more effectively than other allergy types. Anecdotal evidence from practicing acupuncturists notes many patients find relief from the nasal stuffiness caused by allergies after just one acupuncture session. To increase the effectiveness of acupuncture for allergy relief, medical acupuncturists typically advise that patients avoid sugar and dairy products during the course of their treatment program. Some acupuncturists may choose to apply mugwort to acupuncture sites during a session; this practice is known as moxibustion, and it is thought to rebalance the body and reduce inflammation.
Boosts The Immune System
Several studies have concluded acupuncture boosts the immune system, and the practice is frequently used as an alternative treatment for colds, flu, and autoimmune conditions such as lupus. Research shows an acupuncture session can increase the number of T-cells in the body; these cells can destroy dangerous bacteria and viruses. Scientists believe acupuncture increases T-cells because the body may view the acupuncture needles as a threat, sending white cells and T-cells to fight this off. The boost of T-cells in the body lasts for several days after an acupuncture session. Research also indicates acupuncture increases the body's levels of interferon, one of the messenger hormones of the immune system. To help the immune system, acupuncturists routinely stimulate a point called ST36. Also known as Zusanli, this is located just below the knee, and it is an area that stimulates the production of cytokines and helper T-cells. Stimulation of the Sanyinjiao point, located above the ankle, can also be valuable in the treatment of immune conditions. To maximize the strength of the immune system, most medical acupuncturists recommend monthly acupuncture sessions to their patients. They also suggest patients avoid antibiotics and antihistamines; regular exercise is also helpful.
Treats Repetitive Strain Injuries
Anecdotal evidence from medical acupuncturists and patients suggests acupuncture treats repetitive strain injuries. These injuries are caused by repetitive motions, normally with the arms, wrists, hands, and fingers. Individuals involved in certain occupations, including musicians, typists, and those who perform manual labor, may be at an increased risk for this condition. In traditional Chinese medicine, this particular injury is triggered by inadequate circulation to the upper limbs. Acupuncture is believed to help alleviate symptoms of repetitive strain injuries by reducing inflammation, relaxing muscles, stimulating circulation, and triggering the release of endorphins (substances made by the body that provide natural pain relief). The practice may also block pain signals from the central nervous system. During an acupuncture session for a repetitive strain injury, the acupuncturist will normally stimulate a point on the wrist known as Lieque, located on the inside of the arm. The Waiguan point, located on the outside of the arm, is another area that may be stimulated.