Acupuncture Therapy

What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a Chinese therapy that has been used for centuries. It is based on the theory that there is energy, called chi or qi, flowing through your body. Chi is thought to flow along energy pathways called meridians. Acupuncturists believe a blocking or imbalance of the flow of chi at any point on a pathway may result in illness. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe acupuncture unblocks and rebalances the flow of chi to restore health.
People often use acupuncture to relieve pain. Western medical researchers who have studied acupuncture believe that it may reduce pain through body chemicals that have calming effects (opioid peptides), or by affecting glands (such as the hypothalamus) that produce substances the body uses.

Traditionl Chinese acupuncture usually is done by putting very thin needles into the skin at certain points on the body to produce energy flow along the body’s meridians. Other types of acupuncture may use heat, pressure, or mild electrical current to stimulate energy flow along these meridians.

What is acupuncture used for?
People use acupuncture to relieve pain and treat certain health conditions. You can use it by itself or as part of a treatment program. Studies have found promising results for the use of acupuncture in treating nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy and postsurgery pain.

Acupuncture also may be useful for:
Stroke rehabilitation, which involves relearning skills that a person lost because of brain damage from a stroke.
Headache. A recent study shows that adding acupuncture to standard treatment leads to significant, long-lasting relief from chronic headaches, especially migraines.
Menstrual cramps.
Tennis elbow.
Fibromyalgia, or widespread pain and tenderness of muscle and soft tissue.
Myofascial pain, which is caused by spasm in the muscles.
Osteoarthritis, or the breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints. A recent study found that acupuncture can reduce knee pain and increase movement of the knee in people with osteoarthritis.
Low back pain.
Carpal tunnel sndrome, or pressure on a nerve in the wrist that results in tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain of the fingers and hand.
Asthma, or inflammation in the tubes that carry air to the lungs, resulting in periodic episodes of difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
Dental pain.
Reducing labor pain.

Is acupuncture safe?
In general, acupuncture is safe when done by a certified acupuncturist. A state license ensures that the acupuncturist has a certain level of training and follows certain practice guidelines. However, acupuncture is not licensed in a few states.
Complications or adverse events may rarely occur. If the acupuncturist uses nonsterilized needles, there is a risk of infection; however, most acupuncturists today dispose of their needles after one use. Make sure the practitioner you visit uses sterilized or disposable needles. Talk with your doctor if you have other questions about the safety of acupuncture.
Acupuncture may be a valuable treatment for certain health conditions and merits further use and study. Your doctor may recommend it along with conventional medical treatment for many illnesses.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.