Traditional Natural Medicine Acupuncture

Acupuncture, a practice nearly 5,000 years old, is a form of traditional Chinese medicine in which a practitioner inserts extremely fine needles into the skin. These acupuncture needles are used to stimulate certain points inside the body, balancing the flow of energy and restoring health.

What is Acupuncture

No one is quite sure how acupuncture works, but there are two common explanations for it: the traditional Chinese view and the Western interpretation.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the body contains a balance of yin (cold and passive energy) and yang (hot and active energy). These two elements must be in harmony for good health. When the yin and yang are unbalanced, the energy flow around the body (the chi or qi) is blocked. The paths that the energy takes are known as meridians, and the purpose of acupuncture is to unblock these meridians.

Acupuncture is now also widely used as a complement to Western medicine, but the modern Western explanation for how it works differs from that of the Chinese. In Western medicine, acupuncture is seen as a way of relieving pain and discomfort by stimulating nerves, tissues and muscles.

A Typical Acupuncture Session

During your first acupuncture session, the practitioner will usually take a detailed history from you. This covers your general health, your lifestyle and your behavior. Because acupuncture, like many forms of alternative medicine, is a holistic treatment, the practitioner is trying to acquire a complete picture of your overall health.

On subsequent visits you will usually have a shorter question and answer session about your health and progress. Expect to pay between $50 and $125 for a first visit and between $30 and $80 for a follow-up session.

Next you will lie on a comfortable surface, such as a massage table. You may be on your side, on your back or face down, depending on where the practitioner plans to put the acupuncture needles. The practitioner inserts thin needles into the appropriate places and may then heat or stimulate them by gently rotating them in place.

There may be a sting when the needles are inserted or moved, and you may feel a dull ache when the needles are fully in position. After an appropriate time, the needles are removed. A typical acupuncture session may last about 30 minutes.

Choosing a Practitioner

If you’re planning to try acupuncture, it’s important to choose a qualified practitioner. Most states have licensing in place for this field. Two good starting points for finding certified acupuncturists are the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.

Be sure to inform your doctor, so you can coordinate acupuncture with other medical treatment if necessary. It’s also a good idea to get others to recommend trusted practitioners and to talk to the practitioner before beginning treatment.

Pros and Cons of Acupuncture

Before deciding on treatment, it’s worth thinking about the pros and cons of acupuncture. Make sure that your practitioner uses single use, disposable needles from a new pack to avoid the spread of infection. Side effects of acupuncture treatments may include bruising, light bleeding or soreness where the needle has been inserted. In rare instances, a needle may break. Acupuncture may be unsafe for those with blood diseases or those taking medication that thins the blood.

Aside from these minimal cons, acupuncture also has many benefits. Acupuncture is generally a safe treatment when treatment is administered by licensed practitioners. It has very few side effects and works well with other forms of treatment. Medical studies have proved it to be useful in treating pain and nausea. Along with migraines, fibromyalgia and varicose veins, acupuncture can also be used to stimulate weight loss.

Resources

Beckman, Mary (n.d.). Acupuncture. Retrieved April 8, 2008, from the A Healthy Me Web site: http://www.ahealthyme.com/topic/topic13851.

Mayo Clinic (2007). Acupuncture: Can It Help Retrieved April 8, 2008, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/SA00086.

NCCAM (2008). An Introduction To Acupuncture. Retrieved April 8, 2008, from the NCCAM Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/.

Singer, J A (n.d.). Acupuncture: A Brief Introduction. Retrieved April 8, 2008, from the Acupuncture.com Web site: http://www.acupuncture.com/education/theory/acuintro.htm.

WHO (n.d.). What is Traditional Medicine? Retrieved April 8, 2008, from the World Health Organization Web site: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs134/en/.