Acupuncture is a complete medical protocol focused on correcting imbalances of energy in the body. From its inception in China more than 2,500 years ago, acupuncture has been used traditionally to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, as well as to improve general health. The acupuncture technique that has been most often studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metal sterile needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE USED FOR?
Because the goal of acupuncture is to promote and restore the balance of energy, which flows throughout the body, the benefits of acupuncture can extend to a wide variety of conditions, from emotional disorders (anxiety, depression) to digestive complaints (nausea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome). It can be beneficial for pain syndromes due to an injury or associated with chronic degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be helpful in treating neurological problems like migraines or Parkinson's disease, or as a rehabilitation strategy for individuals who suffered a stroke. Respiratory conditions, including sinusitis and asthma have been relieved with acupuncture, as have many gynecologic disorders and infertility. Acupuncture has also proved beneficial for reducing fatigue and addictions, and for promoting overall well-being.
Studies in the U.S. indicate that acupuncture can help relieve chronic low back pain, dental pain, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and symptoms of osteoarthritis. It has been shown to assist in the treatment of emotional pain syndromes such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It has also demonstrated clinical success in achieving pregnancy when used in conjunction with in-vitro fertilization.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN AN ACUPUNCTURE APPOINTMENT?
After the initial acupuncture consultation and assessment, the needles are placed in very specific locations. Upon insertion, one may feel a momentary sharp or stinging sensation; however, many report they don't even feel the majority of the insertions. It is common to experience a deep ache for a short time in some of the points. The acupuncture needles may then be gently manipulated and some practitioners may use heat or even electricity with the needles.
The depth to which the acupuncture needles are inserted varies according to the treatment and the practitioner; however, needles should never be positioned deep enough to puncture organs (other than the skin). The needles are usually left in place for five to 20 minutes, usually no longer than 60 minutes, and then removed. Following an acupuncture treatment, practitioners will usually reassess the client and often give suggestions for home care. It is also typical to suggest supplemental Chinese herbs to enhance the achievement of energetic balance. Acute symptoms may require only two to four treatments; whereas for chronic cases, it is common to have as many as 12 or more treatments, usually over a course of eight to 10 weeks. Regular monthly visits may be suggested as preventive measures to decrease stress, improve energy or boost immunity.
ACUPUNCTURE USE IN THE UNITED STATES
The report from a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 stated that acupuncture is being "widely" practiced—by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners—for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in the previous year. Between the 2002 and 2007 NHIS, acupuncture use among adults increased by three-tenths of 1 percent