If you don’t mind a good needling, try acupuncture. (Ouch.)
Seriously, the science behind this ancient Chinese healing practice is nothing short of amazing. The notion that human health is related to patterns of energy flow (chi or qi, pronounced “chee”) through the body dates as far back as 2,500 years ago.
The theory behind acupuncture is that a body in harmony has balanced yin (female) and yang (male) energies which make up one’s chi. Medical News Today tells us:
“Qi is said to flow through meridians, or pathways, in the human body. These meridians and energy flows are accessible through 350 acupuncture points in the body.”
The Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation links each of the body’s 12 meridian networks to a detail image. Here is one for the Heart Meridian:
Disrupted chi causes disease. Acupuncture is thought to restore the balance of flowing chi at known points close to the skin.
Another view believes acupuncture has a neurological effect instead of, or in addition to, the more traditional, metaphysical explanation.
The University of California San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine explains how acupuncture works:
“Acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process by stimulating specific anatomic sites – commonly referred to as acupuncture points, or acupoints.”
The body has 350 acupoints, as you may recall. Here’s what they look like, from Wikipedia:
There are many types of acupuncture founded on the medical traditions of Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, as well as China. President Richard Nixon popularized the treatment in America after opening the doors to trade with China after a 1972 visit overseas.
In a typical acupuncture session, sterilized metal needles are inserted into the special acupoints on the body located on specific meridian lines. Once the needles are in place, the practitioner may stimulate the acupoints by hand or with an electrical impulse.
One treatment may be enough, but results vary by the individual. Again, from the UCSD Center for Integrative Medicine :
“The frequency and number of treatments differ from person to person. Some people experience dramatic relief in the first treatment. For complex or long-standing chronic conditions, one to two treatments per week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required, usually eight to ten visits in total.”
The effects of acupuncture can be extraordinary. I have experienced two treatments for different physical complaints (sore neck and sore ankle). Each time, the needling was virtually painless. Each time, more than my physical symptoms benefited. I was surprised to experience emotions “draining” from my body, causing me to cry out of relief.
Acupuncture, as an alternative health remedy, is now regulated by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Needles must be certified sterile and manufactured under good practices.
MedicineNet.com says the known risks of acupuncture come from poor hygiene and inadequate training of the acupuncturist.
• Accidental puncture of the lung, causing a partial collapse (pneumothorax)
• Viral hepatitis (liver infection)
• Bacterial infections
In the hands of a competent practitioner, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) confirms that acupuncture is being studied for its effectiveness in relieving “back and neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain, and headache.”
But is it effective? The same article adds:
“Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches.”
The Mayo Clinic lists other maladies acupuncture can help:
• Chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting
• Dental pain
• Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines
• Labor pain
• Low back pain
• Neck pain
• Menstrual cramps
• Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis
Opinions about the efficacy of acupuncture range from the utterly enthusiastic to downright “player haters” as patients surveyed and interviewed by the British Guardian disclosed. However, 96 of the 144 people who did respond (less the 15 people who did not answer this question) “found acupuncture effective.”
However, a 2012 study on JAMA Network set out “to determine the effect size of acupuncture for 4 chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain.”
The results confirm that acupuncture is not merely caused by a placebo effect (mind over matter), finding that “acupuncture was superior to both sham and no-acupuncture control for each pain condition…Patients receiving acupuncture had less pain.”
Getting to the point (ouch again): Less pain is always good.
Feel better, with less stress and pain, after restoring your body’s natural neural and energy flow through the Traditional Chinese Medicine practice called acupuncture.