4 Things You Should Know About Acupuncture

Licensed Acupuncturist By Antonia Balfour, LAc
Licensed Acupuncturist
Antonia Balfour, LAc, is an acupuncturist and herbalist specializing in the holistic treatment of skin disorders. She is the co-founder and clinical director of Oasis Palisades, a health and wellness center in Los Angeles.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing systems in the world, and is popularly used today to promote balance and healing. Treatments are relaxing, relatively painless, and can be done on their own or in combination with modern Western medicine depending on the individual needs of each patient.

1. Acupuncture Treats More than Just Pain. Acupuncture is probably best known here in the West for healing pain conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches. The list of conditions successfully treated with acupuncture is actually far broader. People commonly choose acupuncture in the treatment of fertility challenges, period pain, allergies, asthma, digestive problems, auto-immune disorders, peripheral neuropathy, addiction, and many other health conditions. Because it benefits both emotional and physical symptoms, acupuncture is a great choice whenever stress is the cause of bodily symptoms.

2. Acupuncture Causes No Side Effects. Acupuncture needles may cause small bruises every now and then, but one of the greatest benefits of acupuncture is that there are no serious side effects. In conditions such as insomnia or depression, for example, many people prefer natural treatment with acupuncture to taking medications that cause side effects such as loss of libido, unclear thinking, or low energy. In complicated cases such as cancer, acupuncture can be used to treat nausea or hot flashes that result from chemotherapy. Medications could also be used in these cases, but acupuncture is preferable since the addition of more medications can can create more side effects and complicate the whole health picture.

3. Acupuncture Has Become Widely Accepted Around the World. Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years, but has only recently become an accepted medical modality around the world. The World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for the treatment of 47 different illnesses. In the US, the National Institutes of Health states that there is clear-cut evidence that acupuncture is useful in treating post-operative pain, other chronic pain disorders, and the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy or chemotherapy. In addition, it is beneficial to integrate acupuncture with standard biomedical care in the treatment of conditions such as stroke, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.

4. Scientists are Figuring Out How Acupuncture Works. Chinese medicine teaches that acupuncture needles stimulate the body's Qi, or life-force energy. Western science doesn't acknowledge the existence of Qi, but they are looking for ways to explain why acupuncture works. What have they come up with so far? Scientists aren't sure how exactly it works, but they have discovered some of the ways it positively effects the body and emotions. Neuro-imaging studies show acupuncture to calm areas of the brain that register pain. Brain activation can be seen in those areas involved in rest and recuperation. Many acupuncture points correspond to nerve bundles or muscle trigger points. Ultrasound imaging shows that acupuncture increases blood flow in treated areas, and thermal imaging shows it can make inflammation subside.

Human beings are complex and no treatment is 100% effective at treating all physical and emotional imbalances. Acupuncture has certainly withstood the test of time, it can safely be integrated with other methods of healing, and most people find it to be both relaxing and enjoyable.

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