Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used systems of healing in the world, originating in China some 3,500 years ago. Although practiced for thousands of years, it is only in the past four decades that it has become popular here in the United States.
Acupuncture was brought to the United States as an acknowledged medical practice after Nixon's visit to China in 1972, when a member of the media team received an emergency appendectomy with only acupuncture as anesthesia.
Acupuncture is used to regulate and restore the balance of the body in order to assist and accelerate the healing process. It is based on traditional Chinese theories involving the flow of Qi (life energy) and Xue (blood) through meridians or pathways that cover the body, somewhat like nerves and blood vessels. According to these theories, illness presents when one or more of these pathways is blocked or out of balance.
The practice of Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine stainless steel needles into the body at specific points shown to be effective in the treatment of many health conditions. Acupuncture needles are much thinner than needles used for injections and are less painful. Needles are pre-sterilized, pre-packaged, and disposed of after each use. Oftentimes, patients are not even aware that needles have been inserted.
Many recent scientific studies have firmly established the validity of acupuncture. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) acknowledge that acupuncture treatment can effectively treat a wide array of acute and chronic conditions. Acupuncture is known to provide quality effective healthcare that results in a healthier well-being.
In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration estimated that Americans made up to 12 million visits per year to acupuncture practitioners. Today, most states license acupuncturists as primary health care practitioners. And more insurance companies are covering acupuncture costs in their health plans.
When the acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupoint, and comes in contact with Qi, the patient may feel a variety of sensations. This may include tingling, warming, numbness, swelling, or a sympathetic sensation in another part of your body. Acupuncture stimulates our brains to release beta-endorphins, thereby controlling pain, elevating mood, increasing serotonin, elevating white blood counts, and stimulating local tissue healing. Many patients become so relaxed during treatment that they fall asleep on the treatment table.
Patients are always encouraged to wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to the knees and elbows.
Traditional Chinese medicine holds that there are as many as 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body, which are connected by 20 pathways, or meridians. There are 12 major meridians and 8 secondary meridians. The meridians are interconnected to each other, the internal organs, the sense organs, and various tissues. These meridians conduct Qi (pronounced "chee") between the surface of the body and its internal organs. The ancient Chinese mapped out the meridian pathways and discovered points at which Qi is accessible. These points are what we call "acupoints." Each point has a different effect on the Qi that passes through it.
Qi is believed to help regulate balance in the body. It is influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang, which represent positive and negative energy and forces in the universe and human body. In a healthy body, Qi flows freely throughout the meridian network. When there is a blockage of Qi, we develop symptoms of dis-ease and illness will result. Acupuncture works to release the blockages, thus allowing for the normal flow of qi throughout the body and restoring health to the mind and body.
So, rather than focusing on the obvious health issue of a patient, an acupuncturist will instead focus on the entire body. In order to treat the specific problem, and to maintain the person’s health after the problem is treated, he or she must create a balance of Qi within the entire body.
Generally, acupuncturists use 365 main acupuncture points throughout the meridian pathways to stimulate energy that is blocked or congested to initiate the smooth flow of Qi. The aim of acupuncture is to activate a patient’s vital energy to allow the body to balance and heal itself.
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One of the reasons acupuncture may be becoming more popular in America is because of its ability to treat health problems that are important to Americans: erectile dysfunction, drug addiction, infertility, nausea, back pain, and many more conditions are alleviated with acupuncture. In addition to physical problems, acupuncture can also help with emotional problems like stress and depression.
The World Health Organization stated, “Acupuncture has been proven effective in relieving postoperative pain, nausea during pregnancy, nausea, and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy, and dental pain with extremely low side effects. It can also alleviate anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia.” Many Americans, who are fed up with taking countless pills, especially like the fact that the side effects of acupuncture are little to none. They don’t have to worry about side effects that exist in many pharmaceuticals.
The course of acupuncture treatment depends on the severity of symptoms of illness or pain. Generally, the more chronic the problem is, the longer it will take to treat and the body to heal. Four to eight weeks is typical for chronic conditions, with one or more visits per week. Everybody is different. For acute conditions, you may experience profound results within the first visit and need no additional treatment, others may require several treatments in a short time span to have a similar reaction.