Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine-based approach to treating a variety of conditions by triggering specific points on the skin with needles. “[Acupuncture is] a minimally invasive method to stimulate nerve-rich areas of the skin surface in order to influence tissues, gland, organs, and various functions of the body.”(Paul Kempisty)
“Each acupuncture needle produces a tiny injury at the insertion site, and although it’s slight enough to cause little to no discomfort, it’s enough of a signal to let the body know it needs to respond,” Kempisty says. “This response involves stimulation of the immune system, promoting circulation to the area, wound healing, and pain modulation.” Contemporary research on acupuncture relies mainly on this theory.
The Chinese philosophy behind acupuncture is a bit more complicated, as the ancient practice isn’t traditionally based in science and medicine. “They believed that the human body was filled with and animated by an invisible life-giving force which they called ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’) and when the qi was flowing well and going to all the right places, then a person would experience good mental and physical health. When the qi was flowing incorrectly (blocked or deficient) that would result in illness,” says Kempisty.
For qi, think of it as your body’s natural inner workings. Sometimes you’re more prone to illness when feeling stressed or anxious. When you’re relaxed and healthy, your body physically reflects that too. After all, your mood, mental health, and general well-being do affect your physical health. Thus, acupuncture aims to assist people in achieving balance, or qi, and, as a result, provide relief for many ailments.
Research carried out in Germany has shown that acupuncture may help relieve tension headaches and migranes.
The NCCIH note that it has been proven to help in cases of:
- low back pain
- neck pain
- knee pain
- headache and migraine
They list additional disorders that may benefit from acupuncture, but which require further scientific confirmation.
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed a number of conditions in which they say acupuncture has been proven effective.
- high and low blood pressure
- chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- some gastric conditions, including peptic ulcer
- painful periods
- allergic rinitus
- facial pain
- morning sickness
- tennis elbow
- dental pain
- reducing the risk of stoke
- inducing labor
Acupuncture can be beneficial in that:
- Performed correctly, it is safe.
- There are very few side effects.
- It can be effectively combined with other treatments.
- It can control some types of pain.
- It may help patients for whom pain medications are not suitable.