What Is Acupuncture? What is Neuro-functional Acupuncture?
Contrary to popular Western belief, acupuncture is not just a system for inserting very fine needles into specific body locations to alleviate pain. So, what is acupuncture, then? 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 traditional explanation for acupuncture’s effectiveness is that it modifies the flow of energy (known as qi or chi) throughout the body, but there is no scientific consensus that this is actually its mechanism of action. Research published in the May 30, 2010 online edition of Nature Neuroscience demonstrated that the effects of acupuncture needling include influencing the activity of adenosine, an amino acid which becomes active in the skin after an injury to ease pain. This may explain in part why pain relief is often experienced as one of the benefits of acupuncture. In fact, much research in the West has focused on this pain-relieving effect, rather than acupuncture’s traditional role of balancing energy to address a wide range of disorders, and the more subtle mechanisms that may be responsible for its overall benefits to health.
Acupuncture was popularized in the States during the early 70’s after President Nixon opened relations with China. At the time, a New York Times reporter, James Reston, had an appendectomy in a Chinese hospital using acupuncture as a means to decrease his post-surgical pain.
Contemporary Medical Acupuncture is a precise peripheral nerve stimulation technique, in which fine solid needles (acupuncture needles) are inserted into anatomically defined neurofunctional sites, and stimulated manually or with electricity for the therapeutic purpose of modulating abnormal activity of the nervous system and/or the endocrine, exocrine and immune systems, in pain syndromes, functional problems, and any diseases in which these modulatory mechanisms are available. Neuromodulation occurs through neurological and neurohumoral mechanisms at multiple levels, namely: peripheral nerves, spinal cord, brain stem, brain and cerebellum.
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 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.
Acupuncture is increasingly recognized by Western medicine as an effective alternative or adjunct to conventional treatments for stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, joint conditions, low back pain, and asthma as well as for the side effects of chemotherapy and nausea related to pregnancy. Doctors recommend acupuncture for other pain-related conditions, especially osteoarthritis. Acupuncture to alleviate acute sinusitis can be quite effective, as can acupuncture on the ear for quelling addictions. Acupuncture used with TCM can work well for addressing autoimmune conditions and infertility. Because acupuncture has so many positive effects on the body with minimal incidence of side effects, it is often considered in creating an integrative medicine treatment plan.
Are There Any Acupuncture Side Effects Or Indications Where Acupuncture Should Be Avoided?
Those with bleeding disorders or who are taking blood thinners should check with their doctors before having acupuncture. The most common acupuncture side effects are bleeding and bruising at the site, along with minor pain and soreness. It is recommended that a disinfectant such as alcohol be swabbed over the area prior to needle insertion to decrease the very small possibility of infection. Obviously, needles should be clean and never shared between clients. Rarely, a needle may break. The worst case scenario is a punctured organ.
However, serious complications are extremely rare when acupuncture is performed by a qualified, certified practitioner. A review of the international research literature revealed pneumothorax (a punctured lung) to be the only life-threatening complication to have occurred among tens of thousands of patients over nine separate trials. No post-acupuncture infections were reported in any of the studies.
Are There Other Therapies That Might Work Well In Conjunction With Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is often performed within the context of TCM, which typically offers dietary interventions, bodywork, and the taking of botanicals in combination with acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture can be used effectively with other bodywork therapies including various forms of massage, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, as well as different movement therapies such as tai chi and gigong.