What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical system over 5000 years old, recently becoming popular in the West. It deals with subtle energy flows (qi) in the body related to the cosmic principles of Yin and Yang. The balance of these energies in the human body affects health and disease. According to Chinese medicine, everything in nature has both yin and yang. An imbalance of qi (too much, too little, or blocked flow) causes disease. Acupuncture therapy alters these energy flows by inserting and manipulating fine needles into various points along the meridians, for varying periods of time.
There are now hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture. Many of these clinical studies are performed in China. Acupuncture is particularly effective for pain relief and for post surgery and chemotherapy associated nausea and vomiting. In addition, both the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health recognize that acupuncture can be a helpful part of a treatment plan for many illnesses. A partial list includes: addiction (such as alcoholism), asthma, bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, facial tics, fibromyalgia, headaches, irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovarian syndrome, low back pain, menopausal symptoms, menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, sinusitis, spastic colon (often called irritable bowel syndrome), stroke rehabilitation, tendonitis, tennis elbow, and urinary problems such as incontinence.
How it works is not entirely clear. Research suggests that the needling process, and other techniques used in acupuncture, may produce a variety of effects in the body and the brain. One theory is that stimulated nerve fibers transmit signals to the spinal cord and brain, activating the body’ s central nervous system. The spinal cord and brain then release hormones responsible for making us feel less pain while improving overall health. In fact, a study using images of the brain confirmed that acupuncture increases our pain threshold, which may explain why it produces long term pain relief. Acupuncture may also increase blood circulation and body temperature, affect white blood cell activity (responsible for our immune function), reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and regulate blood sugar levels.