A widely accepted practice in Chinese medicine for centuries, acupuncture is finding its place in modern medicine. When practiced by a licensed physician with specialized training, it is referred to as “medical acupuncture” and is often used as a complimentary therapy to:
• Promote health and wellness
• Prevent illnesses
• Treat certain medical conditions
Uses of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is mostly commonly known as a pain management therapy. In fact, it is frequently used by U.S. military physicians to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain. However, it has much broader applications.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture for a variety of conditions, including:
• Digestive disorders (e.g., gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea)
• Respiratory disorders (e.g., sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections)
• Neurological and muscular disorders (e.g., headaches, facial tics, neck pain, frozen shoulder,
tennis elbow, lower back pain)
• Urinary, menstrual and reproductive problems
• Physical issues relating to tension, stress and emotional conditions
How Acupuncture Works
Channels of energy, called meridians, run throughout the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. When these meridians are compromised due to illness or stress, acupuncture can stimulate the nervous system and cause the body to release endorphins and other chemicals. This increases blood flow and affects brain chemistry in a way that promotes healing.
Acupuncture needles are very thin and painless for most people. In some cases, electrical stimulation is added so the benefits of the treatment can penetrate deeper into the body.
The number of acupuncture treatments needed is different for each person, depending upon the condition. For acute issues, just a few sessions may be necessary. However, chronic conditions may require more frequent treatments, often followed by periodic maintenance sessions.
Possible Side Effects
A deep sense of relaxation or even mild disorientation following acupuncture is common. On occasion, symptoms can worsen for a few days. And on rare occasions, some people experience changes in appetite, sleep, emotions or bowel/urination patterns. This typically means treatment is starting to work. Should symptoms last more than a few days or worsen, contact your physician immediately.
Preparing for Acupuncture
Continue taking prescription medications from your doctor. It is important to discuss any substance abuse
issues with the physician conducting the acupuncture treatment as that seriously interferes with its effectiveness. Avoid large meals before and after acupuncture. Also avoid sexual activity and alcohol consumption within 6 hours before and after treatment. And plan on resting as much as possible following acupuncture.
Some health insurance plans cover medical acupuncture. Check with your individual carrier to verify coverage.