Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction with heat produced by burning specific herbs, this is called Moxibustion. In addition, a non-invasive method of massage therapy, called Acupressure, can also be effective.
History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture (and its related Moxibustion) are practiced medical treatments that are over 5,000 years old. Very basically, Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles, (sometimes in conjunction with electrical stimulus), on the body's surface, in order to influence physiological functioning of the body.
This energy force is known as Qi (roughly pronounced Chee). The Qi consists of all essential life activities which include the spiritual, emotional, mental and the physical aspects of life. A person's health is influenced by the flow of Qi in the body, in combination with the universal forces of Yin and Yang. If the flow of Qi is insufficient, unbalanced or interrupted, Yin and Yang become unbalanced, and illness may occur. Qi travels throughout the body along "Meridians" or special pathways. The acupuncture points are specific locations where the Meridians come to the surface of the skin, and are easily accessible by "needling," Moxibustion, and Acupressure. The connections between them ensure that there is an even circulation of Qi, a balance between Yin and Yang.
Energy constantly flows up and down these pathways. When pathways become obstructed, deficient, excessive, or just unbalanced, Yin and Yang are said to be thrown out of balance. This causes illness. Acupuncture is said to restore the balance.
Acupuncturists can use as many as nine types of Acupuncture needles, though only six are commonly used today. These needles vary in length, width of shaft, and shape of head. Today, most needles are disposable. They are used once and discarded in accordance with medical biohazard regulations and guidelines. There are a few different precise methods by which Acupuncturists insert needles. The following techniques are some which may be used by an Acupuncturist immediately following insertion: Raising and Thrusting, Twirling or Rotation, Combination of Raising/Thrusting and Rotation, Plucking, Scraping (vibrations sent through the needle), and Trembling (another vibration technique). Once again, techniques are carefully chosen based on the ailment.
Another popular treatment method is Moxibustion, which is the treatment of diseases by applying heat to Acupuncture points. Acupuncture and Moxibustion are considered complimentary forms of treatment, and are commonly used together. Moxibustion is used for ailments such as bronchial asthma, bronchitis, certain types of paralysis, and arthritic disorders.
Cupping is another type of treatment. This is a method of stimulating Acupuncture points by applying suction through a metal, wood or glass jar, in which a partial vacuum has been created. This technique produces blood congestion at the site, and therefore stimulates it. Cupping is used for low backache, sprains, soft tissue injuries, and helping relieve fluid from the lungs in chronic bronchitis.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Scientists have no real answer to this; as you know many of the workings of the body are still a mystery. There are a few:
- The "Augmentation of Immunity" Theory states that Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels.
- The "Endorphin" Theory states that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the body (specifically Enkaphalins).
- The "Neurotransmitter" Theory states that certain neurotransmitter levels (such as Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture.
- The "Circulatory" Theory states that Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body's release of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to Acupuncture.
- One of the most popular theories is the "Gate Control" Theory. According to this theory, the perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the "Gate." If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed, and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting through.
Which conditions can acupuncture help treat?
It is very hard to compile a definitive list of conditions that acupuncture can treat. Some acupuncturists suggest that acupuncture can treat a very wide range of conditions, from diarrhea and the common cold, to drug addiction and insomnia.
It has been proven that acupuncture does encourage the body to release natural painkilling substances (endorphins), which means that it is most effective in easing your symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Studies have shown that acupuncture is most effective in helping ease the symptoms of the following conditions:
- dental pain,
- neck pain,
- chronic (long-lasting) back pain,
- post-operative pain, and
- nausea (particularly chemotherapy-induced nausea).
Although these are some of the only conditions which studies have conclusively proven to be affected by acupuncture, many people have found that the treatment has helped them with other conditions and health-related problems.
Studies have shown that acupuncture may have a limited effect on other conditions, although further research is needed before its effect can be proven. These conditions include:
- digestive disorders,
- asthma, and
Acupuncture can rid the body of the physical dependency, but can not rid the mind of the habit (psychological dependency). For this reason, Acupuncture treatment of addictions has not been fully successful.
How Safe is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment that has few side effects. Although some studies have not produced conclusive evidence about its effectiveness, many people are still willing to try acupuncture, particularly as there are few risks involved. Acupuncture should not make your condition worse and, following treatment, your symptoms should either remain the same, or they should improve.