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Guide To Accupuncture By Wunderwell
Our friends at Wunderwell (www.wunderwell.com) have produced a series of incredible guides to wellness that might be helpful in these stressful times. Please see their latest post on the benefits of Acupuncture.
As one of the longest-lasting forms of comprehensive medicine to date, acupuncture has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and was brought to the western hemisphere during the Middle Ages. While acupuncture has easily outlasted bloodletting, purging and other archaic health theories; a contemporary definition is difficult to pin down. A quick Google search of ‘acupuncture’ will yield mountains of complicated and contradicting articles and studies to shift through. To combat this information overload, here’s WUNDERWELL’s comprehensive guide to understanding the basics of acupuncture!
Acupuncture has been in use for over 2000 years. The first historically agreed upon evidence of acupuncture techniques comes from The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. This document dates back to about 100 BCE, although it is most likely the culmination of decades, possibly centuries of traditional practices. The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, published during the Ming Dynasty of 1368-1644, provides the basis for modern acupuncture methods. It outlines all 365 acupuncture points throughout the body. Acupuncturists still use both texts as resources today.
Around 1680 medical documentation of acupuncture made its way to Europe via Ten Rhijne, a physician for the East India Company; although Jesuit missionaries in France had accepted the practice in the 1500s. Western study and use of acupuncture continued through to modern day, with many physicians attempting to connect the TCM methods to clinical, evidence-based trials. In 1997 the NIH recognized its capacity for pain relief and suggested an expansion of acupuncture into conventional medical practices. In the 21st century, acupuncture has gained a following in the alternative medicine space with evidence citing its help in many areas from chronic muscle pain to insomnia to seasonal allergies.
Acupuncture is based on the TCM theory of qi (or chi). Qi is the “vital life force,” a term that encompasses all biotic and abiotic parts of life; acupuncture, however, focuses the qi that flows through the body as a form of energy. Qi moves around the body through meridians and acupuncture accesses these channels through specific pressure points. Because of its foundation in qi, acupuncture treats the whole patient, instead of a specific area of pain or discomfort. The goal of acupuncture is to recalibrate the entire body and therefore it’s used to relief a variety of physical, mental and spiritual ailments.
According to the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the basic form of acupuncture is where “practitioners stimulate specific points on the body- most often by inserting thin needles through the skin.” Before committing to any treatment, make sure to do your research and find a qualified acupuncturist in your area. Certified practitioners must have both a state license and a master’s degree, which included three to four years of training. Finding a safe acupuncturist is an easy but necessary first step in your treatment.
During your first visit, the acupuncturist will discuss your symptoms and lifestyle habits as well as understand your pain and discomfort. The practitioner will then probably examine your tongue, the color of your face, and the quality of the pulse in your wrist, all of which are strong indicators of qi balance according to TCM. After this initial analysis, the practitioner will explain his or her general plan for the session, invite you to lie comfortably on their treatment table and begin inserting the needles into targeted areas. Acupuncture needles are incredibly thin, so insertion usually cause little to no sensation at all. After about 20 minutes the treatment will be done, and you will feel relaxed and refreshed.
Most first-time appointments take up to one hour, with follow up treatments lasting less time. The practitioner will probably schedule multiple appointments to fully treat your symptoms; the frequency of which depends on the severity of your condition.
Studying the effects of acupuncture has proved challenging for many researchers. We are still discovering all the benefits of acupuncture, many of which are being uncovered. Conducting research trials on acupuncture’s effects is difficult because of the variety in technique, frequency and goal of any given session. The main argument for those opposed is that the effects of acupuncture are mostly placebo, an accusation that cannot be completely dismissed. One of the reasons acupuncture’s processes are so elusive is because factors like expectation and belief play an unmeasurable role in the treatment’s effects. Although acupuncture’s pain-relieving results are not fully understood yet, scientists do know that endorphins, nerve activity, and anti-inflammatory properties are all a part of the treatment. That being said, there is a multitude of research out there that measures the efficacy of acupuncture in various areas. In 2002 The World Health Organization published Acupuncture: Review of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, which supported the use of acupuncture for OVER 200 ailments and diseases. A series of 2012 data analysis by the NIH NCCIH found that real acupuncture helped participants with back pain, neck pain, knee pain and headaches more than no acupuncture or simulated acupuncture.
There is also research that support acupuncture’s benefits for mental illness. One study published in the Public Library of Science Journal found that acupuncture has the same effect as individual counseling on patients with depression. Another cited that participants had significant improvement in levels of anxiety after just twenty minutes of acupuncture treatment. These studies just scratch the surface of research regarding acupuncture. A quick search of ‘acupuncture’ in the PubMed database will yield over 30,000 results, and the field of research will only grow in coming time.
Whether it’s a solution for chronic pain, an attempt to quit smoking, a preventative measure, or anything in between, acupuncture offers patients a holistic treatment option to improve the body, mind and soul. Not 100% ready to say yes to the needle? Try this at home acupressure (a part of the same branch of medicine, just without the needles) remedy for sleeplessness for an easy introduction.