Acupuncture originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Although there are records of acupuncture being used hundreds of years ago in Europe.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient's skin at specific points on the body - the needles are inserted to various depths. it does have some therapeutic benefits, including pain relief and alleviation from nausea caused by chemotherapy.
How is acupuncture treatment done?
Acupuncture generally involves several weekly or fortnightly treatments. Most courses consist of up to 12 sessions. A visit to an acupuncturist will involve an exam and an assessment of the patient's condition, the insertion of needles, and advice on self-care. Most sessions last about 30 minutes.
The patient will be asked to lie down, either face-up, face-down or on his/her side, depending on where the needless are inserted. The acupuncturist should use single-use disposable sterile needles. As each needle is inserted the patient should feel them, but initially without pain. However, when the needle reaches the right depth there should be a deep aching sensation. Sometimes the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion. Once inserted, the needles will remain there for about twenty minutes.
How does acupuncture work?
Through 350 acupuncture points in the body, these meridians and energy flows may be accessed. Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. If needles are inserted into these points with appropriate combinations it is said that the energy flow can be brought back into proper balance.
Acupuncture points are seen by Western practitioners as places where nerves, muscles and connective tissue can be stimulated. Acupuncture practitioners say that the stimulation increases blood flow while at the same time triggering the activity of our own body's natural painkillers.
Who may benefit from acupuncture treatment?
The use of acupuncture to alleviate pain and nausea after surgery is becoming more widespread. Using acupuncture before and during surgery significantly reduces the level of pain and the amount of potent painkillers needed by patients after the surgery is over, a study revealed. Acupuncture is also starting to make inroads into veterinary medicine.
As more and more physicians accept acupuncture, a wider range of illnesses and condition are being considered for acupuncture treatment. A study found that acupuncture may help indigestion symptoms commonly experienced by pregnant women.
As it is very difficult to devise clinical studies that measure the effectiveness of acupuncture against a placebo, it is hard to create a definitive list of conditions in which acupuncture may be effective.
However, some studies have indicated that acupuncture may help in treating low back pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, post-operative dental pain, hypertension and osteoarthritis, as well as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Other studies have shown that acupuncture may help women with painful periods. A Cochrane trial found that although acupuncture helps people with headaches, fake acupuncture also seems to help them.
The benefits of acupuncture are:
• When performed correctly it is safe
• There are very few side effects
• It is a very effective combination treatment
• It is effective in controlling some types of pain
• It may be considered for patients who do not respond to pain medications
• It is a useful alternative for patients who do not want to take pain medications
The risks of acupuncture are:
• It is dangerous if the patient has a bleeding disorder
• It the dangerous if the patient is taking blood thinners
• There may be bleeding, bruising and soreness at the insertion sites
• The needle may break and damage an internal organ (very rare)
• Un sterilized needles may infect the patient
• When inserted deeply into the chest or upper back there is a risk of collapsed lung (very rare)
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