Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (CHEE) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
Acupuncture needles are very thin, and most people feel no pain or very little pain when they are inserted. They often say they feel energized or relaxed after the treatment. However, the needles can cause temporary soreness.
You may try acupuncture for symptomatic relief of a variety of diseases and conditions, including:
- Fibromyalgia -Studies that test how well acupuncture works against the pain of fibromyalgia have had mixed results. Some showed that it provided temporary pain relief, but others did not. A small study by the Mayo Clinic suggested that acupuncture may reduce two other problems of fibromyalgia: fatigue and anxiety. But overall, there’s not enough evidence yet to prove that acupuncture works for fibromyalgia.
- Headaches -acupuncture may help relieve migraines or tension headaches. Two large studies found that people receiving acupuncture had fewer days with tension headaches than those receiving conventional care.
- Low back pain -f standard treatments don’t relieve your chronic low-back pain, acupuncture may do the job, and two respected medical groups suggest that people in this situation give it a try. One large study found that both actual and “sham” acupuncture worked better than conventional treatments for back pain that had lasted more than three months. The jury’s still out on acupuncture for short-term (acute) pain in the low back.
- Osteoarthritis -Acupuncture can be a helpful addition to conventional treatment for osteoarthritis, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. And some of the most promising, early research has shown acupuncture eased arthritis pain in the knee. However, more research is needed to prove without a doubt that it’s effective for osteoarthritis.
- Dental pain – Acupuncture provides relief from the pain of tooth extraction or dental surgery, but so does sham acupuncture, some studies show. Still, dental pain is considered by many to be one of the conditions that responds to acupuncture.
- Tennis elbow -Medicine and Rehabilitation in San Francisco1suggests that acupuncture not only relieves the symptoms of tennis elbow, it appears to resolve the condition completely.
In the study, Dr. Peter Dorsher, a medical doctor certified in acupuncture, performed acupuncture on 22 patients with varying degrees of tennis elbow. Dorsher used “rounded” acupuncture needles, which are designed to pierce the skin and enter the muscle with as little damage as possible. All of the patients were treated with French energetic meridian therapy, with needles inserted at local points on the elbow in tight myofascial bands.
- Carpal Tunnel – acupuncture was tested and compared with steroid pills for the hand and arm pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. Researchers in Taiwan gave one group eight acupuncture treatments, over about a month, and those patients reported more relief, for a longer time, than the group taking medicine. While studies like this have been promising, more evidence is still needed to confirm that acupuncture is effective for carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Soothes Indigestion – Brazilian researchers recently published research finding that acupuncture therapy alleviated heartburn and indigestion in pregnant women. One group of pregnant women was given a combination of acupuncture and medications, and another group was counseled on dietary changes and given medications if needed. Over the course of the study, 75% of the women in the acupuncture group saw heartburn intensity, and antacid use, decline, while only 44% of women in the standard-treatment group saw those same effects.
- Counteracts Radiation Side Effects – Cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment are likely to suffer a variety of side effects, depending on the part of the body being treated. However, acupuncture therapy has been found to have some effect on the perception of how bad those effects can be, particularly for nausea and dry mouth, common in patients receiving radiation to the head and neck. A review of studies published in CA, a journal of the American Cancer Society, found that people undergoing radiation treatment perceived fewer negative side effects of radiation even though the side effects may still be there. For instance, in one study, patients who wore acupressure bands during treatment said they felt less nausea, although they still had the same occurrence of vomiting as they did before wearing the band, and in another study, people said they had less of a problem with dry mouth, even though measures of their saliva showed that levels remained the same. The acupuncture didn’t actually alleviate the symptoms, but it did help improve patients’ quality of life after treatment.
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