Acupuncture is an ancient form of alternative Chinese medicine dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years. It comes from the Latin word “acus” which means needle, and “puncture” which means to puncture.
The practice involves thin needles being inserted into the body to heal illnesses. The idea behind acupuncture is that there are meridians or energy flows throughout the body otherwise known as “Qi” (pronounced as “chee”) that are responsible for your health.
When there are disturbances or interferences in your Qi, that’s how diseases or illnesses occur.
It is therefore believed that when these needles are penetrated into the meridian points, it corrects the imbalance of energy flow and helps heal your body.
History & Practice
The practice of acupuncture originated approximately 2500-3000 years ago in China.
Throughout hundreds of years, it has spread to Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Tibet, and eventually to the United States. It may surprise you to hear that many insurance companies now cover acupuncture visits.
Once considered too unconventional, alternative, or foreign, acupuncture is now widely accepted, practiced, and sought after as an alternative treatment for people worldwide.
In fact, it is now slowly making its way into the current medical system.
Acupuncture to Treat Lower Back Pain
Research from a study found that 8 out of every 10 people will suffer from lower back at some point in time, and back pain is one of the main reasons that they will seek medical treatment.
Furthermore, back pain is the number 1 complaint from patients who undergo acupuncture. It has been found that acupuncture is a highly effective tool in treating the condition of chronic lower back pain.
To relieve back pain using acupuncture, thin needles are inserted into strategic points on your body at varying depths.
The central nervous system needs to be stimulated for effects to be felt. This can help kickstart the discharge of chemicals into the brain, spinal cord, and muscles.
These chemicals can help relieve you from pain or alter the uncomfortable feelings you’ve been experiencing.
It may also cause changes in your body that ultimately promote an overall sense of health and well-being.
For back pain, acupuncture is suggested to help relieve the pain by these following explanations:
- When the needles hit the right points in your body, it triggers the release of natural opioids, which are natural chemicals in the brain that help lessen or relieve pain or promote better and more restful sleep.
- It hastens the passage of electromagnetic signals and starts the relay of pain-relief chemicals such as endorphins. It may also release cells in the body that are helpful to our immune system.
- It changes the brain chemistry by altering the release and flow of neurohormones and neurotransmitters. Neurohormones affect the activity or function of organs in the body while neurotransmitters reduce or excite nerve impulses.
Other Uses for Acupuncture
In 2003, the World Health Organization published a report on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating the following conditions, symptoms, and diseases:
- Allergic Rhinitis
- Shoulder Inflammation
- Pain In The Neck, Back, Elbow And Knee
- Primary Dysmenorrhea
- Renal Colic
- Biliary Colic
- Essential Hypertension
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Pain During Dentistry And After Operations
- Induction Of Childbirth And Correction Of Malposition Of Fetus
- Adverse Reactions To Chemotherapy And Radiotherapy
- Acute Bacillary
- Nausea And Vomiting (Including Morning Sickness)
How to Find a Qualified Acupuncturist
In the United States, there are a variety of health care providers, aside from licensed acupuncturists, who may perform acupuncture:
- Medical Doctors
- Naturopathic Doctors
Depending on the state you live in, there are different laws regarding training and licensure requirements. In fact, California and Florida legally consider acupuncturists as primary care providers.
Thus, the degree and capacity of practitioner qualification and practice varies from state to state. These 2 degrees, Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and Master of Science in Acupuncture, take an average of three years to complete and both require high-level training in acupuncture.
For further training, some practitioners even receive a Doctorate Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
If you are looking for a licensed acupuncturist near you, check out the website of the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at www.nccaom.org and click on the tab that says “Find a Practitioner.”
Ask those you know who already practice alternative treatments if they know of a good acupuncturist, and get some feedback about their experiences.
Risks of Acupuncture
If you’ve done your research well and have found a certified and competent acupuncturist, then the risks that could come about from acupuncture are low.
However, like with all medical treatments, whether they are alternative, ancient, or modern, there could always be risks, complications, and possible side effects. Some possible risks and side effects of acupuncture are as follows:
- Bruising or soreness – After your acupuncture treatment, you may have minor bleeding from the needle insertion or removal, slight soreness, or bruising at areas where the needles were inserted.
- Infections – Licensed and certified acupuncturists are required and taught to use disposable and sterile needles. Any reused needle could make you susceptible to disease or illness.
- Injury – If needles are not handled the right way or inserted too deeply, it could cause injury to your internal organs, possibly your lungs. This happens very rarely, especially when dealing with an experienced and competent practitioner.
Those Not Qualified For Acupuncture Treatment
Just like any medical treatment, there are qualifications that need to be met before undergoing any type of therapeutic care.
Your acupuncturist will make you fill out a form stating what problems you’re experiencing, asking what medication you’re currently on, and other similar questions to determine is acupuncture is right for you.
Those candidates who generally should avoid undergoing acupuncture are people with the following conditions:
- Patients who have a pacemaker – Acupuncture may cause natural electrical impulses in your body, and there are types of acupuncture that even involve applying external pulses to the needles. This can disrupt the pacemaker’s usage and operation.
- Patients who are pregnant – It is believed that acupuncture can stimulate labor and that it could cause premature delivery. You should only use acupuncture during delivery when it is specifically needed to pregnancy related issues.
- Patients with bleeding disorders – Your risks of bruising or bleeding from the needles may increase if you have a bleeding condition or disorder.