Acupuncture is an invasive form of treatment that involves inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body, to various depths with the aim of balancing their energy, boost well-being and may cure some illnesses. Research suggests that it can help relieve pain and there is limited evidence for its effectiveness in areas other than pain and it may boost blood flow and change brain activity. . How acupuncture works scientifically remains unclear. Some people claim it works by balancing vital energy, while others believe it has a neurological effect or through neurohormonal pathways. Basically, you put the needle through specific points in the body and stimulate the nerve. The nerve actually sends signals to the brain, and the brain releases neural hormones such as beta-Endorphins. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system. This, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. After the needle is inserted, there is occasionally a dull ache at the base of the needle (This may be a sign that the treatment is working and the acupuncture point is being activated) that then subsides. There are very few side effects and it can be effectively combined with other treatments. Acupuncture itself doesn't directly release feel-good chemicals that can aid in inflammation, stress, and so forth, according to Study, but it works higher up the chain such as affecting the pituitary gland to produce the extra hormones.
Instead of needles, other forms of stimulation are sometimes used over the acupuncture points, including:
Heat (moxibustion), Pressure (acupressure), Friction, Suction (cupping), Impulses of electromagnetic energy
How does it work?
Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of “yin” and “yang” of the life force known as “qi,” pronounced “chi.” Illness is said to be the consequence of an imbalance of the forces. Qi is said to flow through meridians, or pathways, in the human body. Meridians are thought to encircle the body like global lines of longitude and latitude. Inserting needles into these points with appropriate combinations is said to bring the energy flow back into proper balance. The stimulation increases blood flow, while at the same time triggering the activity of the body’s natural painkillers.
It is proven to help in cases of: low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, knee pain, headache and migraine, whooping cough, high and low blood pressure, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, some gastric conditions, including peptic ulcer, painful periods, dysentery, allergic rhinitis, facial pain, morning sickness, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains, tennis elbow, sciatica, dental pain, reducing the risk of stroke, inducing labor. Because acupuncture can lessen pain, nausea, and vomiting, it is sometimes used to help people cope with symptoms of cancer or chemotherapy. It may also boost the effectiveness of fertility treatments.
The possible risks of acupuncture are: It is dangerous if a patient has a bleeding disorder or takes blood thinners., Bleeding, bruising, and soreness may occur at the insertion sites., Unsterilized needles may infect the patient. The needles must be sterile, nontoxic, and labelled for one use only, by a licensed practitioner. Some side effects include dizziness, fainting, local internal bleeding, convulsions, hepatitis B, dermatitis, nerve damage, increased pain, and very rarely injury to an internal organ. However, the needles can cause temporary soreness. As with any complementary therapy, it is advisable to use it alongside conventional treatments in cases of chronic or severe illness.
“There is no universal response to acupuncture. Some people feel relaxed and may be a little tired, others feel energized and ready for anything, some people experience an improvement right away and for others it can take several treatments before noticing a positive change.
Who Shouldn't Use Acupuncture?
People with bleeding disorders or who take blood thinners may have increased risk of bleeding. Electrical stimulation of the needles can cause problems for people with pacemakers or other electrical devices. Pregnant women should talk with their health care provider before having acupuncture. It's important not to skip conventional medical care or rely on acupuncture alone to treat diseases or severe pain.
Acupressure vs. Acupuncture
If you are afraid of needles, you may be able to get much of the same effect from acupressure. Acupressure involves pressing or massaging the acupuncture points to stimulate energy pathways.