Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin. There are different ways of explaining acupuncture. If you ask Western practitioners, they will tell you that acupuncture is a way to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is seen as a technique to balance the life force, which passes through specific meridians in the body. Regardless of the definition, the benefits of acupuncture are immense, and more and more studies are validating this ancient practice.
Acupuncture Treatment: What to Expect
What Does Science Say About the Benefits of Acupuncture?
1. Helps Reduce Chronic Pain
2. May Prevent Headaches
3. Helps Manage Cancer Pain
4. May Help Treat Insomnia
5. May Help with Parkinson’s
6. Supports Health During Pregnancy
According to traditional Chinese medicine, there are 14 major meridians within the body. These channels include hundreds of points, located over major organs, where needles can be inserted. Acupuncturists believe that the insertion of needles in these meridians can balance the flow of energy and boost overall health. Some of the main acupuncture meridians include the heart meridian, lung meridian, stomach meridian, large and small intestine meridians, and liver meridian, and this meridian map might just alleviate chronic symptoms you’ve been enduring for years.
Acupuncturists usually start by asking questions and making a preliminary assessment. They then choose the acupuncture points, identifying the location of the pain and the meridian affected. Then they determine the meridian that will best help balance the “sick” meridian and select the corresponding acupoints along them.
Depending on your sensitivity and the type of acupuncture performed, acupuncture is relatively painless. Some people feel nothing at all and fall asleep. Others who are more sensitive may feel a brief stinging sensation when the needles are inserted, but any discomfort shouldn’t be prolonged. The duration of acupuncture treatment varies from 5 to 45 minutes.
Acupuncture is considered part of alternative medicine, but several scientific studies have concluded that this technique may help to treat a variety of conditions, and it is especially effective in reducing pain. Acupuncture has been proven to help with:
- Chronic low back pain
- Headache and migraine
Many insurance plans include acupuncture treatment for joint and muscle pain, but the benefits of acupuncture go far beyond pain management.
A team of researchers in Germany analyzed the effects of acupuncture on patients with chronic low back pain. The trial included about 300 patients randomized to treatment with acupuncture, placebo acupuncture, or no acupuncture. Results showed that acupuncture was effective in reducing pain.
A meta-analysis that focused on four chronic pain conditions (back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain), also confirmed the positive impact of acupuncture. Researchers analyzed the data of about 18,000 patients and concluded that acupuncture is more than a placebo effect, and it is a reasonable option for the treatment of chronic pain.
Acupuncture is often used to prevent or reduce headaches. The main results of clinical trials suggest that acupuncture could be a valuable option in the treatment of chronic headaches and migraines.
Researchers investigated whether acupuncture is more effective than routine care, more effective than placebo acupuncture, and as effective as other interventions such as physiotherapy and massages. The team of scientists analyzed 11 trials that included more than 2,000 patients. Results found that acupuncture had significant short-term benefits and was more effective than placebo acupuncture. The use of acupuncture to treat headaches is still controversial, but the authors of the study believe that acupuncture could be a valuable option in the treatment of tension-type headaches.
Acupuncture has been listed by the National Cancer Institute as an effective method to manage cancer-related symptoms. The strong opioids that are given to patients to reduce cancer pain often have unpleasant side effects. The author of a study on cancer pain management believes that acupuncture could help patients deal with cancer pain. Additional research on the impact of acupuncture on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting showed that acupuncture may reduce the severity of these symptoms. A 2018 study of breast cancer survivors found that an equal number of patients preferred acupuncture treatment to medication to manage pain.
Acupuncture is commonly used to treat insomnia in China. Researchers from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine conducted a meta-analysis involving about 4,000 patients. Results showed that acupuncture reduced insomnia symptoms, compared to no treatment. Acupuncture combined with medications was more beneficial that medications alone on total sleep duration, and a treatment including acupuncture and herbs had better results than herbs alone. The other positive aspect of acupuncture is that it has no side effects, unlike medications.
Acupuncture has produced positive results when it comes to cognitive decline. A team of researchers analyzed the safety and efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Twenty patients received two acupuncture treatments per week. Results showed that 85% of patients experienced benefits; they noticed an improvement of symptoms such as tremor, pain, sleep, and anxiety. Researchers concluded that acupuncture is safe and well tolerated by patients with Parkinson’s disease. Although more trials are needed to confirm these results, the improvement of sleep was significant.
Acupuncture is becoming a popular remedy for pregnancy-related symptoms such as hormone balance, stress, anxiety, and pain during labor. Studies show that acupuncture is generally considered safe. Many women prefer to use non-pharmacological treatments during pregnancy because of concerns regarding drug use. Several surveys showed that a significant percentage of pregnant women have been using acupuncture to treat a variety of conditions that can affect women’s health and the health of the baby. If you are pregnant, and you are considering acupuncture, we highly recommend that you talk to your doctor before you start treatments.
More studies are needed to prove additional benefits of acupuncture, but preliminary research suggests that acupuncture may positively influence a number of other conditions, including infertility.
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