You’ve probably heard of acupuncture and probably associate it with the Chinese. You would be correct to associate it with the Chinese because acupuncture is a staple of traditional Chinese Medicine. But do you know what acupuncture is and what it is used for?
Acupuncture has been around and practiced for centuries. Though it is a staple of Chinese medicine, until the last decade it was not even considered as an option by western medical practitioners. Its growing popularity, however, has spurred some doctors to take courses in it and get certified as acupuncture practitioners. And it isn’t just the popularity of it, the science has verified that there is some benefit to acupuncture, particularly for patients who don’t respond to traditional western treatment methods.
The practice of acupuncture involves taking hair-thin needles and inserting them through the skin. The places where the acupuncture needles are inserted are purported to correct imbalances in the body’s energy flow, known as Qi (pronounced “chee”). In Western terminology, the points at which the needles are inserted will impact your neurotransmitters, hormone levels or the immune system. For acupuncture treatment of back pain, for example, the needles are blocking neurotransmitters that stop the pain signal.
Chronic back pain is one of the common reasons that people visit and acupuncturist. Western medicine usually prescribes pain medication of varying strengths, exercise and heating pads for the treatment of lower back pain. Many people don’t respond to this treatment. For others, especially if this is a chronic condition, they build up a tolerance to the pain medication and it either no longer works or the dosage must be increased to make it work. If the pain medication is an opiate or opioid this increases the potential for dependency. In cases such as these acupuncture becomes a very viable alternative.
Due to its popularity, many studies have been done on acupuncture, but the nature of back pain makes it difficult to produce qualitative data on its efficiency. However, according to the Harvard Health Blog, international researchers consolidated the results of 29 studies that have been performed on 18,000 people. With the various studies pooled, the researchers determined that acupuncture relieved the pain of 50 percent of the participants in the studies. This data is promising and may lead to alternative methods of handling chronic back pain.
Very few complications have been reported as a result of acupuncture treatment that is performed correctly. The most common complications reported are a result of non-sterile needles or an improperly performed procedure. Licensed acupuncture practitioners do not manifest these types of problems because they are trained in proper technique and the importance of sterile needles. Unfortunately, there are a lot of sham practitioners out there. If you opt to have an acupuncture treatment for your back, you must ensure that your practitioner is certified and licensed to perform the procedure. If you live in the Highland Village, Texas area you can contact Epic Healthcare at (972) 355-0083. The folks at Epic Healthcare are licensed and can help you with your acupuncture procedure.
According to Chinese Medicine the body must be maintained in a balanced state. When it is unbalanced you are plagued by illness or pain depending on where the imbalance is. To correct the imbalance the energy flow must be corrected to rebalance your body.
The energy moves along meridians, or pathways, that run through your body. Along these pathways are acupoints. These needles are inserted at the specific acupoints and the needles are left in for a proscribed period of time, usually a number of seconds or minutes. Patients feel no pain, but sometimes report a dull ache or tingling at the entry point. It is known that after 10 minutes endorphins are released, these are natural pain killers, and after 20 minutes they reach their maximum release.
The Harvard Health Blog notes a mapping that was made of the meridians using a radioactive isotope typically used in nuclear medicine. The results of the mapping shows that when the traditional acupoints were stimulated the tracer rapidly progressed along the line of the meridian. It also showed that placing the needle at an acupoint on the lower leg that acupuncturists associate with the eye, activated occipital cortex of the brain. This demonstrates the value of the meridians and explains why needles inserted in what we would consider odd places can affect something in an entirely different part of the body.
There are several theories about how this works. One is that the needle affects the cerebro-spinal fluid and releases naturally occurring pain blockers. Another is that it works similarly to TENS units that are used to stimulate nerves. More research is sure to be performed.