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Theories and Facts About Acupuncture

Updated on July 14, 2011

Alternative Medicine

Acupuncture is a means of relieving pain by means of inserting fine, thin needles to specific nerve points on the human body. The method is believed to have its origin in China and has been used there for at least 2,500 years. However, the definition and characterization of these points are controversial.

In history past, warriors noticed when they were injured on certain parts of the body they became cured of certain diseases and ailments. The Chinese refined this art of applying pressure to certain body parts which eventually became known as Acupuncture and Acupressure, forms of holistic healing.

An example of acupuncture treatment in western medicine would be vascular headaches which are commonly treated with aspirin or other medication such as niacin that dilate affected blood vessels in the scalp. But in acupuncture a common treatment is stimulating sensitive points located between the thumbs and the palms. Most modern acupuncturists use disposable stainless steel needles of fine diameter sterilized with ethylene oxide or by autoclave.

Currently, more than 350 acupuncture points have been identified. Inserting needles to these locations in a variety of combinations has provided instant relief from many types of pains.

Yin and Yang

Acupuncture is classified as alternative medicine. How it works isn’t exactly known, but it’s generally accepted, proper functioning of the human body is controlled by the Yin and theYang, two opposite types of body energy.

Yin is the female energy described as cold and passive while Yang is the male energy, warm and light. It is thought these energies run through pathways called 'meridians' or acupuncture points. Supposedly, as long as these two energies are in harmony, the body is healthy.

Today acupuncture is widely practiced in the United States. The treatment procedure depends on what problem a patient has and involves stimulating specific nerve points. The method adopted determines the type and size needle and depth of insertion. Needles are usually kept inserted for up to 20-30 minutes.

When a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, the nerve fiber gets simulated and sends a signal to nerves in the spinal cord. The brain then releases chemicals such as enkephalin and dynorphin which blocks incoming pain signals. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland may also be stimulated releasing, other therapeutic body chemicals.

Traditionally, needles have been used for nerve stimulation. However, today needle refinements using magnets or arelatively new method of stimulation, laser acupuncture has been introduced.Laser acupuncture usually uses low-energy laser beams instead of traditional acupuncture needles to influence the flow of current at the acupuncture points.The procedure has distinct advantages. Many patients who are usually afraid of needles, such as children, prefer laser acupuncture. In addition, it’s a noninvasive, aseptic procedure, which significantly reduces pain and recovery time.

Laser therapy also significantly reduces patient trauma and is usually preferred for treating conditions where risk of cross infection is high. However the effectiveness of this treatment is often limited to peripheral points on a patient’s hands, feet and ears. Deeper abdominal points do not usually benefit from the treatment. Most laser beams used cannot penetrate beyond 0.19 inches

Like acupuncture, acupressure is also a form of holistic healing and is based on the same principles. Unlike acupuncture, where needles are inserted, acupressure is simply applying pressure is applied to the meridian points. Acupuncture has been successfully used for stroke rehabilitation, headache, myofascial pain, low back pain, asthma, tennis elbow, addiction, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other conditions people say have been alleviated or improved by acupuncture are: some allergies, depression, urinary problems, gynecological matters and obesity issues. Furthermore, it is also claimed to aid in treating anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems and infertility. There are many other conditions in which acupuncture has been utilized such as chemotherapy nausea and even dental pain.

However, despite these apparent successes, practitioners of traditional medicine have often been highly skeptical of the technique. On the other hand countless others hail it as practically a miracle cure.

Various theories to how acupuncture works have been suggested. According to the Neurotransmitter Theory, acupuncture works by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters such as Serotonin and Noradrenaline. The Circulatory System Theory proposes effects are the result of vasodilators being released that aids in blood circulation.

One other, The Endorphin Theory, claims weight loss is achieved by the release of endorphins, thereby producing a calming and relaxing effect on the body. Because stress causes some people to binge, acupuncture supposedly uses this property to control overeating.

Why use acupuncture? It is drug-free and heals causes as well as symptoms.

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