What is acupuncture?

温哥华中医学校

Acupuncture – How does it work?

It might seem scary and painful to have needles inserted into the body, while acupunture, the traditional Chinese medical practice to such use needles, has been proven effective in a variety of ways. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine-based approach to treating a variety of conditions by triggering specific points on the skin with needles. 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. These meridiens and energy flows are accessible through 350 acupuncture points in the body.

Inserting needles into these points with appropriate combinations is said to bring the energy flow back into proper balance.

There is no scientific proof that the meridians or acupuncture points exist, and it is hard to prove that they either do or do not, but numerous studies suggest that acupuncture works for some conditions.

Some experts have used neuroscience to explain acupuncture. Acupuncture points are seen as places where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated. The stimulation increases blood flow, while at the same time triggering the activity of the body’s natural painkillers.

It is difficult to set up investigations using proper scientific controls, because of the invasive nature of acupuncture. In a clinical study, a control group would have to undergo sham treatment, or a placebo, for results to be compared with those of genuine acupuncture.

Some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, but others have indicated that there are some real benefits.

What does acupuncture do?

Research carried out in Germany has shown that acupuncture may help relieve tension headaches and migraines.

The NCCIH note that it has been proven to help in cases of:

  • low back pain
  • neck pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • knee pain
  • headache and migraine

They list additional disorders that may benefit from acupuncture, but which require further scientific confirmation.

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed a number of conditions in which they say acupuncture has been proven effective.

What are the benifits?

Despite its scary procedure, acupuncture is a proven safe treatment if performed correctly with very few side effects. It can be effectively used as a complementary treatment to other medical practices, especially to control and cure some types of pain. For those unsuitable for pain medications, acupuncture would be a great choice for pain relief.

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