Acupuncture has survived for centuries and is now being integrated with Western medicine to provide integrated medical care for patients. It has been shown effective in relieving pain from surgery, from dental procedures, and from general pain caused by inflammation. It has been shown to relieve nausea from pregnancy or chemotherapy. It has a positive effect on mood, and has been shown to reduce anxiety and panic disorders. It also has been shown to reduce depression. And all of this occurs without the complications that frequently occur from pain relieving medication.
Early History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is believed to have originated in ancient China. References to therapies resembling acupuncture exist in texts from about 100 BC. The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was published during the Ming Dynasty. This document covers the fundamentals of acupuncture as it exists today.
Over the years, various aspects of acupuncture theory were brought together with other healing techniques such as herbal medicine and formed the basis of traditional Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture in the United States
In 1971 a member of the US press corps was in China preparing for President Nixon’s visit and had to have an emergency appendectomy. During his recovery, he was given acupuncture treatment and then described his experience in the New York Times. This created a significant interest in the technique among US physicians. Although not broadly adopted at that time, it did trigger increased interest and investigation of acupuncture in the US medical community.
Acupuncture gained momentum in the US when the National Institute of Health conference reported that there was evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in a specific range of conditions.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture has an effect on every major system of the body. It is used to relieve pain and to relieve inflammation. Western medicine is learning that a significant amount of disease and serious health conditions is the result of inflammatory processes. Since most diseases also are accompanied by pain, acupuncture can play a major role in improving a patient’s experience with disease by reducing both pain and inflammation.
Acupuncture has an effect on reducing pain and inflammation by multiple routes:
- It increases blood flow to the treated area. Blood brings nutrients and oxygen to the diseased area and this promotes healing.
- Acupuncture helps reduce stress. Stress has been shown to affect the immune system and is a contributor to almost every disease. Stress reduction is critical in improving health.
- Acupuncture is able to relax muscles which releases pressure on joints and nerves.
- Acupuncture also triggers the body’s natural ability to heal itself. The acupuncture needles cause trauma. As the body heals those trauma sites, it also heals tissue damage in surrounding areas
- Acupuncture releases the body’s own painkillers. The body releases endorphins, enkephalin and norepinephrine – natural painkillers that are significantly more powerful than some opiate drugs.
Scientific Studies Confirm Effectiveness of Acupuncture
The World Health Organization, WHO, did a massive review of numerous clinical studies involving acupuncture in 2003. According to their report, acupuncture effects the body through multiple mechanisms. These include:
- Activating the natural opioid system of the body which reduces pain and helps sleep.
- Stimulating neurotransmitter secretions that help brain chemistry
- Stimulating electromagnetic signals that help release immune system cells
- Stimulating the pituitary gland and hypothalamus
- Shutting down your experience of pain by shutting down deeper brain regions – deactivating parts of the brain involved in pain.
Acupuncture for Pain Relief
According to that same WHO analysis, the proportion of chronic pain that is relieved by acupuncture is in the range from 55-85 percent. This is comparable to the pain relief of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.
Acupuncture has been shown effective against a wide variety of pain including headache, knee pain, facial pain, back pain, and dental pain.
Acupuncture has been shown in numerous clinical studies to have a significant positive effect on many body systems. It has been shown to be particularly effective on pain management without the numerous significant side effects caused by drugs used for pain management.
It is critical to have acupuncture treatments done by a properly trained practitioner who has both the skill for accurate diagnosis and the training for successful acupuncture treatments. You should talk to your physician about your individual situation and learn whether acupuncture is recommended for you.