What Is Acupuncture? Know Its Benefits, Risks, Side Effects, Effectiveness

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest and popular medical procedures. Acupuncture is of Chinese origin and has been in practice for more than 2500 years now, but it was only during the last few decades that it began to spread rapidly in the western world including Europe, Canada and the United States.

What is Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment is done by inserting very thin needles through the skin at strategic acupuncture points in the body. The needles are inserted to different depths based on the strategy of treatment.

Though there is no scientific data to prove the functionality of acupuncture and the concept remains controversial and may seem magical to the doctors trained in modern medicine, acupuncture does have therapeutic benefits mainly involving pain relief along with few other problems like treatment of nausea caused due to chemotherapy.

According to traditional Chinese acupuncture theory, human body has more than 300 acupuncture points that connect to different meridians or pathways through which Qi (pronounced as chi) vital energy runs. As stated earlier, there is no anatomical or scientific proof of existence of these acupuncture points or the meridians.

According to Chinese medicine, health is the result of a harmonious balance between the complementary extremes of the life force (known as yin and yang). When the balance between these forces gets disturbed and the flow of energy is altered, that is when the illness starts. According to the concept of acupuncture, flow of energy can be restored back to normal with needles inserted into the appropriate acupuncture points in right depths and combinations.

Benefits of Acupuncture

  • It is safe when performed correctly.
  • Very few side effects have been reported.
  • A very effective combination treatment.
  • Very effective in controlling different types of pains.
  • Patients who do not respond to pain medications have it as a good alternative.
  • A good alternative for patients who want to avoid pain medications.

Research Indicates That Acupuncture Has Been An Effective Treatment For Many Conditions As Listed Below:

  • Headache: Acupuncture may be effective in alleviating symptoms of tension headaches.
  • Migraine: Acupuncture may be effective in alleviating symptoms of migraines.
  • Fibromyalgia: Acupuncture can be helpful for fibromyalgia, but the efficacy is uncertain due to lack of proper evidence.
  • Surgery: Acupuncture when used before and during surgery significantly reduces the pain levels and the amount of painkillers needed after the surgery is minimal.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Acupuncture may be helpful in treating symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, but results may not be good always.
  • Back Pain: Acupuncture for low back pain is considered by several physicians when patients suffering with chronic low back pain do not respond to the conventional treatment. A combination of acupuncture along with the conventional treatment has proven to be more effective than just the conventional treatment alone for treatment of chronic low-back pain.
  • Myofascial Pain: Acupuncture may be helpful in treating myofascial pain, which pain occurs in sensitive areas in the muscles.
  • Neck Pain: Acupuncture has been found to be a good treatment for chronic neck pain. Acupuncture has proven to provide better pain relief than some other simulated treatments.
  • Osteoarthritis: Acupuncture has been found to be effective treatment for osteoarthritis, knee pain in particular.
  • Dental Pain: Acupuncture has been identified as a promising treatment for postoperative dental pain, especially following tooth extraction.
  • Tennis Elbow: Acupuncture has been found to be promising for tennis elbow or lateral epicondylar pain in providing short term pain relief.
  • Hypertension: Acupuncture has been found to be helpful in treating symptoms of hypertension.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Acupuncture may help with symptoms of indigestion, generally experienced by pregnant women.
  • Gynecologic Problems: Studies have shown that acupuncture may be helpful in women with painful periods.
  • Menstrual Cramps: Acupuncture has been found to be helpful with pain from menstrual cramps.

Acupuncture for other pain conditions such as pregnancy-related pelvic and back pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction are still being researched.

Risks and Side Effects of Acupuncture

  • Acupuncture is generally safe when performed using sterile needles under the care of an experienced practitioner. However, there may be some minor side effects.
  • Needles may break and cause damage to the internal tissues, but that is a rare case.
  • Collapsing of the lungs can occur if the needle is inserted deeper than needed in the upper back of chest though this too is very rare.
  • Minor bruises or bleeding may result due to the use of needles.
  • Please note that People suffering from bleeding disorders or people who are on blood thinners like Coumadin, are not eligible for acupuncture treatment.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 22, 2019

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