What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a part of traditional Chinese medicine. It is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy, called “qi” that circulates in the twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of “qi” in the meridian is the cause of disease.
Acupuncture literally means “needle piercing” the practice of inserting very fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific anatomic points in the body (called acupoints or acupuncture points) for therapeutic purposes. Along with the usual method of puncturing the skin with the fine needles, the practitioners of acupuncture also use heat, pressure, friction, suction, or impulses of electromagnetic energy to stimulate the points. The acupoints (acupuncture points) are stimulated to balance the movement of energy (qi) in the body to restore health.
History of acupuncture?
Acupuncture originated over three thousand years ago in China. It was discussed for the first time in the Chinese medical scripture known as Huang Di Nei Jing. In the sixth century, the practice of Chinese medicine began spreading to Japan along with the propagation of Buddhism.
In the beginning, bamboo and sharp stones were used for the Acupuncture treatment. Later on replaced with bamboo clips and fish bones. With the advancement in technology, metal needles began to be used for acupuncture treatment. It was in 17th century that Waichi Sugiyama, who wanted to develop a quick and painless method of insertion, developed a small tube like structure through which needles could be inserted. This technique continues to be used even today in all parts of the world by acupuncturists, particularly in Japan. At present, the needles used are as thin as hair due which the treatment has become painless.
Acupuncture gained attention in the United States when President Nixon visited China in 1972. Traveling with Nixon was New York Times reporter James Reston, who received acupuncture in China after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Reston was so impressed with the post-operative pain relief he experienced from the procedure that he wrote about acupuncture upon returning to the United States
In 1995, the acupuncture needles were accepted as medical instruments by the United States Food and Drug Administration. They assured that acupuncture needles were effective and safe for use. In 1997, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) formally recognized acupuncture as a mainstream medicine healing option with a statement documenting the procedure’s safety and efficacy for treating a range of health conditions. While awareness of acupuncture is growing, many conventional physicians are still unfamiliar with both the theory and practice of acupuncture. There are hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture now. Acupuncture has been used successfully in the treatment of conditions ranging from musculoskeletal problems (back pain, neck pain, and others), nausea, migraine headache, anxiety, and insomnia.
How does acupuncture work?
There are two explanations for Acupuncture –how does it work?
1. Eastern Explanation
2. Western Explanation
1. Eastern Explanation:
The Eastern Explanation is that Acupuncture works on the basis of life energy flowing through the body which is called Qi (pronounced chee) can be influenced and balanced by stimulating specific points on the body. These points are located along channels of energy known as meridians that connect all of our major organs. According to Chinese medical theory, illness arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced or is blocked.
2. Western Explanation:
Acupuncture points are areas of designated electrical sensitivity. Inserting needles at these points stimulates various sensory receptors that, in turn, stimulate nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system at the base of the brain.
The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing hormones. It is estimated that endorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine. Endorphins also play a big role in the functioning of the hormonal system. This is why acupuncture works well for back pain and arthritis and also for P.M.S. and infertility.
The substances released as a result of acupuncture not only relax the whole body, they regulate serotonin in the brain which plays a role in human and animal disposition. This is why depression is often treated with acupuncture. Some of the physiological effects observed throughout the body include increased circulation, decreased inflammation, relief from pain, relief of muscle spasms and increased T-cell count which stimulates the immune system.
The de qi sensation, or the numbing, tingling sensation caused by the needling, is thought to be essential to the therapeutic effect of acupuncture in TCM and some other styles of acupuncture. This sensation is a result of the activation of nerve fibbers, which are thought to transmit impulses to the spinal cord, thus activating the central nervous system.
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