Needles That Heal: Acupuncture
Okay I have to admit, I am now officially a HUGE advocate for acupuncture. I was never a skeptic before, but when you haven't experienced something for yourself it's difficult to really understand the power that it holds or the impact it can have. Now that I have experienced an AWESOME acupuncture session I am going to be screaming it's praises from the mountaintops! In this post I talk about Traditional Chinese Medicine, specifically acupuncture!
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that began thousands of years ago and has evolved through time. Our friends at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) describe acupuncture as "a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin needles through the skin." The philosophy behind acupuncture is based on the flow of energy along pathways in the body known as Qi or Chi (pronounced CHEE). The pathways between the points are called meridians and they also connect to internal organs in the body (see THIS article for more about meridians)! When the flow of Qi is interrupted with blocks or stagnation it can lead to symptoms of illness, pain or disease and is specific to which meridian has been blocked. The use of acupuncture needles, pressure or heat to manipulate separate points can enhance the flow of energy through the body and lead to physical and emotional healing.
Acupuncture and electroacupuncture have both been accepted worldwide for the treatment of numerous conditions, primarily acute and chronic pain. There is research that explores the science behind acupuncture and there are several explanations as to how the body responds on a chemical level to this process. Below I'll include excerpts from research articles on conditions that have been treated with acupuncture and the results:
Acupuncture for Chronic Pain:
"...acupuncture was superior to both sham and no-acupuncture control for each pain condition (P < .001 for all comparisons). After exclusion of an outlying set of RCTs that strongly favored acupuncture, the effect sizes were similar across pain conditions. Patients receiving acupuncture had less pain, with scores that were 0.23 (95% CI, 0.13-0.33), 0.16 (95% CI, 0.07-0.25), and 0.15 (95% CI, 0.07-0.24)...Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo." -Andrew J. Vickers; Angel M. Cronin; Alexandra C. Maschino; et al. (2012).
Treatment of Pain Associated with Scar Tissue (Case Report):
"The patient received a total of eight treatments in 5 weeks. The scar pain decreased from 7 to 1 or 2 on a Likert scale of 0-10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain. Acupuncture may have a good short-term pain-relieving effect on scar pain but its long- term scar-pain-relieving effects are still unclear. In TCM theory, scar tissues are considered Qi and blood stagnations in the Ying and Wei level (the superficial levels) due to trauma. The Ying Qi and Wei Qi cannot move smoothly through the scar area to defend and to nourish it. So there may be pain, itching, numbness, or other abnormal feelings." - Sheng Fang. (2014).
Acupuncture in Treating Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy:
"Acupuncture was signifi- cantly more effective than sham for treatment of numbness of the lower extremi- ties, spontaneous pain in the lower extremities, rigidity in the upper extremities and alterations in temperature perception in the lower extremities after therapy. Our pilot study has, therefore, provided evidence that acupuncture may be clini- cally useful for the radical treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy." -Yanqing Tong*, Hongyang Guo, Bing Han. (2010).
The NCCIH also recognizes headaches, knee pain/osteoarthritis, neck pain and low back pain as conditions that can be treated with acupuncture.
If you're interested further, you can also read THIS article about Acupuncture in Modern Society for an even more in depth look at the practice!
So, I booked my acupuncture session initially out of pure curiosity not necessarily because of an ailment, but I know acupuncture is beneficial as preventive medicine as well as relaxation so either way I would get the most out of my experience. However, about 3 days before my session I had the WORST and I mean an EXTREME seasonal allergy flare up. Total and complete sinus congestion, pressure, headache…the works. So when I was discussing my issues with the acupuncturist I was very vocal and descriptive about my symptoms. She explained that the needle insertion would feel like a tap and would be virtually painless except for maybe a pinch in the areas on my face. The first needles were inserted behind my ears and on my neck while I was seated upright, then I laid down and she placed them on points around the sinus cavities on my face (yes, my FACE!), my hands/arms and legs and feet. Once all points were placed she placed a eucalyptus and peppermint essential oil blend on my chest and nose to assist with clearing congestion and aiding in my relaxation. After about 25 minutes passed she re-entered the room and began removing the placed needles and I felt relaxed and my headache and sinus pressure was minimized to barely noticeable. At that point she said she wanted to also try a cupping method with me (Fire Cupping blog to come in the near future!) to target areas that correlated with the lungs to help with allergies. Four cups were heated by fire and placed on my back and within 3 minutes it was like magic, every bit of congestion and pressure was GONE. I went from not being able to hear due to deep congestion and having a pressure headache to feeling energized and renewed. To make sure this was a lasting effect and not a fluke I opted to avoid all over the counter allergy medications for the next few days and I was pleasantly surprised that the symptoms did not return. Long story short, it was the bomb and I definitely plan on incorporating this into my regular health practices.
Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects
Always check the credentials, background and experience of the practitioner you are considering using. Check their licensing and education to ensure your own safety and comfort.