Acupuncture, a type of treatment, involves inserting very thin needles into the skin at certain points on the body.
Research suggestsTrusted Source that it can help relieve pain, and it is used for a wide range of other complaints.
However, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there is limited evidence trusted Source of its effectiveness in areas other than pain.
It is not clear how acupuncture works scientifically. It is believed to balance vital energy. Others believe it causes neurological effects.
Scientists and Western doctors remain skeptical about acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncturists will inject needles into the body of patients in order to balance their energy.
It is believed that this can improve wellbeing and cure certain illnesses.
Conditions it is used for include different kinds of pain, such as headaches, blood pressure problems, whooping cough, and other conditions, among others.
Traditional Chinese medicine says that health is the result of a harmonious balance between the complementary extremes “yin” (pronounced “chi”) of the life force. Illness, however, is thought to be caused by an imbalance of these forces.
The human body is believed to have meridians or pathways that carry Qi. These meridians and energy flow are accessible via 350 acupuncture points.
These points can be restored to balance by inserting needles with the right combinations.
Although there is no scientific evidence that meridians or points of acupuncture exist, many studies have shown that acupuncture can be used for certain conditions.
Some experts have used a placebo, for results to be compared with those of genuine acupuncture.
While some studies suggest that acupuncture has similar benefits for patients as a placebo in some cases, others show that there are real benefits.
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 trusted Source in cases of:
- low peptic ulcer
- It can be painful
- allergic rhinitis
- Facial pain
- morning sickness
- rheumatoid arthritis
- tennis elbow
- Dental pain
- reducing the risk of stroke
- Inducing labor
Other conditions for which the WHO say that acupuncture may help but more evidence is needed include:
- Convalescence after surgery
- Substance, tobacco, and alcohol dependence
- Spine pain
- Stiff neck
- vascular dementia
- Pertussis or whooping cough
- Tourette syndrome
It may also be used to treat some infections such as those affecting the urinary tract and epidemic hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO.
They point out, however, that “only national health authorities can determine the diseases, symptoms, and conditions for which acupuncture treatment can be recommended.”
It can also be helpful to use acupuncture in this situation:
- It is safe if it is done correctly.
- Very few side effects are reported.
- You can combine it with other treatments.
- It can manage some types of pain.
- It could be helpful for patients who are not able to take pain medication.
The NCCIH recommends that people do not use acupuncture in place of regular health care providers.
Traditional Chinese medicine theory states that acupuncture points can be found on meridians. Through these meridians vital energy flows. This energy is called “qi” and “chi”.
A therapist will assess the condition of the patient, insert one or several thin, sterile needles and give advice about self-care and other complementary therapies such as Chinese herbs.
The needles will be inserted into the patient’s back, front, or side. Single-use disposable, sterilized needles should be used by an acupuncturist. The patient might feel a brief stinging sensation or tingling as each needle is inserted.
Sometimes, there will be a dull ache near the base of your needle after the needle has been inserted. This pain usually subsides once the needle is removed. Acupuncture can be relatively painless.
Sometimes the needles are heated or simulated rusted Source with electricity after insertion.
The needles will stay in place for between 5 and 30 minutes.
Individuals will require different treatment plans. For a chronic condition, a person may require one to two treatments per week for several months. Acute problems usually improve after eight to twelve sessions.
There are risks and benefits to all therapies.
There are potential risks to acupuncture:
- Patients who have bleeding disorders or take blood thinners are at risk.
- The insertion sites may experience bleeding, bruising, or soreness.
- Patients may be infected by needles that have not been sterilized.
- Rarely, a needle can break and cause damage to an internal organ.
- However, it is rare for a collapsed lung to occur if the tube is inserted into the chest or upper back.
The United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate acupuncture needles as medical devices. They must meet specific standards in their manufacture and labeling. The needles should be non-toxic and sterilized. They must also be labeled for one purpose only by a licensed practitioner.
It is recommended to use this complementary therapy in conjunction with conventional treatment for severe or chronic illnesses.
How can I find an acupuncturist in my area?
To find a licensed practitioner, visit the website for the National Certification Commission in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This board is required by most states to license practitioners. It is a good idea to inquire about the training and experience of practitioners.
The NCCIH points out that acupuncture is now covered by some insurance policies, but it’s important to verify first if the cost will be covered.
According to Costhelper Health, an acupuncture session and medical consultation will cost from $75 to $95, and a routine visit will cost between $50 and $70.