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Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. It is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy, called “qi”, that circulates through 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 throughout a meridian is how disease begins. Acupuncturists insert needles into specified points along meridian lines to influence the restore balance to the flow of qi. There are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body
Traditional Chinese medicine states that health is dependent on energy. If this energy flow is disrupted by infection, pain or anxiety then physical symptoms are triggered. By inserting fine, solid needles into these channels, the flow of energy – and the patient’s health – is restored.
As these channels are not mappable according to conventional western ideas of anatomy, acupuncture is sometimes considered unscientific. However, studies show it can trigger the release of endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers – as well as stimulate some nerve fibres that block pain. In skilled hands, acupuncture is safe and relatively painless. Most practitioners recommend six to eight treatments. Western medicine accepts its benefits for relief of pain-related conditions, such back problems and migraines, but it is also commonly used for other ailments, such as sinus and bladder conditions. A practitioner should be registered with the local health authority.
There are specific points best avoided in pregnancy although acupuncture is effective for morning sickness. It is often cited as helping people to quit smoking, and though there is little consistent evidence, withdrawal symptoms from other harder drugs may be lessened. More controversially, a report earlier this year in the British Medical Journal reported that women treated with acupuncture could increase IVF success by 65%.
In 1997, acupuncture needles were reclassified from “experimental” to “medical device” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The National Institutes of Health released a consensus statment in the same year endorsing acupuncture for the treatment of a variety of conditions such as post-operative pain, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Acupuncture is one of the best known of the alternative therapies. The FDA estimates that people in the United States spend more than $500 million annually on acupuncture treatments. Many people have insurance coverage for acupuncture.There are numerous theories about how acupuncture works. Some of them are:
*acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins
*acupuncture influences the release of neurotransmitters, substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain
*acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system
*acupuncture stimulates circulation
*acupuncture influences the electrical currents of the body
*It relieves migraines and tension headaches
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