By Margarita Nahapetyan
Acupuncture has been a major part of primary health care in China for the last 5,000 years. The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow Qi through the body that are essential for health. Qi is believed to flow through channels, called also meridians, in a body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through more than 350 acupuncture locations. Interruptions of this flow are considered to be responsible for illness. And by inserting needles into these points in various combinations, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
On the contrary, the Western explanation of acupuncture combines modern concepts of neuroscience. Many practitioners see the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to widen the activity of your body's natural painkillers and increase blood flow.
Acupuncture literally is translated as 'needle piercing,' the practice of inserting extremely thin needles into the skin to stimulate specific anatomic locations on or in the skin (known as acupoints, or acupuncture points) for medical purposes. Together with the usual method of puncturing the skin with the fine needles, the practitioners of acupuncture also use a variety of techniques, such as heat, pressure, friction, suction, or impulses of electromagnetic energy to stimulate the locations.
Although scientists do not completely understand how or why acupuncture works, some studies show that it provides a number of medical benefits. It is being practiced extensively for different medical purposes ranging from the prevention and treatment of disease, to relieving pain and anesthetizing patients for surgery. Like in most oriental medicine practices, acupuncture emphasizes on prevention. In traditional Chinese medicine, the highest form of acupuncture is given to enable people to live a long and healthy life.
Acupuncture is best known for the control of pain. However, acupuncture can treat a wide variety of common and uncommon disorders. According to the World Health Organization data, conditions that can be treated by acupuncture include arthritis, bursitis, headache, AIDS, Bell's palsy, bladder and kidney problems, breast enlargement, bronchitis, colds, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, epilepsy, fertility problems, fibromyalgia, flu, gynecologic disorders, high blood pressure, hot flushes, migraines, nausea, nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting), paralysis, post traumatic stress disorder, sciatica, sexual dysfunction, sinus problems, athletic injuries, and post traumatic and post surgical pain. It is also used for treating chronic pain associated with immune system dysfunction such as psoriasis (skin disorders), allergies, and asthma. Acupuncture is also known to be very effective for the treatment of mind and body disorders, such as anxiety, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, insomnia, PMS, menopausal symptoms, and depression. Some modern application of acupuncture is in the treatment of disorders such as alcoholism, drug addiction (cocaine and heroine), smoking, and just about anything else that might bother a human being.
As with most medical therapies, acupuncture has both benefits and risks. Remember, that acupuncture is safe when performed properly. It has very few side effects, and it can be useful as an addition to other treatment methods. Also, acupuncture helps control certain types of pain, and what is very good to know - it can be used as an alternative option if your organism does not accept, or you simply don't want to take a regular prescription medicine.
However, acupuncture may not be safe if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are using blood thinners. The most common side effects of acupuncture are soreness, bleeding or bruising at the needle spots. Rarely, but a needle may break or an internal organ might be injured. The most common serious injury reported from the needles of acupuncture has been accidental puncture of the lung. Other side effects include local bacterial infections at the site of needle insertion in the skin. But these risks are very low if you are in the hands of a competent and trained acupuncture practitioner.
Acupuncture seems to be useful as a stand-alone treatment for some conditions, but it is also being used more and more in combination with more conventional Western medical treatments. Lots of medical practitioners these days combine acupuncture and prescription drugs to help, for example, control pain and nausea after surgery and in post-operative dental plan.
Today acupuncture, in one form or another, is practiced in many countries, both developed and developing, by thousands of acupuncturists on millions of people and their animals. To really understand how acupuncture works, it is necessary to get acquainted and understand the basics of Chinese philosophy. The philosophies of the Dao or Tao, yin and yang, the eight principles, the three treasures and the five elements are all fundamental to traditional Chinese acupuncture and its main goal to help people maintain their well-being and good health.