Rooted in Chinese tradition, the treatment of acupuncture has gained momentum in western societies as an integrative medicine for reducing persistent pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Its rising acceptance by patients and healthcare professionals alike is largely due to its proven effectiveness in managing certain health conditions. Both personal testimony and scientific research substantiate that acupuncture does promote physical and emotional well-being.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is performed by inserting hair-thin needles into strategic areas of your body. While the needles may cause a slight discomfort, a trained practitioner will know exactly where to place the needles to maximize the benefits of your treatment. Evidence suggests that the placement points of the needles stimulate a release of chemicals which allows for natural healing to occur.
During your initial evaluation, your acupuncturist will ask you about your symptoms, lifestyle, and behaviors. He or she will check over your general health, including blood pressure, pulse rate, and other relevant indicators. All treatments are tailored to the unique style of your acupuncturist and to the approach that best serves your needs.
What are the risks of acupuncture?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles. Common side effects include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use, disposable needles are now the standard of practice, so the risk of infection is minimal.
However, you may experience more adverse complications if you:
- Have a bleeding disorder. Your chances of bleeding or bruising from the needles increase if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re taking blood thinners.
- Have a pacemaker. Acupuncture that involves applying mild electrical pulses to the needles can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation.
- Are pregnant. Some types of acupuncture are thought to stimulate labor, which could result in a premature delivery.
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
John Hopkins Medicine suggests that acupuncture may be beneficial to those people who suffer from the following conditions:
- Pain and nausea: Dental pain, cancer chemotherapy, headaches, menstrual cramps, labor pain, carpal tunnel, low back pain, neck pain, postoperative pain, and muscle cramping.
- Emotional: Depression, anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, and neurosis.
- Respiratory: Allergic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, and Bronchitis.
- Miscellaneous: Gastritis, Arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Fibromyalgia, Sciatica, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Hemorrhoids, 0besity, addiction, male infertility.
What to consider when choosing acupuncture?
Flat out, acupuncture isn’t for everyone, so consider the following before making your decision.
(1) Learn as much as you can about acupuncture by doing your research and talking to people who have gone through it. Consult with your doctor about the pros and cons of acupuncture as they relate to your specific health and well-being.
(2) Check with your insurance to make certain that acupuncture is covered under your policy and for how many treatments.
(3) Select a licensed acupuncture practitioner with a solid reputation and work history. Your doctor may be able to recommend someone. You might also obtain referrals through your insurance company or the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
(4) Pending on your situation, you may be required to go through multiple acupuncture treatments. Before starting your regimen, speak to the acupuncturist about the number of treatments needed and the time and cost involved.
Acupuncture is well worth your effort to explore. Under optimal conditions, it can offer the results you deserve to improve your quality of life without the risky side effects that often accompany more conventional therapies. So, take a chance, try it out, and enjoy the benefits that acupuncture has to offer.
Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living
Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University and on the Board for LEARN Idaho. Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging. As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.