Acupuncture is a treatment technique where an acupuncturist inserts thin needles in your skin to stimulate specific points of the body. Credible research shows that this technique helps relieve chronic pain, including knee pain (osteoarthritis), neck pain, and low-back pain. Other studies show that undergoing acupuncture helps relieve tension headaches and migraines. Additionally, our experience and clients suggest that there are plenty of cases to prove the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating conditions other than pain. In this article, you learn about what acupuncture entails, its benefits, and how to prepare for the treatment.
Overview of Acupuncture
Acupuncture originates from traditional Chinese methods used to treat health conditions like pain and stress. Acupuncturists say that the body has numerous points known as acupoints. On these points, the acupuncturist inserts thin steel needles through your skin. The primary aim of this technique is to rebalance your qi or what is commonly referred to as the body’s energy. The needles trigger the body to release natural chemicals that fight long-term/ chronic ailments or prevent symptoms.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncturists call the energy flowing through the body qi. They say that your health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ of the qi (pronounced as ‘chi.’) When the practitioner drives needles in your skin, the qi distributions form imbalances in the body’s energy that cause the ailment. Some acupuncture types rebalance qi with needles touching acupoints/ acupuncture points all over the body. Scientists suggest that qi flows through pathways/ meridians in the human body. Your body entails about 350 acupoints along 14 main meridians. These meridians are referred to as energy-carrying channels.
These needles stimulate your body systems to:
- Rebalance the body.
- React to symptoms or health conditions.
- Release body chemicals like endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers, chemicals, or neurotransmitters that control nerve impulses.
Some experts have employed neuroscience knowledge to show how acupuncture works. Acupoints are considered places where connective tissues, muscles, and nerves could be stimulated. Because of the stimulation, blood flow increases and triggers your body’s natural painkillers to act.
Type of Conditions that Require Acupuncture
Scientific studies have confirmed the effectiveness of acupuncture for many types of health issues. The majority use it to heal chronic pain. The NCCIH has confirmed acupuncture efficiency in various illnesses. These studies include:
For Knee pain or Osteoarthritis
Two hundred and eighty participants - men and women, participated in a 2014 clinical study that showed needle acupuncture relieves knee pain more efficiently than zero treatment. However, the studies showed that laser/ simulated acupuncture was more efficient than needle acupuncture. Study participants received about ten laser and needle acupuncture treatment sessions for 12 weeks. Previous studies have shown that acupuncture has better results than zero treatment, but simulated acupuncture is better at relieving knee pain.
In 2012, data analysis in acupuncture research showed that actual acupuncture was more efficient for knee pain than simulated acupuncture. Also, a 2010 systematic research for hip/ knee osteoarthritis showed that acupuncture was more efficient for pain relief than simulated or no acupuncture.
A systematic study of acupuncture studies was done in 2010 for hip/ knee osteoarthritis. The review showed that actual acupuncture had better results for knee pain than simulated or no acupuncture. The researchers discovered that the difference between laser and actual acupuncture was small. And, the disparity between acupuncture and no acupuncture was big.
For Headaches and Migraines
Researchers analyzed data on acupuncture studies participants in 2012 regarding tension headaches and migraines. The data analysis revealed that needle acupuncture was better than laser or no acupuncture in relieving the severity or frequency of headaches. A systematic review done in 2009 revealed that, like pain killers, needle and laser acupuncture relieve headaches.
In 2008, another systematic review showed that needle acupuncture had an advantage over laser acupuncture when reducing the intensity of tension-type headaches and the sum of days you experience headaches monthly. Yet another 2009 systematic review showed that combining acupuncture with usual care for migraines relieved migraine frequency.
For Back pain
In 2012, researchers studied acupuncture for back and neck pain and discovered that needle acupuncture was more efficient than laser or no acupuncture. In 2010, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality discovered that acupuncture healed low-back pain instantly; however, the treatment didn’t last for long.
In 2008, researchers conducted systematic research on acupuncture for back pain. They discovered that undergoing acupuncture and observing normal care is more efficient than care alone. Also, researchers discovered no difference between the effects of laser and needle acupuncture in patients suffering low-back pain.
The American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians issued clinical practice guidelines in 2007 suggesting that acupuncture is among the many non-drug approaches physicians could use if self-care practices are not effective. Self-care practices are those that patients can do by themselves, including over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, using heat, and exercise.
For Neck pain
In 2009, an analysis showed that needle acupuncture was more efficient in relieving neck pain than laser acupuncture. However, the analysis was based on a few pieces of evidence. A 14,000 participant study evaluated the effectiveness of adding acupuncture to normal care when treating neck pain. The study showed that participants noted greater pain relief than those who didn’t undergo the treatment.
For Other Conditions
Over 1200 participants took part in 10 clinical studies, and it was discovered that acupuncture could help relieve symptoms connected to cancer treatments. However, minimal evidence links acupuncture to healing depression. Since the 1970s, acupuncture has been used to help people treat smoking addiction.
The World Health Organization (WHO) listed other conditions that studies have shown acupuncture could treat. These are:
- Repetitive strain disorders and overuse syndrome.
- Pregnancy discomforts.
- Menopause and hot flashes.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Immune system problems.
- Face pain and other nerve discomforts.
- Cancer and cancer treatment side effects.
- Sports injuries.
- Menstrual cramps.
- Muscle pain.
Also, the WHO says that acupuncture could treat various ailments like epidemic hemorrhagic fever and urinary tract infection.
Types of Acupuncture
Acupuncturists use different techniques for different treatments. Those who edge more on ancient Chinese acupuncture techniques focus on directing the body’s energy flow/ qi. Others apply Western medicine, where they use needles to trigger the body’s systems. At Trinity Acupuncture, we use both Western and traditional Chinese approaches.
If you suffer from myofascial pain, your acupuncturist could use another approach. The condition affects muscles and their connective tissues. When your muscles are injured, stressed, or strained, they often create tight trigger points or painful knots. In one muscle, a trigger point could create pain in a different body part. Your acupuncturist could use trigger point therapy to relieve myofascial pain. Acupoints on your body are stimulated to relieve pain.
Benefits of Acupuncture
Numerous studies prove that acupuncture could be beneficial in that:
- Very few side effects have been reported after treatment.
- If performed correctly, this treatment is safe.
- It could help patients for whom pain relievers are not effective.
- It could control some pain types.
- When combined with other treatments, acupuncture could be effective.
Acupuncture Benefits for Headaches
Acupuncture restores the flow of positive energy in your body systems and removes the negative energy that causes pain. Acupuncture splits your body into several pressure points and zones. The needles stimulate your nerves to release pain-relieving hormones like endorphins. In return, endorphins relieve tension headaches and migraines.
Pre-Treatment and Preparation
No special preparation is needed before undergoing acupuncture. All that is needed is choosing a certified and experienced provider. To choose the ideal practitioner, follow the steps below:
- Ask for recommendations from patients who have undergone acupuncture before.
- Review the credentials the acupuncture has and inquire about their treatment. You want to be sure that your provider passed the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exams.
- Talk to the provider and ask questions like what’s involved in the treatment, how acupuncture will help your condition, and the approximate treatment cost.
Notify your doctor that you are looking to undergo acupuncture, and they will tell you of the success rate and even recommend you to an excellent acupuncturist.
How Acupuncture is Performed
During the acupuncturist appointment, you discuss your condition. After the talk, the practitioner examines your body for acupoints. These are the points that the acupuncturist drives needles into throughout the body. The needles are usually sterile and disposable, so you don't have to worry about contracting diseases.
You lie down on your back, one side, or the front. The position depends on where the acupuncturist will insert the needles. The treatment involves:
- Needle insertion. The needles’ thinness is akin to human hair strands. The provider inserts these needles at various depths, for example, a fraction of an inch to a couple of inches. You stay still with the needles inside your skin for 20-30 minutes.
- Needle manipulation. The provider could gently twist the needles after insertion, and they could apply mild electric pulses or heat to stimulate them.
- Needle removal. When the practitioner is removing the needles, you don’t feel any discomfort.
After the procedure, you could feel relaxed or energized. Individuals respond differently to acupuncture treatment. If your symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks, then acupuncture is not your ideal treatment.
What Acupuncture Feels Like
When the acupuncturist inserts the needles in your skin, you could feel a slight prick. The pain is lesser than that of a vaccine injection or drawing blood. Also, acupuncture needles are not hollow like medical needles - they are solid. On rare occasions, the needles could cause muscle sensations like tingling or dull ache. At times, the needles are stimulated or heated using eclectic current after insertion. The provider should ask you to notify them when you feel numbness or deep heaviness. These sensations mean that the treatment is working.
Post Treatment Care and Follow-Up
Because acupuncture gives you a calming effect, you want to have someone to drive you home after undergoing the treatment, especially if it is the first treatment. In case you are alone, rest for about 10 minutes before driving. Your provider could suggest that you have bed rest for a day or two after every session.
How Often Should I Undergo Treatments?
You undergo treatments according to your health condition, the condition’s severity, and how your body responds. For example, a chronic condition patient could need two treatments weekly for many months. Many patients visit their practitioners every other week. Others receive treatment more often, depending on how long the acupuncture effect lasts. You should talk to your acupuncture to recommend a schedule that fits you. The odds are that you won’t enjoy acupuncture benefits after the first and second sessions. For full benefits, you want to undergo at least six treatments.
Will I Need Any Other Treatments Besides Acupuncture?
You don’t want to undergo acupuncture to delay visiting a doctor for treatment. In many cases, patients undergo acupuncture together with other treatments. For instance, people suffering chronic pain could take medication and undergo acupuncture simultaneously. Other cancer patients can receive treatment and also use acupuncture. It is recommended that you continue taking medication, regardless of how good acupuncture effects are on your body.
Potential Risks of Acupuncture
If a qualified provider performs acupuncture, you could experience a few side effects or complications. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set forth regulations for acupuncture treatment. Some regulations are that all needles must be steel, sterile, non-toxic, solid, and have visible and proper labels. The agency requires that all professionals use acupuncture needles and dispose of them in a stipulated way after a single use.
Receiving this treatment from an unqualified acupuncturist could be harmful. Only a few complications after undergoing acupuncture have been reported. You risk sustaining injuries when receiving treatment from an untrained provider or one who uses non-sterile needles, including central nervous system injuries, organ punctures, and infections.
Find a Certified Acupuncturist Near Me
While acupuncture is proven to be effective in treating certain ailments, as explained above, the treatment cannot replace conventional medicine. Talk to your doctor to ascertain that acupuncture is safe for you. At Trinity Acupuncture, we are a holistic healing clinic offering acupuncture & traditional Chinese medicine. We are here to answer any questions you might have about acupuncture procedures. If you are looking for an experienced and certified acupuncturist in Torrance, CA, call us at 310-371-1777 for help.