Acupuncture, which can be used to treat a broad range of conditions and is a treatment which encourages the patient's body to cure itself, is one of the oldest medical procedures in the world. It had its origins in China, more than 2500 years ago; some even believe it to be as long as 4000 years ago.
In acupuncture, the nerves in the skin and muscles are stimulated by the penetration of thin, metallic, solid needles at anatomic points also known as acupuncture points or acupoints and this produces a wide variety of effects. It causes the system to increase the release of natural painkillers. These natural painkillers, endorphin and serotonin, are released in the pain pathway of the brain and the spinal cord causing the pain signals which are received to be modified.
In acupuncture the Chinese terms jing luo means meridian or channel and qi (chi) means natural energy or vital energy and xue mean acupuncture points or acupoints. It is believed that qi or energy circulates throughout the body through the jing luo or the channels or meridians of which there are about 12 main ones and about 8 minor ones. The acupuncture points are the locations of the meridians or channels found close to the surface of our body. There may be about 2000 of these acupoints used for various treatments.
There are two common terms in the traditional Chinese medicine system. They are yin and yang. Yin is thought to be the cold, passive or female principle whilst yang is thought to be the hot, active or male principle. They are two opposite forces. A state of harmony is said to be achieved when these two opposing forces are in balance. If there is an imbalance of the two, the flow of vital energy or natural energy is blocked and it is believed that disease and all other ailments come about as a result of this imbalance. This imbalance can occur when a person is depressed, due to grief, anger or fear, stressed or when it is very cold, very hot, humid, windy or dry. Factors such as an improper diet, exhaustion, overwork and too much sex can bring about this imbalance as well.
Acupuncture can restore this imbalance of energy. It is done by piercing these acupoints with the needles which then causes a stimulation causing it to counteract the imbalance.
There are relatively few complications using acupuncture but there are certain risks involved if acupuncture is not used by trained and qualified acupuncture practitioners. Improper use of needles could result in certain organs being pierced, fainting, convulsions, nerve damage and also the onset of infections and also allergic reaction. If the needle is not placed properly, it can cause soreness and pain. If the needles are defective, blunt or if the patient moves, this could also lead to pain. If you have acupuncture when you are pregnant, there is possibility of harming the fetus as stimulation of the production of the hormone adrenocorticotropic and oxytocin which affects labor may take place.
Stimulation of the immune system is said to be brought about by acupuncture. It also has an effect on the release of various hormones that take part in helping the body to react to injury and stress. In cases where the use of Western medicine is said to be very limited, like chronic pain management and drug addiction, acupuncture has shown encouraging results.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Acupuncture