If you say the word acupuncture to someone the first notion they will have in their mind is ‘back pain’. The reality is that there are a vast number of reasons why acupuncture is used and there are a wide variety of health conditions that acupuncture can assist in either curing or preventing.
Founded in Ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the practice of inserting very fine needles in to various pressure points of skin on the back. It has been a common form of treatment in Far Eastern societies for headaches, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, migraines, infertility as well as many other common ailments for centuries. In Western medicine it is not used for such a variety of symptoms but it is commonly accepted and used for chronic lower back pain, chronic headaches and migraines. In the UK this is supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) who recommend acupuncture as a form of treatment for these symptoms based on well founded scientific evidence. So we can see that there is a whole lot of weight behind the benefits of acupuncture.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The Ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture dates back over 2500 years and the doctrine behind it states that there are over 2000 energy points in the body that allow energy (life force) to flow through the body along channels known as ‘meridians’. The energy (also known as Qi) should be allowed to flow freely around the body and the Ancient Chinese belief is that if Qi is not allowed to flow around the body freely (perhaps because of blockages) then the insertion of fine needles in to the energy points can restart the movement and create a better overall balance.
Scientists do not necessarily back up the spiritual notion of life energy flowing through the body but they do nevertheless support the use of acupuncture. Another theory behind this natural treatment is that the practice of acupuncture speeds up the relay of electromagnetic signals, which in turn releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. A similar theory states that another reason may be that acupuncture releases opioids in the brain, which can once again numb the sense of pain.
Whatever the reason for acupuncture being an effective pain reliever, there is pretty much unanimous support for it from all quarters.
Acupuncture For Back Pain
As stated right at the beginning of this article, back pain is the single biggest reason for most people wanting to find out more about acupuncture. This is not surprising given that almost 80% of us will experience some form of lower back pain at some point in our lives.
The American Pain Society have gone on record as stating that doctors in the US should give serious consideration to the use of acupuncture on patients with lower back pain if more conventional treatments prove unsuccessful at alleviating the pain.
Although acupuncture is still considered to be an alternative form of therapy for back pain, it is widely practiced in Western medicine for this painful condition. There are very few risks or side effects associated with it and more contemporary treatments tend to have more side effects and are not proven to be any more effective in the treatment of lower back pain.
Acupuncture For Headaches And Migraines
Similar to lower back pain, acupuncture is an effective remedy for chronic tension type headaches and chronic migraines. There are a number of studies to support the relief provided by acupuncture to patients with headaches.
Linde K et al in their study ‘Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis’ found that from a clinical trial of 22 patients, the ones who received acupuncture as a form of therapy compared to those who did not, had fewer headaches. This study went on to say that patients who received acupuncture reported that the treatment was at least as effective, if not more effective than treatment with drugs and that there were fewer adverse effects.
Acupuncture For Allergies
Although less widely accepted in Western medicine, there is a bank of evidence to suggest that acupuncture is beneficial to patients with allergies, and more specifically those with nasal allergies. A South Korean study has produced some overwhelming evidence to support the use of acupuncture (twice weekly 20 minute sessions) in the treatment of chronic rhino sinusitis and allergic rhinitis in which patients’ symptoms and quality of life scores increased dramatically.
Acupuncture For Anxiety
Anxiety is an invisible illness that can be severely debilitating for the patient and it is difficult for many doctors to understand why or how acupuncture can be beneficial in treating it…. But it is! This perhaps comes back to the Ancient Chinese doctrine about energy flows and Qi.
Acupuncture as a treatment for anxiety has been found to be highly effective and the British Acupuncture Council offer one very sound reason as to why it might be quite so effective. They state that a patient who is suffering with anxiety is so unique that an acupuncturist has the flexibility to cater the treatment to the exact needs of the patient.
So, there we have it… acupuncture (a physical act with a spiritual philosophy) being used to treat physical and psychological symptoms. It appears to be only a matter of time until Western science wakes up to the many other benefits that acupuncture can bring to its patients.