What is Acupuncture?

So, you’re curious about acupuncture and wondering: what exactly is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an extremely common treatment and alternative form of medicine that has been used for a very long time. It is one of the key components of Traditional Chinese Medicine and it is most commonly used to treat different kinds of pain. Although acupuncture has origins in China, it has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years.

The actual practice of acupuncture involves inserting very thin (and very sterilized) needles into a person's skin at strategic points in the body, and at various depths. This, in turn, promotes a natural healing response from your body. 

History of Acupuncture

As we explained earlier, Acupuncture has been around for a very, very long time. Some people date it all the way back to 6000 BC, when people used sharp bones and sharp stones instead of needles. They were inserted in specific parts of the body and renowned for their healing purposes. 

The first written accounts of acupuncture procedures appear in The Yellow Emperor's Classic Of Internal Medicine. This ancient treatise on health and disease is said to have been written by emperor Huangdi around 2600 BC. However, emperor Huangid was a semi-mythical figure. Many people believe there are several authors, and that the book was written much later—perhaps around 300 BC.

Still, acupuncture procedures were developed in the next few centuries, and it became a standard practice in China. Along with acupuncture, the Chinese used massage, herbs, and heat therapy to treat pain and disease. In the fifteenth century, bronze statues were built with acupuncture points that are still in use today. 

With the westernization of medicine, Acupuncture was actually officially outlawed in China in 1929. However, in 1949 it made a resurgence in China and started to spread throughout Korea, Japan, and other parts of Asia. 

In 1971, an American visited China, where he was treated with acupuncture for an emergency appendectomy. He would go on to chronicle the procedure to the prominent New York Times. With this, Western culture started to become aware of and very curious about the practice.

Acceptance finally came in the United States when the NIH (National Institutes of Health) consensus conference reported that there was positive support for acupuncture’s effectiveness. Since then, acupuncture has taken off and is a very common form of treatment for many people in the United States and around the world.

What Can Acupuncture Treat or Help With?

Acupuncture is used to treat multiple ailments, especially lower back pain. However, there’s also a number of other aches, pains, and ailments that it is said to heal, including the following:
  • Chemotherapy induced nausea or vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches and dental pain
  • Migraines
  • Labor pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Post-surgical soreness
  • Neck pain
  • Arthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Depression
  • Knee pain
  • Morning sickness
  • Sciatica
  • Hyper- and hypotension
  • Tobacco dependence
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • And more...

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture works by improving the body's function through stimulation of specific points in the body. These all-important points are called acupuncture points and they can help induce a very positive and all natural self-healing process in the body.

These acupuncture points are stimulated by inserting fine, sterile needles into the outer layer of the skin. After understanding your health history and giving you a brief physical evaluation, your acupuncturist will lay you down and gently place the needles into specific points, where they will stay from anywhere between five to 30 minutes. Patients often feel zero or minimal discomfort and pain, so there’s no need to worry. 

Often the acupuncturist will apply pressure, heat, or electrical stimulation to magnify the effects of this stimulation. Acupuncture is also often used alongside manual massage, heat therapy, and cupping.

Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing response, and modern research has demonstrated acupuncture’s effects on the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. It is commonly used to alleviate pain and promotes sleep, digestion, and overall health.

During and after the treatment, most patients report a very relaxed sensation.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

As long as you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner that uses sterilized needles, acupuncture is a very safe treatment.

First of all, the FDA regulates the equipment and requires that practitioners use single-use needles. As a matter of fact, you should be able to see your acupuncturist take each individual needle out of a sterile packet. This is important because it means that they are brand new and that the risk of infection is minimal. 

In stark contrast to most prescribed pain relievers, there are minimal side effects for acupuncture. This is why so many people find that acupuncture is a fantastic alternative to addictive prescription drugs, and why it has become so common in recent years.

However, it’s important to understand that acupuncture may not be right for you if you have a bleeding disorder or wear a pacemaker. Before trying acupuncture, you should talk to your doctor.