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Health & Wellness

When to Choose Acupuncture

Acupuncture comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM and many medical traditions focus on maintaining balance and proper function in the body, mind, and spirit. If the balance is maintained, then illness can’t get a foothold.

Acupuncture is an ancient practice where the practitioner inserts hair-thin needles into specific points in the body to clear blockages in the body’s energy system. When the energy system is blocked, what is beyond the block is not receiving what it requires to function in a full and healthy way. You might be more familiar with what happens when your circulatory system is blocked—apply the same thinking to your energy system.

The term energy suggests life force energy, called qi (chee), ki (key), or prana in other languages. The body’s energy system circulates the power to maintain health and vitality. When it’s blocked, individuals experience less vitality. As the blockage is allowed to remain, discomforts grow until eventually, the disease can set it. Acupuncture’s aim is to restore balance and vitality in the body to resist illness.

When individuals experience a physical challenge in the body, they visit a physician to resolve the problem. Sometimes, that works well, but sometimes it does not. Regardless, alternative therapies can always be explored.

Choosing acupuncture or some other wellness treatment generally doesn’t replace or hamper the protocol of traditional medicine but bolsters the well-being, vitality, and strength of your body to continue healing. The effect of acupuncture and other wellness traditions is often additive. So, don’t think of your treatment regimen as acupuncture or traditional medicine. Consider using them together with the consent of your physician.

woman receiving acupunture

Acupuncture Is Best-Known as a Pain Manager

Acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) which can direct the body to respond by releasing hormones or by creating other changes in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These changes can stimulate the body’s natural healing response to attain greater wellbeing. 1

Initially, acupuncture was sought after for pain management. Patients who suffer from pain, especially chronic pain, are prescribed a pharmacy of medications, some of which can be addictive, but all of which can limit interfere with the quality of life.

Early studies were considered inconclusive in explaining exactly how acupuncture reduces pain. More recent research has confirmed the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain management in conjunction with existing treatment regimens. MRIs have been used to map the brain during acupuncture treatments to confirm the direct connection between acupuncture points and pain centers in the brain.

There are several explanations as to how acupuncture works to alleviate pain. 2 Some feel that the needles stimulate a nerve that signals the brain to release beta-endorphins, which lower sensations of pain. Another school of thought is that acupuncture activates the vagus nerve, which can reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is associated with chronic pain.

Because of results like these, some states, including Rhode Island, Oregon, and Ohio, have programs that extend Medicaid coverage to acupuncture as an option for pain management.

Acupuncture is favored for many conditions. Beyond pain relief, National Institute of Health (NIH) studies have found acupuncture to be effective in the management of the following:

  • Nausea from anesthesia or chemotherapy

  • Dental pain

  • Addiction

  • Headaches

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Tendonitis

  • Myofascial pain (pain caused by muscle irritation that can radiate)

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Back pain

  • Asthma


Acupuncture for Other Conditions

Here are other conditions commonly treated with acupuncture in other parts of the world. Consult with your physician about how acupuncture might help you with:

  • Digestive issues: Gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hepatitis, hemorrhoids

  • Gynecological: Menstrual pain

  • Musculoskeletal: Arthritis pain, back pain, muscle cramping, muscle pain, and weakness

  • Neurological: Headaches, postoperative pain

  • Respiratory: Allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, bronchitis

  • Miscellaneous: irritable bladder, prostatitis, male infertility, some forms of impotence, addiction

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to improve your wellness or find a more natural solution to a physical or emotional difficulty, acupuncture has proven to be an asset in the treatment of many common conditions. You might have thought of it as an ancient art, but acupuncture has proven to be an important player in modern health and wellness.

Photo credits: Studio72/, AfricaStudio/

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