Why Acupuncture?

History of Acupuncture

The term "acupuncture" describes a family of procedures involving  the stimulation of anatomical points on the body using a variety of  techniques. The acupuncture technique that has been most often studied  scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic  needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.      Practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of  years, acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese  medicine. In TCM, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing  and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or  passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited, or active  principle. According to TCM, health is achieved by maintaining the body  in a "balanced state"; disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin  and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi (vital  energy) along pathways known as meridians. Qi can be unblocked,  according to TCM, by using acupuncture at certain points on the body  that connect with these meridians. Sources vary on the number of  meridians, with numbers ranging from 14 to 20. One commonly cited source  describes meridians as 14 main channels "connecting the body in a  weblike interconnecting matrix" of at least 2,000 acupuncture points. Acupuncture became better known in the United States in 1971, when  New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in China  used needles to ease his pain after surgery. American practices of  acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and  other countries. 

Acupuncture In The United States

The report from a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture  held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 stated that  acupuncture is being "widely" practiced—by thousands of physicians,  dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners—for relief or  prevention of pain and for various other health conditions. According to  the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a  comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million  U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in the previous  year. Between the 2002 and 2007 NHIS, acupuncture use among adults  increased by three-tenths of 1 percent (approximately 1 million people). 

Acupuncture Side Effects and Risks

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates acupuncture  needles for use by licensed practitioners, requiring that needles be  manufactured and labeled according to certain standards. For example,  the FDA requires that needles be sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for  single use by qualified practitioners only. Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been  reported to the FDA, in light of the millions of people treated each  year and the number of acupuncture needles used. Still, complications  have resulted from inadequate sterilization of needles and from improper  delivery of treatments. 

Use of Acupuncture for Pain

Acupuncture, among the oldest healing practices in the world, is  part of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture practitioners  stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin  needles through the skin. In traditional Chinese medicine theory, this  regulates the flow of qi (vital energy) along pathways known as  meridians. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which  included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, 1.4 percent of  respondents (an estimated 3.1 million Americans) said they had used  acupuncture in the past year. A special analysis of acupuncture data  from an earlier NHIS found that pain or musculoskeletal complaints  accounted for 7 of the top 10 conditions for which people use  acupuncture. Back pain was the most common, followed by joint pain, neck  pain, severe headache/migraine, and recurring pain. 

What To Expect from Acupuncture Visits

During your first office visit, the practitioner may ask you at  length about your health condition, lifestyle, and behavior. The  practitioner will want to obtain a complete picture of your treatment  needs and behaviors that may contribute to your condition. Inform the  acupuncturist about all treatments or medications you are taking and all  medical conditions you have. Acupuncture needles are metallic, solid, and hair-thin. People  experience acupuncture differently, but most feel no or minimal pain as  the needles are inserted. Some people feel energized by treatment, while  others feel relaxed. Improper needle placement, movement of the  patient, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness and pain during  treatment. This is why it is important to seek treatment from a  qualified acupuncture practitioner. Treatment may take place over a period of several weeks or more. 

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