Balancer Spotlight: Acupuncture
Like a number of other holistic medicine treatments, the demand for acupuncture is growing. A 2007 survey found that more than 14 million Americans were either using or had used acupuncture, up from only 8 million in 2002.1 Furthermore, it is estimated that there are now more than 10 million acupuncture treatments administered each year in America alone.2
There are several reasons why acupuncture has caught on in America and other countries, including:
- The growing demand for holistic healthcare
- Greater insurance coverage for acupuncture treatment
- It’s effectiveness for treating pain
- Realization that it’s also an effective preventative therapy
- More scientific studies are proving its efficacy2
What is acupuncture?
Thousands of years ago, the ancient Chinese discovered specific points that connect energy pathways, or meridians, in the body. They found that by stimulating these points, the flow of energy, or qi, through the body could be improved. By releasing disruptions of energy flow through this method, physiologic function would then be improved and many health conditions could be effectively treated.
Early acupuncture treatments involved using sharpened stones and sharp bones to stimulate acupuncture points. Today, acupuncturists use thin, metallic needles to effectively stimulate acupuncture points on the human body. There are hundreds of acupuncture points on the body. An acupuncturist may focus on just a few of these points or dozens depending on the patient and the ailment being treated.3
How does it work?
Acupuncturists have different styles of administering acupuncture, and often combine Western and Eastern approaches of medicine in their treatment. A treatment often involves an evaluation of the patient’s tongue as well as the color of the face, painful parts of the body, and quality of the pulse in the wrist.4
Before acupuncture needles are inserted, the acupuncturist will sterilize the skin. The needles are then inserted about 3-4 millimeters into the skin, usually with the help of a plastic guide tube. A needle may also be manipulated by twisting, flicking, or moving it up or down to provide adequate stimulation to the acupuncture point. After inserting and manipulation, the needles will remain in place for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Why does it work?
Beyond the ancient Chinese concept of releasing energy to balance yin and yang in the body, there are several scientific hypotheses for why acupuncture works. One of the most popular theories is that inserting an acupuncture needle underneath the skin at an acupuncture point stimulates a nerve. The nerve then sends a signal to the brain, which releases neural hormones that help to reduce pain.
Another popular hypothesis is that acupuncture reduces pro-inflammatory markers in the body. This, in turn, reduces inflammation, which reduces pain. This theory also explains that stimulating certain acupuncture points has specific benefits, such as increasing energy and boosting the immune system, which also helps to decrease inflammation.5
Benefits of acupuncture
Acupuncture offers a wide array of potential benefits, many of which are backed up by scientific studies. Probably the most popular use for acupuncture is to treat pain. Multiple studies show that acupuncture is effective at treating many types of pain, from lower back pain and neck pain to osteoarthritis.6
Research also shows that acupuncture can be particularly effective for headaches. One study, for example, found that patients in an acupuncture control group had an equivalent of 22 fewer days with a headache per year compared to the control group.7
Additionally, acupuncture is commonly used along with other fertility treatments. Studies have found that it helps to regulate hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and is effective at treating polycystic ovarian syndrome.8
Evidence suggests that acupuncture is effective for treating PTSD as well. In one study, a group that went through acupuncture and usual PTSD care had significant improvements in pain, depression, and physical and mental function compared to a group that only went through usual PTSD care alone.9
Along with improving these conditions, clinical studies also show that acupuncture can be used to successfully treat other illnesses as well, including:
- Allergic rhinitis
- Nausea and vomiting
- Postoperative pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Dozens of other conditions may be helped by acupuncture, though evidence for their effectiveness is limited. Some of these common ailments that acupuncture is used for include acne, fibromyalgia, obesity, tobacco dependence, and digestion issues.
As mentioned, more and more people are also turning to acupuncture for preventative care, and not necessarily to treat any chronic condition. Traditional Chinese medicine is a form of preventive medicine at its core. And in fact, the people of ancient China would pay their doctors when they were healthy, and the doctors would treat them for free when they were ill. By working on balancing your energy with acupuncture on a consistent basis, you may be able to prevent serious health issues down the road.
Acupuncture side effects
Though you may experience a slight sensation like a mosquito bite or a temporary dull ache when the needles are inserted, you will likely not feel any pain when acupuncture is administered. Minimal bleeding may occur during acupuncture treatments, but this is not common. Because acupuncture needles are single-use, sterilized needles, there is no risk of a transmitted infection.
Other side effects that are rarely experienced include headaches, nausea, and vomiting. You may experience soreness after the needles are removed. However, this typically goes away within 24 hours. In rare cases, bruising may occur. And although acupuncture is energizing for most people, you may feel fatigued afterwards. Emotional release may also occur during or following acupuncture. This is a sign that energy is being released and the treatment is working.11
Is acupuncture right for you?
Acupuncture can benefit a wide variety of people. However, it may not be right for everyone. If you are taking blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, you may want to avoid acupuncture. Additionally, acupuncture may stimulate labor, so you may want to steer clear of this treatment if you are pregnant.
Electroacupuncture involves adding electrical pulses to the needles. If you have a pacemaker, it may be best to avoid this type of acupuncture.12 Electroacupuncture may also pose health risks to those with epilepsy or who are prone to seizures.
If you are considering acupuncture and have a chronic health condition or other concerns, it’s best to visit a trusted healthcare professional first. A wellness professional can give you additional information that’s relevant to your situation and provide recommendations for acupuncturists in your area.
Make sure that the acupuncturist you choose is properly licensed and certified. And before choosing an acupuncturist, it’s a good idea to ask them about their methods and how likely their treatment is to help your condition as well. You should also find out whether the particular practitioner and treatment is covered by your insurance.
Acupuncture balancer Virtual Item
Using ZYTO technology, a digital signature representing Acupuncture can be scanned to see whether the body shows a strong biological preference for it. In the Balance Wellness Report, Acupuncture will appear at the end of the report if it was one of the body’s top 5 coherent services. Responses to all the Services scanned, including Acupuncture, may also be viewed in the Services Report.
1. “More Americans using acupuncture for common ailments.” FOX News Network, LLC. Foxnews.com.
2. Jishun Hao, J., & M. Mittelman. “Acupuncture: Past, Present, and Future.” Global Advances in Health and Medicine 3, no. 4 (2014): 6-8.
3. Hsu, Daniel. “How many needles will my acupuncturist use?” Sharecare, Inc. Sharecare.com.
4. “Acupuncture.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Mayoclinic.org.
5. Palermo, Elizabeth. “What is Acupuncture.” Future US, Inc. Livescience.com.
6. “Acupuncture: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Nccih.nih.gov.
7. Vickers, A.J., R.W. Rees, C.E. Zollman, et al. “Acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care: large, pragmatic, randomised trial.” British Medical Journal 2004: 328:744.
8. “Acupuncture Regulates Hormones, Boosts Fertility.” Healthcare Medicine Institute. Healthcmi.com.
9. Engel, C.C., E.H. Cordova, D.M. Benedek, et al. “Randomized Effectiveness Trial of a Brief Course of Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Medical Care 52 (2014): S57-S64.
10. “How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain and Improve Sleep, Digestion and Emotional Well-being.” University of California. Medschool.ucsd.edu.
11. Calabro, Sara. “7 Acupuncture Side Effects That You Should Know About.” Verizon Media. Huffpost.com.
12. “Acupuncture.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Mayoclinic.org.