If you live with anyone of the many symptoms and conditions that have been found through clinical trials and other studies to be either an effective treatment option or therapeutic and beneficial therapy, then empower yourself with knowledge, awareness, and tools.
Taking steps to understand and experience the complementary and alternative therapy will enable you to naturally bring about better overall health and reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Use the table of contents to see how this guide on acupuncture can help you with that greater awareness, or scroll down to get started and learn more about the ancient healing therapy of acupuncture. . .
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique where practitioners insert fine, sterile needles into the skin at specific points on the body.
Acupuncture points are located on what TCM refers to as the meridian. A meridian is an energy channel that cannot be seen. Each meridian in TCM is associated with either a particular organ system.
TCM teaches that treatment supports the free flow of energy within the body and incorporates ideas of “qi,” or life energy.
The application of acupuncture can depend on the tradition an acupuncture practitioner has been trained in. Although there are other philosophies and traditions of acupuncture, the two main philosophies and traditions acupuncture is based on are: Japanese and Chinese tradition.
Up next, is acupuncture scientifically proven? How does it work? Let’s find out . . .
How does Acupuncture Work?
Wondering how acupuncture works?
Many theories surround acupuncture and TCM, as well as the functionality of why and how acupuncture works.
There are three main mechanisms that western science has used to demonstrate how acupuncture works:
- Stimulate: Acupuncture points stimulate the central nervous system, including your brain and spinal cord.
- Signals: The stimulation leads to signals that release endorphins and other hormones or immune cells to particular body parts associated with an acupuncture point.
- Change: The combination of the stimulation and the signals leads to a change in brain chemistry, which leads to the many physical, emotional benefits experienced through acupuncture.
So, is acupuncture scientifically proven? Yes, it has been scientifically proven through the three main ways that acupuncture has been shown to interact and influence the body.
However, when attempting to frame how acupuncture into medical and western terms of understanding how acupuncture works is still a work in progress.
The good news? There have been a greater number of researchers evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture overall for many different health conditions, and the results have led to an understanding of what acupuncture can be used effectively.
Wondering if the symptoms you live with, and the health conditions you may be experiencing can be treated with acupuncture? Let’s find out . . .
What is it Used For?
Acupuncture may be used to treat many health conditions, including headaches and migraines; chronic and acute pain including neck pain, back pain, and sciatica; respiratory conditions, and digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and morning sickness, along with other conditions where stress and anxiety play a role in symptom manifestation.
There are 28 health conditions where acupuncture has been proven to be an effective treatment for:
- High blood pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Hay fever
- Gallbladder stones
- Renal colic
- Painful menstruation cramps
- Inducing labor
- Knee pain
- Low back pain
- Optimal fetal positioning
- Morning sickness
- Neck pain
- Tennis elbow
- Dental pain
- Dentistry related pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Frozen shoulder
- Postoperative pain
- Side effects of radiotherapy
- Side effects of chemotherapy
Outside of these 28 conditions where acupuncture has been proven an effective therapy and treatment option, there are many other health conditions that have been evaluated to determine if acupuncture is not only effective but also if acupuncture holds benefits for managing their associated symptoms. Many studies have come back with positive results for the support of acupuncture as a therapeutic therapy option. Wondering what these benefits are?
Let’s take a look . . .
The World Health Association, through research, clinical trials, and studies, found that acupuncture can be both effective and beneficial for many different conditions. They split their findings into three categories. . .
- Proven as a Treatment Option
The first category of conditions acupuncture has been proven as an effective treatment option. Twenty-eight conditions were classified in this category and identified above.
- Therapeutic Attributes of Acupuncture
The second category of conditions holds conditions where acupuncture can have a therapeutic and positive effect on symptoms and conditions. For conditions that fall under this category, like schizophrenia, further clinical trials were recommended to further understand the impact acupuncture can have on them.
- Health Conditions Where Acupuncture is Worth Trying
The third category of conditions might experience relief from acupuncture; however, with only a single controlled-trial available to understand acupuncture’s effectiveness for conditions in this category, acupuncture may be worth trying for its potential therapeutic effects because other therapies or treatment options may be difficult, or have adverse reactions you may want to stay away from.
What to Expect
Depending on the type of acupuncture you choose to use, there may be slight differences in what you may expect during an acupuncture session. There are, however, general aspects of a session that does not change no matter the type of acupuncture selected.
Here is an overview of what to expect when you go in for your first acupuncture session and appointment:
- Ear acupuncture
- Laser acupuncture
- Chinese herbs
When you go in for a treatment, you may only receive acupuncture during your session. You may also notice that along with acupuncture, several practitioners conjointly use:
Why might these different complementary and alternative medicine therapies be combined with acupuncture in a session? The answer is simple — each of these therapies all stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine.
How to Find an Acupuncturist
Here are nine steps to finding an acupuncturist near you:
- Decide: Decide acupuncture is a therapy you want to try.
- Ask: Ask friends, family, and colleagues for recommendations on acupuncturists they have used.
- Research: Research and look into the acupuncturists offering services near you.
- Read: Read reviews.
- Interview: Interview 3-5 acupuncturists. Wondering what to ask? Check out this guide.
- Evaluate: Evaluate and narrow down the acupuncturists that you interviewed.
- Choose: Choose an acupuncturist and set an appointment.
- Experience: Experience acupuncture and all of its benefits in your session.
- Continue: Continue acupuncture treatment for the duration and frequency recommended by the acupuncturist.
If you are looking for further support in choosing the best acupuncturist for you and your needs, check out our guide here.
5 Aspects of Acupuncture to Consider
Here are five aspects of acupuncture to consider . . . .
- Comprehensive Care
Your health is important. Acupuncture can be an effective and beneficial complementary and alternative medicine therapy and treatment option for many symptoms and health conditions.
However, it is always advisable to see your primary physician. This is a great step for overall health and wellness because each type of practitioner in the healthcare field can provide different sets of information and viewpoints based on their knowledge base of the human body.
Empower yourself with knowledge, so you can take control of your treatment plan and make well-informed choices with a level of consent that only comes from understanding what both the eastern and western thoughts, practices, and practitioners can offer you for relief of not only what you are feeling but also how you may potentially blend the best of both the eastern and western worlds of medicine.
This brings us to the next essential aspect of elements to consider when evaluating if acupuncture is the best complementary and alternative medicine therapy for you and your health needs —- open communication . . .
2. Open Communication
Think your primary physician or hypnotherapist has no interest in hearing that you are considering using acupuncture?
A part of owning your health is willing to have open communication with all conventional medicine physicians and complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, including any acupuncturist, chiropractor, hypnotherapist, reiki master, nutritionist, or other types of healing art practitioner as well as naturopath, or medical physician.
Why is this a high level of open communication so essential to a successful acupuncture treatment plan?
Acupuncture can often be a treatment option for many symptoms and conditions like back pain, depression, or infertility, among others.
More often, people find that when treating such conditions, the combining therapies may lead to the greatest level of success rate in treating and managing a health condition or a range of symptoms.
For example, a person living with back pain may choose to see:
- An acupuncturist
- A hypnotherapist
- A chiropractor
- A bodyworker for a type of massage
- A yoga therapist
- A reiki master
- A conventional physician who specializes in pain management and or back pain
The more open line of communication with each such practitioner has in a person’s overall care three things are increased:
- Picture of the treatment plan: The picture each provider has for how you are choosing to manage and maintain your health, as well as the overall treatment plan, becomes clearer.
- Level of coordinated care: Coordinated care between doctors, therapists, and practitioners will go up, giving you a greater level of integrated care across the board for all your health needs.
- Understanding of risks and safety: The understanding of risks and safety is enhanced when every type of practitioner and physician, including an acupuncturist, can assess the positive and potential side effects of how they treat a person may interact with the other therapies being chosen or used.
Next, let’s explore the importance of asking an acupuncturist about credentials. . .
3. Ask About Credentials
When looking for an acupuncturist, credentials are the next vital step to choosing an acupuncturist. Why? Knowing that the acupuncturist you choose to treat you with acupuncture has relevant and up-to-date information and knowledge not only to back up their practice but also to make informed care decisions based on the foundation of research, studies, and best practices help to ensure not only your wellness in general for treatment up also your safety.
For information on how such up-to-date practices have increased the overall safety of acupuncture as a complementary and alternative medicine treatment option, read our guide: Is Acupuncture Safe?
So, what should you be considering or looking for when examining and evaluating an acupuncturist’s credentials?
Different countries throughout the world have different viewpoints on laws and ways to regulate the certification and licensing of an acupuncturist.
In the United States, there is known as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture or NCCOA for short. Not every state requires certification from the NCCOA to be licensed; however, most do.
It is also important to know that the steps for licensing are not universal, and learning the specifics of what the state you live in requires from an acupuncturist can be very beneficial.
In addition, this information can be useful if you are considering becoming an acupuncturist.
4. Training and Experience
The training and experience of an acupuncturist can vary. Some may have more years of experience than others.
Some may have other expertise; for example, you may find a dentist or physician or perhaps a massage therapist who also has had training in acupuncture.
It is always a good idea to consider the training and level of experience of an acupuncturist when making the best choice for you and who will be treating you.
5. Number of Sessions
When considering acupuncture to help with a symptom or condition that you are experiencing, most practitioners during an initial consultation will discuss your needs, treatment plan with acupuncture, and offer a suggested number of sessions and frequency of the sessions based on the reasons you are seeking acupuncture.
After you have gone to the number of recommended sessions at the recommended frequency between sessions, most acupuncturists will advocate for maintenance sessions.
Getting an understanding of the number of sessions that are suggested can also help you estimate potential costs.
Can I Use Acupuncture with Other Therapies?
Acupuncture can also work to assist the body in healing itself as well as bring about optimum health for each individual person. If you use other complementary and alternative medicine treatments and therapies, letting all practitioners know what you are doing is a wonderful idea; however, it is also good to know that acupuncture is a treatment option that works well together with nearly the other types of complementary and alternative medicine therapies.
In addition, if you see an M.D. for your ailments and or wellness and are prescribed medications, you should not expect any adverse side effects from mixing prescription medications with acupuncture.
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