Acupuncture – A Powerful Combination of Ancient Wisdom and Modern Methods
Acupuncture therapy is known all around the world, but the truth is that most people are not familiar with the essence of this ancient and traditional method of healing. We all know that acupuncture involves the use of thin, small needles that the acupuncturist inserts through the patient’s skin – accordingly, there are many misconceptions about the process, and most people aren’t aware of the benefits it brings. In order to break the prejudices, this article is going to provide in-depth explanations, types, and benefits of acupuncture that will give you a broader picture of this concept.
What is Acupuncture?
According to Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a technique used for balancing the flow of the energy or life force, better known as chi or qi (chee), which is believed to flow through pathways, or meridians in your body. It’s observed as a form of alternative medicine, and the techniques used for its practice mostly depend on the country where it is performed. It’s primarily used for pain relief, but its development brought a lot of different uses, and nowadays, this method is performed for healing diverse types of diseases.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture practitioners use very thin needles, which they insert through your skin. Still, those needles are arranged strategically, and they are put into acupuncture points – according to practitioners, they are the spots where your energy flow will retrieve its balance.
During a typical session, a patient lays still, while the practitioner inserts approximately 5 – 20 needles into the patient’s skin. The needles are usually left in place for ten to twenty minutes. Needles used for the procedure are typically made of stainless steel, and their insertion is done manually, but it can also be stimulated electrically (electroacupuncture). Their length goes from 0.5 to 5.12 inches, they are flexible, but they’re usually not prone to breakage.
However, the clinical practice of acupuncture varies depending on a country in which it is performed, and there are multiple approaches and techniques when it comes to this treatment. Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese medicine, and it’s mostly practiced together with the following therapies and diets:
- Moxibustion: Moxibustion includes burning dried mugwort on specific points of the body. It’s convenient for blood flow, stimulation od qi, and maintenance of general health.
- Cupping therapy: This therapy involves the application of heated glass cups on the skin along the meridians of the body, impacting the flow of energy.
- Tui Na Massage: This is a combination of massage, acupressure, and other forms of body manipulations. Practitioners often use ointments and herbal compresses, and it’s excellent for treating chronic pain and musculoskeletal conditions.
- Chinese herbs: While performing acupuncture, practitioners usually use different leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds of plants that have a healing effect.
- Chinese nutrition: This is a mode of dieting that originates from China, and it consists of spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, and salty food, which is key to a balanced diet.
Apart from these more or less basic approaches, acupuncture can be accompanied by other procedures that include feeling the pulse on different parts of the body and examining the tongue. Before starting treatment, a practitioner will observe and question the patient to make sure what body parts should be treated. There are four ways of determining a diagnosis:
- Inspection: This method focuses mostly on the face and the tongue. According to Chinese Traditional medicine, the tongue reveals the health condition of human beings, and practitioners can indicate potential health issues by inspecting the tongue.
- Auscultation and olfaction: This approach is based on listening to particular sounds such as wheezing and observing body odor.
- Inquiring: It focuses on fever, appetite, thirst, pain, sleep, menstruation cycle, etc.
- Palpation: This means focusing on feeling the body for tender points and feeling the pulse.
Traditional Acupuncture vs. Western Acupuncture
There are two versions of acupuncture whose differences should be mentioned – traditional (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) acupuncture and western acupuncture. The main difference between these two categories lies in their ideas. Practitioners of traditional acupuncture believe that this treatment can restore the flow of qi, the life force that flows through the body, while western practitioners perform the therapy only after a full diagnosis.
That said, western acupuncture is more evidence-based, and they mostly use anatomy, physiology, and modern medical models. On the other hand, traditional acupuncture is more philosophy-based, and its goal is to retrieve the energy balance. Overall, both types are quite beneficial, and they are both used for pain relief, muscle spasm, relieving tightness, headaches, and other health issues.
What are the Most Common Types and Styles of Acupuncture?
Since the concept of this treatment is widely spread, many different types developed during history. Here are the most common types and styles of acupuncture, and most of them are aimed at particular body parts and their healing:
1. Body Acupuncture
Body acupuncture is the most common style, and it includes the insertion of thin steel needles into various points on the body. Each of the points has a different therapeutic effect, which is why this type is considered the best at treating almost every health condition.
2. Auricular Acupuncture
According to Traditional Chinese medicine, almost all acupuncture points are situated in the ear, which impacted the development of auricular, or ear acupuncture. Many practitioners claim that this type of treatment is advantageous for patients who’re dealing with alcohol or smoking problems, and besides, it’s commonly used in combination with body acupuncture since it successfully treats infertility.
Acupressure shares acupuncture’s main idea, which is relieving life energy, which flows through the body meridians. But, acupressure practitioners use their palms, fingers, elbows, feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupuncture points found on the meridians, which is the main difference between it and acupuncture, which uses needles as a primary instrument. Acupressure is especially convenient for treating painful conditions, including headaches and morning sickness.
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Unlike manual needle insertion, electroacupuncture includes electrical stimulations provided by a machine that is connected to the top of needles. This treatment will make the patients feel a mild, tingling sensation, which is useful for many conditions. However, it may not be suitable for all patients, and it’s recommended to consult a certified practitioner before deciding to try this method.
5. Japanese Acupuncture Style
Japanese acupuncture uses thinner needles and a gentler technique than the Chinese style. It’s often called “meridian acupuncture” because it focuses on the abdomen, back, and various pulses within the body meridian system. Unlike Chinese acupuncture, which is focused more on inspecting, the Japanese style relies more on palpation – they find the feeling the abdomen, back, and meridian pulses more effective than looking at visual characteristics of the tongue, eyes, or fingernails.
6. Korean Acupuncture Style
Korean acupuncture style is mostly focused on hands and ears, and unlike the Chinese type, this one includes only four needles, which is why it’s often called a “four-needle” technique. The reason why the Korean practice uses four needles is a balance. That said, two needles will either sedate or reduce qi, while the other two needles will tonify or increase qi in the second organ system.
7. Micro Acupuncture 48
This is a relatively new system that involves 48 acupuncture points that are located only in the hands and feet, and it’s quite different from any other acupuncture system. This style is aimed at treating pain, peripheral neuropathies, and eye diseases (glaucoma, macular degeneration, Usher’s syndrome, etc.). Not every patient will need the same amount of treatment, but the therapy has shown some excellent results so far.
What Can Acupuncture Treat?
One of the most common goals of people who seek acupuncture is to relieve chronic pain, such as arthritis. Still, this procedure has expanded its uses in terms of treating many other illnesses and health problems. The conditions that may benefit from acupuncture can be divided into 8 categories, which are:
1. Digestive Problems
So far, acupuncture has shown great results when it comes to treating digestive problems. It has certain regulatory functions on gastrointestinal motility and gastric acid secretion, and besides, it helps to nourish related organs, reducing inflammation of the stomach and pancreas, and improving digestive functions. It’s especially beneficial when it comes to treating the following conditions:
- Gastritis: People with chronic gastritis are encouraged to try acupuncture since it’s more effective than ranitidine and similar drugs. It eliminates mucosal lesions and inflammations and relieves the stomach pain caused by gastritis.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Acupuncture is one of the best alternative therapies for treating IBS. It significantly helps with abdominal bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other conditions.
- Hemorrhoids: Acupuncture can reduce discomfort after hemorrhoid surgery, and it’s effective for postoperative recovery.
2. Emotional Problems
By impacting energy flow and rebalancing qi, acupuncture enhances the patient’s emotional condition. It impacts the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems, and thin needles help the brain calm – that said, it’s beneficial for releasing fear, nervousness, anxiety, depression, and other more or less severe issues. Here is how it helps with the most common emotional conditions:
- Anxiety: Acupuncture for anxiety is quite an efficient treatment. It will take some time to see the results, but, most importantly, it won’t make your symptoms worse. Also, it’s essential to keep up with your anxiety medications and therapies so that the entire process can be successful.
- Depression: Acupuncture for depression is effective, but it can’t be the only treatment. People who’re dealing with severe depression should continue with their usual medications and therapies, and this procedure can be an additional source that will help their improvement.
- Insomnia: This problem can be treated with acupuncture since it can regulate yin and yang, which impact reinforcing health and improving the sleep.
3. Ear-Nose-Throat/Respiratory Problems
Acupuncture treatment helps reducing ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) disorders, including allergies, hearing, vertigo, and thyroid diseases. Practitioners will assess the internal organs rather than focusing on symptoms and signs, and that’s how they will discover the root of the particular issue. Acupuncture has proven its effectiveness in treating the following ENT problems:
- Allergic rhinitis: This procedure is safe and effective for treating patients who deal with allergic rhinitis. It reduces nasal and even eye symptoms that include itching, sneezing, and runny nose, and besides, it regulates IgE (Immunoglobulin), which can alleviate allergy reactions in the future.
- Sinusitis: Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect, acupuncture helps reducing inflammation in the sinus cavities, nasal congestion, sinus infections, pain, and allergies.
- Sore throat: Practitioners claim that problems with a sore throat can be solved by inserting needles into the so-called “sore throat” acupuncture point that’s found on the hand.
4. Gynecological Problems
Acupuncture has also proven its effectiveness when it comes to women’s health. It’s widely practiced for treating labor pain, back pain in pregnancy, PMS symptoms, and other related issues. It’s especially convenient when it comes to the following problems:
- Menstrual pain & irregular cycle: This treatment significantly reduces period pain, which can be really harsh in some cases. Additionally, acupuncture can help with regulating menstrual cycles since it stimulates the flow of qi and blood.
- Infertility: By reducing stress, increasing blood flow, and balancing the endocrine system, acupuncture impacts women’s fertility. It’s recommended to start with the treatment about three to four months before trying to get pregnant.
5. Musculoskeletal Problems
Musculoskeletal disorders are quite common between people of all ages, and they can cause severe issues if not treated properly. Acupuncture can help relieving back and neck pain, arthritis, sciatica, sports injuries, stroke rehab, and other problems that may prevent patients from everyday activities. Consider acupuncture if you’re dealing with:
- Arthritis: Acupuncture will address the inflammation and muscular guarding, and it will reduce tension. That way, you’ll feel less irritation in the joints, and the pain will be vastly lowered.
- Back pain: Back can prevent you from performing everyday activities, and it usually causes a high level of discomfort. Acupuncture for back pain will release the areas where muscles are too tight and support those that are weakened by disuse.
- Sciatica: Sciatica usually comes as a result of sciatic nerve irritation, which causes severe inflammations. Therapy with needles can help to release the tight muscular patterns and reducing inflammatory agents in your system.
6. Neurological Problems
Neurological disorders refer to the problems with the nervous system, which coordinates the body’s activities. Nerve pain usually arises from trauma, inflammation, stroke, nerve degeneration, and many other factors. Such problems can be treated by acupuncture, and many patients expressed their satisfaction with the results. The following problems usually come as a result of neurological disorders, and needle treatment can be performed for their healing:
- Headaches: One of the most common causes of headaches is the flow of negative energy. Acupuncture will eliminate that negative flow and replace it with the positive energy that will remove headaches. Acupressure is also quite beneficial for such a problem.
- Migraines: Acupuncture reduce migraines, and its effect is long-lasting. A practitioner will place the needles into specific pressure points, usually along a patient’s back or neck, where it can stop pain transmission.
- Parkinson’s disease: This therapy can relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms, including tremors, slowness of movement, fainting, dysfunction of speech, etc.
The above-mentioned benefits of acupuncture are just a part of a wide range of advantageous effects this treatment brings. Namely, it can help with bladder problems, prostatitis, male infertility, impotence, and addiction.
Speaking of the benefits, one of the most commonly asked questions is: Is there acupuncture for weight loss? Acupuncture can be useful for weight loss – it stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural “good hormones,” and it creates a calming and relaxing effect, which reduces the need for excessive eating usually caused by stress and anxiety. The combination of needling therapy, a healthy diet, and exercising can make you lose weight much faster.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
The very thought of needles that penetrate your skin sounds horrible. That’s reasonable, but you shouldn’t be afraid because acupuncture usually doesn’t hurt. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no sensation at all. Very often, when the needle is inserted, a patient feels that the acupuncture point is working, which is a good thing. It’s called de qi, and it means that the needle has accessed the energetic material that should produce movement throughout the body. Everybody will feel the de-qi differently, and here are the 5 most common sensations people use to describe their acupuncture experience:
- Heavy: Some people feel heaviness that spreads throughout the body part where the needle is placed. Such heaviness can be described as calming rather than oppressive.
- Achy: Achy sensations also appear on needling sites. It usually disappears after a few seconds, but if it feels too intense, tell your practitioner so that he/she can adjust the stimulation.
- Electric: The stimulation of a particular body point can make you feel like you’re being shocked or zapped. That feeling also disappears after a few seconds.
- Tingly: Many patients claim that they had a tingling experience, which happens right after the needle’s been inserted.
- Warm: This is quite a pleasant sensation that spreads throughout your body. It feels like internal heating pads are being applied to your body parts.
The sensations are individual, which means that you don’t have to feel any of the mentioned ones, which is OK. However, the sensation shouldn’t be sharp. If you feel sharpness that makes you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to tell your acupuncturist. He/she may try needling the point again, or they may remove the needle – still, if your practitioner doesn’t pay attention to your discomfort, find a new one.
When Is Acupuncture Not Recommended?
Despite the broad range of acupuncture benefits, such a treatment is not suitable for everyone. For example, if you fall under some of the following categories, acupuncture may not be right for you:
- You have a bleeding disorder: If you are taking blood thinners or if you have any bleeding disorder, you are at risk of bleeding or bruising from the needles, which is why it’s not recommended to go to this treatment.
- You have a pacemaker: Electroacupuncture is not suitable for those that have a pacemaker since the electrical pulses can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation.
- You are pregnant: Some acupuncture styles could stimulate labor, which can impact a premature delivery.
Overall, you should be honest with your practitioner and tell him/her all about your medical condition before starting a treatment.
How Much Does Acupuncture Cost?
The price also depends on what type of condition you choose to have treated, and some additional costs may include Chinese herbs, which are essential for the treatment. Pre-paid packages are available for discounted rates.
The Mix of Acupuncture and Natural Therapies Means Health
Sometimes, conventional therapies can’t help healing particular health conditions, which is why Makari Wellness offers something more efficient and unique. We offer various styles of acupuncture, from gentle Japanese style to traditional Chinese sessions, including dry needling and herbal medicine.
Our treatments help to relieve even the most complex health conditions, and we make sure our clients feel relief from pain and sports injuries. Don’t hesitate to book your appointment at (888) 871-8889 – we will be happy to introduce you to the greatest acupuncture San Diego can bring.