Acupuncture is a form of treatment derived from ancient Chinese practice and involves insertion of needles at various body locations to ease pain or illness. Practitioners have identified about 350 points where the needles are inserted. The traditional acupuncture practitioners believe that illness and pain occurs due to abnormal flow of “life energy” (Qi) in the body. Insertion of thin needs at these points is done to correct the imbalances of flow of Qi along channels known as meridians, and thus achieve healing.
There has been a lot of interest among researchers and practitioners on whether or not acupuncture is effective. It has, however, been applied in treating variety of pathophysiological diseases and illnesses in Western countries.
Research evidence on acupuncture treatment
The World Health Organization now recognizes that acupuncture is effective in treating 28 health conditions. The National Institute of Health Care and Excellence (NICE) also supports application of acupuncture in treating a variety of chronic pain conditions.
At the center of the debate is what specific illnesses/pain conditions or diseases can acupuncture alleviate. NCCIH warns that one should not postpone seeing a doctor/health practitioner in order to take acupuncture treatment.
Research suggests that acupuncture can ease chronic pain including low-back pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain and neck pain. In addition to preventing migraine headaches, it can lower frequency of tension headaches. The research suggests that the practice treat post chemotherapy nausea and vomiting.
Western medical acupuncture, which is only carried out after a proper medical diagnosis has been done, is based on research evidence that body nerves located under the skin and in muscle tissues can produce pain-relieving substances such as endorphins when stimulated. These substances are believed to be responsible for pain relieve in acupuncture treatments. Research also suggests that the practice can regulate release of chemicals responsible for managing blood pressure and flow.
However, research also suggests that other factors unrelated to acupuncture may partly be responsible for the benefits experienced. These factors include beliefs and expectations of those undergoing the treatment. What has been done in research in regard to the effects of the practice on the body and brain is only a tip of the iceberg.
Acupuncture treatment must be done professionally
A few complications have been reported in regard to use of this practice. If not properly administered, it can cause injury to the central nervous system. In addition, it can cause collapsed lungs and puncture organs. Use of non-sterilized needles is the main cause of related complications and other illnesses in these treatments. Besides, experts advise that professional acupuncturists are likely to administer the treatment well. Thus, professionals should sterilize these needles before the treatment. Patients should not consult acupuncturists who have no knowledge or experience in the practice.
It is recommended that one should check credentials of acupuncturists before treatment. In addition, they should seek insurance cover and consider advice from professional bodies and organizations before undergoing the treatment. In addition, complications arising from acupuncture practice should be handled by professionals in the related medical fields.