There are numerous health benefits that point to the reason for acupuncture’s rise in popularity. Find out why so many people are turning to this alternative treatment to relieve certain ailments.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that involves inserting needles into the skin. These needles, which are very thin and cause minimal pain and discomfort when inserted, are placed at strategic points on the body depending on what physical issues are being resolved. Acupuncture has evolved from a component in traditional Chinese medicine – where it was used to balance the flow of energy in the body — to become a modern Western alternative practice that focuses on pain relief and increased blood flow.
The main reason that most people visit an acupuncturist is to relieve pain. This can be chronic pain, disease-related pain or even pain experienced during labor. The following are some of the types of pain-related conditions that acupuncture may be used to help treat:
- Back pain
- Tennis elbow
- Dental pain
- Menstrual cramps
- Labor pain
Though the results of acupuncture treatments vary from person to person and are often difficult to measure, reduced pain is one area where there are many studies to back up the benefits of acupuncture. While there’s no guarantee that it will be effective, of course, acupuncture has a documented history of helping people who suffer from pain.
One of the great things about acupuncture is that, in many cases, the treatment is preventative. That means that instead of having to go to the acupuncturist every time you experience pain, acupuncture treatments can actually reduce the severity and frequency of episodes of pain. One study, for example, found that almost half of their subjects who visited an acupuncturist for frequent headaches reported a 50 percent decrease in the number of days they had headaches. Meanwhile, those who used painkillers only reported a 16 percent decrease in headache frequency.
Though it may seem contradictory, the process of having needles inserted into their skin seems to be a form of stress relief for some people. More specifically, the strategic points at which these needles are inserted can help to alleviate anxiety and stress for many people. That’s because the needles trigger the release of neurotransmitters and other chemicals that can boost your mood and relieve stress. Some even say it can help treat depression, but you should also see a doctor if this is something you need help with.
Relief for Indigestion
Some acupuncturists claim that the treatment can help to reduce indigestion and, in some cases, heartburn. There are even a few recent studies which have shown that this can be effective – one in particular focused on reducing these symptoms in pregnant women. Some researchers believe that the reduction in stress resulting from acupuncture may play an important role in relieving indigestion since the two conditions are often linked. Talk to your acupuncturist if you’re having trouble with indigestion. Keep in mind that pregnant women should always consult a doctor before trying acupuncture since it could trigger premature labor.
Boost Effectiveness of Certain Medications
Though it’s a newer area of study, some researchers are looking into whether acupuncture can boost the effectiveness of certain medications. One study found that the treatment was able to increase effectiveness for patients taking Prozac while also reducing the drug’s side effects. This is a developing area of study, but the results are promising so far. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in pursuing this type of treatment to boost drug effectiveness.
Relief for Side Effects of Radiation
Patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy often experience terrible side effects of dry mouth, nausea and vomiting. However, acupuncture may be able to alleviate these symptoms. In fact, some studies that found that patients who wore acupressure bands during their radiation treatments said they felt less nausea and dry mouth. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, talk to your doctor about how acupuncture could help with the side effects.
Relief for Sports Injuries
In addition to reducing pain resulting from various health conditions, acupuncture has also been known to help with relieving pain from sports injuries. Professional athletes have even used this alternative treatment to help with muscle strains and other injuries. Many believe that the acupuncture treatments help them heal faster, which may be true as the increased flow of oxygenated blood to the injured area caused by acupuncture may speed up the healing process. Just be sure to see your doctor first if you do suffer from a sports injury.
If you’d like to try acupuncture, talk to your doctor first. People with certain conditions, such as bleeding disorders, may have a higher risk of complications from acupuncture. If you do try this treatment, make sure the acupuncturist you visit is a certified practitioner.