Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of health conditions; it’s a traditional Chinese medicine that utilizes special acupuncture needles placed in the body at key points along energy pathways (known as meridians).
According to Eastern philosophy, stimulating these points alters the energy flow or “qi” (pronounced (chee”), which results in the reduction of pain and the promotion of healing. Western medicine believes that the beneficial effects of acupuncture arise from the stimulation of the body’s nervous system, which, in turn, triggers the body’s immune response and results in pain relief and an overall improved sense of well-being. Acupuncture points can be further stimulated with application of heat (moxibustion) or electrical energy.
Studies have indicated that there are many medical conditions that can be treated with the use of acupuncture, so let’s look at a few of them.
Athletes and sports enthusiasts of all ages have to deal with frequent pain and injuries that can either affect their performance or take them out of the game altogether. For some individuals, knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and tennis elbow are constant annoyances. Acupuncture can help with the following sport-related conditions:
- Pain relief
- Healing of injuries
- Reduced swelling and inflammation
- Alleviate muscle spasms, muscle soreness or muscle weakness
Headaches and Migraines
Severe headaches and migraines affect one out of six Americans, and acupuncture can provide great relief.
While it’s not a cure, acupuncture utilizes specific acupoints to help reduce the frequency of headaches and migraines. Acupuncture works with the body to combat pain by stimulating the certain energy points in the body that regulate the flow of blood, oxygen, and other nutrients throughout your system. Some people also experience an increased release of endorphins (painkilling hormones), which can provide relief from pain and improve neurological function.
Acupuncture can help with stress-related conditions by reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality—both of which are important for coping with stress. In addition to its calming effects, acupuncture may also relieve pain associated with stress.
Acupuncture for stress is best utilized in conjunction with other complementary stress reduction strategies, such as meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Anywhere from 13% to 51% of women report that they had to limit or cancel their daily activities due to severe menstrual pain. A recent study suggests that acupuncture can be effective at treating menstrual pain when compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or no treatment at all.
Menstrual cramps are caused by prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds that are released in the body and affect many functions, including menstrual pain. Acupuncture treatment combined with follow up sessions can help to reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
According to figures from the United States National Institute of Mental Health, up to 21 million Americans suffer from depression. Although treatment can be achieved through various methods, some have unwanted side effects, making it necessary to explore the efficacy of alternative treatments.
Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for depression, as it can reduce stress, improve sleep, balance mood, alleviate pain and lessen headaches/migraines. Acupuncture has also been shown to relieve anxiety in patients with chronic pain.
It’s important to note that acupuncture does not cure depression—you still need to take steps on your own to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. However, if you’re already seeing a doctor about your condition and want some extra help (or just want a relaxing way to unwind at the end of a stressful day,) then acupuncture may be worth incorporating.
Chronic pain is the most common reason that individuals receive a referral for acupuncture treatment, and out of all the reasons for chronic pain, back pain (specifically low back pain) is the most common form. Back pain can have different causes, it can be musculoskeletal or neurological, and these causes can stem from numerous chronic conditions:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
It can take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks before patients start to experience the benefits of acupuncture for back pain. So, as with any form of treatment, it’s important to remain patient and hopeful.
Infertility is a common condition, affecting as many as one in eight couples. One of the major causes of infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which involves an imbalance in hormone levels. Acupuncture may help to improve fertility by reducing stress and increasing blood flow to the uterus, as well as improving function of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
Acupuncture may also help to alleviate the side effects of fertility drugs like clomiphene citrate (Clomid). Some research indicates that acupuncture can enhance egg quality for those undergoing IVF treatment and increase live birth numbers for women who have undergone IVF treatment that failed due to poor egg quality or high levels of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH).
Acupuncture is not a suitable treatment for certain causes of infertility in women, such as endometriosis.
Morning Sickness and Nausea
Morning sickness and nausea are common for most women during pregnancy. Acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective treatment for morning sickness that can help you get through it in a positive way. Acupuncture has also been shown to be highly effective in treating nausea associated with chemotherapy.
It’s important to note that pregnant women should consult their doctor before starting or stopping acupuncture treatment; there are some situations where this is not recommended for safety reasons.
Acupuncture treatment has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on the Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (FGIDs), such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is divided into three types: constipation dominant, diarrhea dominant, and mixed. Other gastrointestinal dysfunctions such as colitis have had mixed success with acupuncture.
Find Your Acupuncture Treatment Plan
If you’re looking for relief and haven’t found it though conventional health care methods, a treatment plan from a licensed acupuncturist may be your answer.
While it isn’t necessarily a cure for disease, acupuncture can treat a variety of conditions and symptoms by stimulating the body’s natural healing ability. The best results for acupuncture are achieved when it is used as a component of an integrative medicine system alongside western medicinal methods. When deciding if acupuncture is right for you, consider whether or not you’re open to trying alternative treatments like massage therapy or yoga classes instead of more traditional forms of medicine like prescription drugs. If you’re ready to consider acupuncture treatment, consult with the professionals at Meridian HealthCare. We’re here to help you find relief and live pain-free.