Acupuncture is a healing therapy that uses insertion and manipulation of needles to relieve pain or cure illness. With origins in China, it is now practiced and taught throughout the world. This practice involves inserting small needles into the skin on certain areas of the body. The idea behind it is that doing so can stimulate certain muscles and nerves, and get the blood flowing properly. It may even increase the chances of releasing a natural painkiller by the body, so some people opt for acupuncture to get rid of chronic pain. Some of the more accepted uses for acupuncture include treatment of post-operative nausea, vascular headaches, labor pain, menstrual cramps, migraines, osteoarthritis, dental pain, tennis elbow and chronic lower back pain.
Acupuncturists traditionally use inspection, auscultation and olfaction, inquiry, and palpation as methods of diagnosis. Tools used during the process include disposable stainless steel needles of varying diameter. Much smaller than conventional injection needles, the size and type used depend on the type of acupuncture being practiced and form of treatment being delivered. Common treatment plans involve six to twelve procedures over a few months in order to tackle a single complaint. Many patients often require maintenance follow-up over the years.
A typical session of the treatment includes insertion of five to twenty needles at varying depths, gentle movement or twirling of the needles after they have been placed, application of heat or a mild electric pulse, and removal of the needles after 15 to 30 minutes. Insertion and removal of the needles usually causes no sensation or physical discomfort. The patient is instructed to lie still and relax during the procedure and may feel a deep, aching sensation as the needle reaches the correct depth.
Due to the invasive nature of the procedure, acupuncture is not without risks or adverse side effects. Some of the adverse side effects may include bruising, bleeding, infection, dizziness, fainting, nausea, paresthesia, or even increase in pain. These risks are reduced with proper training and use of sterilized disposable needles. Improper insertion of needles may lead to nerve injury, brain damage, stroke, pneumothorax, or hemopericardium. Therefore, it is very important to thoroughly research the credentials and training of the acupuncture professional being visited.
Patients who should avoid acupuncture include anyone with a bleeding disorder, pacemaker, or women who are pregnant. However, acupuncture is not guaranteed to solve any disease ailment, and may even be considered dangerous depending upon the patients’ health issues.