For a long time, acupuncture (among other alternative, holistic approaches to medicine) was viewed with no small amount of criticism and often written off as Asian mysticism, rather than actual medicine based on science and hard facts.
However, more and more people today are discovering the amazing health benefits of acupuncture and other related techniques, especially to relieve pain.
Extensive studies and tests have been conducted to measure the true results and effectiveness of acupuncture, particularly for pain relief. Though researchers are just beginning to understand how acupuncture relates to various other illnesses, the results have showed the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating many painful conditions including, lower- back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, headaches, muscular injuries, and migraines.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a technique in Traditional Chinese Medicine in which the practitioner places extremely fine needles into the skin along a certain combination of the hundreds of acupuncture points along your body.
There are over 40 different medical conditions that have been identified by the World Health Organization as having been effectively treated with acupuncture related to neurology, gynecology, pediatrics, emotional health, musculoskeletal health, skin health, respiratory health, digestion, and even fibromyalgia.
However, acupuncture is most commonly known and used for treating pain—especially back and neck pain, abdominal pain, and migraines.
How Does It Work?
Acupuncture works by activating the body’s natural, self-healing mechanisms that are driven by the nervous system.
Energy courses through your body along lines called “meridians.” Along these lines, there are hundreds of “acupoints” that when triggered, stimulate your central nervous system. Your central nervous system is what communicates with the rest of your body, telling it to take measures to heal itself from injury or infection.
When triggered by an acupoint, your nervous system can initiate healing functions around that area of the body or simply speed up a healing process that has already begun.
During a session, the acupuncturists will insert a few needles (typically between 5-10) into the acupoints on your skin that correlate with the area of your body where you are experiencing pain or discomfort. They will leave the needles in for about 10 – 30 minutes as you rest and relax and let your body work out the pain.
Acupuncturists may incorporate other techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine as well, like cupping or prescribing Chinese herbs.
How Does it Help with Pain Relief?
Acupuncture, first and foremost, seeks to take care of the core issue that is causing the pain—attempting to help your body heal itself by addressing the root problem. However, it can also help with more immediate pain relief due to injury or chronic illness.
Not only can stimulating acupoints help your body to heal, but it can also activate the part of your brain that governs serotonin levels and trigger the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-killers.
Who Uses Acupuncture?
Over the years, acupuncture has become more widely accepted among medical circles and the general population. Among many western practitioners, it has become further removed from ancient Chinese mysticism, and more focused as a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Therefore, the number of acupuncture clinics in the western world has grown significantly over the years, as has the scope of its clientele.
Anyone with a chronic illnesses or injury may find acupuncture to be an effective method of pain relief, pain management, and even speedy recovery of the root issue causing the pain.
This has become a popular treatment among athletes, especially. Many professional athletes use acupuncture up to several times a day to help reduce the pain of injuries, recover quickly, and enhance their overall performance.
It has become so popular, in fact, that a new branch of acupuncture surrounding sports has been formed, known as orthopedic acupuncture. It’s often referred to as sports medicine acupuncture as well.