Acupuncture

Acupuncture needles on face

About Acupuncture

As its name suggests, needles are placed inside the skin alongside certain meridians and within the body’s Acupuncture points. Acupuncture is similar to Acupressure – the difference being that needles are utilized rather than hands, fingers, etc… The method concentrates upon the body’s energy flow or ‘Qi’ within the 12 primary meridian pathways. Such Traditional Chinese Medicine is claimed to possess multiple benefits in helping to treat ailments that range from migraines to breathing difficulty to arthritis to name just a few. Recent studies continually display positive results with treatment utilizing Acupuncture. In some Canadian jurisdictions such as Ontario, registered massage therapists (RMT) are allowed to perform acupuncture as part of their scope of practice.

Guide to Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupressure and acupuncture both get their roots in traditional Chinese medicine and have been used for thousands of years. Both practices are based on similar theories, but they are performed differently. If you’re considering either acupuncture or acupressure, it’s helpful to learn more about each practice including their similarities and differences.

How Do Acupressure and Acupuncture Work?

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the body is regulated through 12 major organs, which are thought to control all the functions of the body. Each organ has a channel or meridian on the surface of the body. Think of the meridian as a pathway circulating vital energy through the body. When the flow of energy is blocked, it can create illness. Acupressure and acupuncture unblock the flow of energy and normalize functions. Both practices are used to stimulate the meridians, which causes various physiological responses including encouraging a flow of energy through the body to promote healing. When a meridian is stimulated, responses may include a deep level of relaxation, increased blood flow and decreased inflammation all of which can help the body heal itself.

Conditions Acupuncture and Acupressure May Help

Acupuncture and acupressure can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Both practices can help increase circulation, decrease anxiety and promote relaxation. Acupuncture and acupressure can also be effective in breaking the pain cycle and decreasing muscle spasms. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, some studies indicate that acupuncture and acupressure may be effective in decreasing pain associated with arthritis, migraines and low back pain. Acupuncture and acupressure treat pain by stimulating small nerve fibers in the muscles, which sends messages to the spinal cord and brain. The messages sent to the brain cause pain relieving neurotransmitters to be released.  Although the effectiveness of both practices in treating other conditions has not been conclusively proven, some people successfully use acupuncture and acupressure to treat conditions, such as digestive disorders, anxiety and side effects of cancer treatment including nausea and vomiting. Both are also used to treat allergies, insomnia and infertility.  One of the benefits of using acupuncture and acupressure to treat conditions, such as pain, is you avoid unwanted side effects. For instance, pain medication can cause sleepiness, constipation and nausea. In some cases, narcotic pain medication can also lead to dependence on the drug. Plus, not all people can tolerate pain medication. They may have a negative reaction or experience severe side effects. When that is the case, acupuncture and acupressure can be an effective alternative treatment. Also, both practices can also be used in combination with conventional medicine.

Risks and Precautions

Acupressure and acupuncture are considered safe for most people and usually do not cause any negative side effects. Although side effects are very rare, when they do occur, it is usually the result of a poorly trained acupuncturist or acupressurist. The biggest risk when having acupuncture is an infection due to using nonsterile needles. The most common type of infection caused by acupuncture is a bacterial skin infection at the site where the needles were inserted. An infection is rare and is usually due to poor training and hygiene by the acupuncturist. That’s why it’s so important to only seek treatment from a qualified acupuncturist. The field of acupuncture is regulated. In 1996, The Federal Drug Administration started regulating acupuncture needles as it does other medical devices. This means the needles used must meet certain standards and should only be used one time. Also, in the United States, acupuncturists usually need to be licensed. The requirements to obtain licensure vary by state, but formal training, which is often extensive, is required by all states.