Acupuncture involves the placement of needles into specific points on the body in an attempt to maintain health or treat symptoms. It includes its own system of diagnosis and theories of health/illness. The needles themselves are solid, come to a central point and are hair thin. Once the needles are placed, the acupuncturist can manipulate them by spinning them, heating them, applying electrical stimulation or by placing small glass cups over them.
Acupuncture can be used in a number of ways. Traditionally, acupuncture was used as a means to maintain health. It definitely has uses in the treatment of many pain syndromes as well. This is particularly true for nerve based pain—which is very difficult to treat medically. Acupuncture can help chronic pain such as migraines, low back or abdominal pain, neuropathy, or if you suffer from vertigo, tinnitus, depression or anxiety, hypertension, asthma, allergies, immune system disorders, healing of acute injuries (including fractures), infertility (both male and female), hormone imbalances, menstrual disorders and many other conditions.
Much depends on whether the medical goal is treatment of a condition or whole body maintenance. A pre-existing condition of long standing may require one or two treatments per week over several months. Health maintenance care may require only one or two treatments per month.
Acupuncture appears to have a balancing effect on brain chemistry. It can help with anxiety, depression, or fatigue. Part of this effect may be from endorphins, but it appears to involve other brain chemicals as well. Nerves “talk” to each other through the use of chemical agents called neurotransmitters. Many of these agents exist and some of the more well known are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and GABA. Improving the function of serotonin and GABA has a relaxing, calming effect as well as a mood stabilizing effect.
Improving dopamine and norepinephrine has the effect of elevating mood and wakefulness. Acupuncture may affect all of these in a positive way. Notice that we are not talking about increasing or decreasing levels. Rather, we speak of balancing these neurotransmitters. Acupuncture has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on the healing of the brain and/or nerves after injuries such as strokes or lacerations. It can also help with the symptoms of neuropathy in which a person experiences a burning/numbing type of pain because of biochemical injury to a nerve from medication or diseases such as diabetes. The mechanism of this benefit is unknown, but may involve a bit of all the benefits of acupuncture.
Acupuncture’s effects on the immune system are less well known. Acupuncture appears to have the same balancing effect on the immune system as it does on brain chemistry. It tends to increase counts in people that are deficient and decrease counts in people that are in a state of excess. Because of this, Bio Energy Medical Center has seen immune counts increase in patients with immunodeficiency from AIDS as well as immune counts decrease in patients with high counts from leukemia (acupuncture is not considered a primary treatment of cancers, but serves as an adjunct to other treatments). Because the immune system is involved in healing, acupuncture tends to decrease healing times.
Acupuncture can also have a beneficial effect on circulation. We do know that placement of an acupuncture needle usually has a warming effect on that particular area. This occurs because of a local release of histamine that, in turn, causes dilation of blood vessels and an increase of blood flow. Acupuncture can also have a relaxing effect on the muscles that surround arteries. This can help to control elevated blood pressure and improve circulation.
The number of acupuncture treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long standing conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually more frequent visits are required. For health maintenance, one or two sessions per month is all that is necessary. Acupuncture fees are $85.00 for one hour session and packages of five sessions are $300.00.
Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not painful like injections. In addition, hypodermic needles are beveled and cut through tissue whereas acupuncture needles push tissue aside, which results in less trauma and therefore less pain. There are points that are inherently more painful, such as the tips of the fingers and toes, but most acupuncture points do not hurt. Most patients feel no pain at all. A few patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted. Once the needles are in place, no pain is felt. The doctors at the Bio Energy Medical Center use disposable needles, so there is no risk of infection.
he answers to this question are not straight forward and require an understanding of both the Eastern Theory and Western Theory to cause and effect in human health. Once you read these theories you may gain an understanding of how the approaches differ and the realization that there is not one specific scientific answer to define how acupuncture works.
Ultimately, the exact details of how acupuncture works remain a mystery. There is ongoing study into trying to determine the mechanisms of acupuncture. The bottom line is that acupuncture is helpful for about 70% of people that try it. This makes it a valuable tool for a number of acute or chronic conditions. Please read some of our patient comments.
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