Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of therapy available. It involves inserting thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body to achieve a therapeutic effect.
Acupuncture has many possible benefits but is commonly used to facilitate healing, improve mood, reduce or relieve pain and improve function of affected areas of the body. In many cases relief of symptoms is often obtained with acupuncture when traditional medical therapy has failed.
Acupuncture needles are usually made from stainless steel and come in various lengths. The needles are very thin, flexible and rounded but sharp at the tip. Acupuncture needles when inserted do not cause any harm and unlike a hypodermic needle does not slice through tissue. Acupuncture needles are so thin they slide smoothly through tissues making it unlikely to cause bleeding or cause damage to underlying structures.
According to the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute, acupuncture points (also referred to as ‘acupoints’) are places on the skin that have a lower resistance to the passage of electricity than the surrounding skin and are part of a network of points that were mapped centuries ago by the Chinese. Most are found along ‘meridians’ or ‘channels’ that are believed to be the pathways by which energy or Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’) flows through the body. Acupoints are located either by identifying anatomical landmarks or by the classical method (for example: “the point where the middle finger touches the thigh when standing at attention”).
There are numerous theories about how acupuncture works. Some say acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins while others believe that acupuncture influences the release of substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain, stimulates circulation or normalizes the flow of electrical currents through the body.
Acupuncture can treat a number of different conditions including:
- migraines and tension headaches
- smoking cessation
- trigeminal neuralgia
- tennis elbow
- menstrual cramps
- low back pain
- neck pain
- weight loss
During an acupuncture session you may feel a dull, heavy, or aching feeling when the needles are being placed. This may be a normal response to the treatment. This is referred to as ‘de Qi’ and is considered by some traditional acupuncturists to be necessary for acupuncture to be effective while others maintain that relief of pain can often be obtained without provoking the de Qi response.
The needles are left in place for 15-30 minutes, and the practitioner may manipulate the needles to strengthen or reduce the flow of Qi. Lifting, twisting, and rotating are some of the needling techniques a practitioner may use.
From: Acupucture Foundation of Canada Institute Website