Acupuncture: Through The Eye of a Needle
For many in the western world, acupuncture is likely to be a practice that exists somewhere between medicine and ritual, that conjures images of someone sticking needles in what can seem like arbitrary points throughout the body. In reality, however, acupuncture is a health practice that has been utilised for thousands of years, with its own intricate histories and philosophies.
Cut to the present day, and acupuncture is actually used in combination with modern pharmaceutical medicine rather than as an entirely separate alternative. A component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture as a procedure places a deep emphasis on the overall health and ‘energy’ of the body, known as ‘qi’. As such, this ancient wellness practice is primarily used to relieve pain and reset the body’s balance of positive energy.
But did you know there are many more surprising ways that acupuncture can help a diverse range of health issues? For instance, you can find practitioners of fertility acupuncture, acupuncture designed to treat headaches, arthritis, and even for addiction. But do these treatments really work?
Below, we’ll explore the variety of ways acupuncture is increasing its traction as a popular alternative medicine, namely through exploring five different conditions that can be treated with acupuncture therapies today.
- Chronic pain
Chronic, or persistent pain, differs from your occasional sore back after sleeping awkwardly, in that it is characterised as:
- lasting for more than three months,
- not normally caused by an injury, and
- experienced as mild to severe levels of pain almost every day.
But did you know that chronic pain also happens to be the most common condition associated with acupuncture treatment? And there is certainly some compelling research results to vouch for its effectiveness.
Acupuncture is all about the individual. So depending on where in your body the pain is centred, the needles will be gently inserted in either the skin or muscle into corresponding access points – from a selection of 2,000 to be precise. This movement stimulates the surrounding nerves, affecting the part of the brain that produces serotonin which naturally improves mood and cancels out pain. It can also affect breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, all to produce the same effect.
Acupuncture as a method of treating infertility works by relaxing the body to allow it the highest chance of successful conception. It does this by focusing the needles on the upper legs, lower back and stomach areas, and also through a larger consideration of external factors that takes a more holistic approach to general health than you might find with a modern gynaecologist.
Whilst acupuncture is not a direct treatment for infertility in that it is not an assisted reproductive technology, it is designed to work in tandem with couples and individuals who may have previously struggled with natural conception. This is primarily because acupuncture is thought to have therapeutic benefits in relieving some of the emotional stress and pain experienced in the process of trying to start a family, for example in preparation for or recovery from rounds of IVF.
Acupuncture can also be used to ease the pain caused by menstrual cramps, natural menopause, and pregnancy, and there are even acupuncture treatments designed to help men with low or poor quality sperm count.
- Headaches and migraines
As acupuncture is all about restoring your energy through activating different pressure points in the body, tension that causes headaches and migraines is thought to be reduced through stimulating nerves that release hormones, triggering an endorphin response. Endorphins are the ‘happy hormone’, and the idea is that the needles kick-starting this natural immune system response will release the tension and create a calming, peaceful sensation.
This is why acupuncture has so often been regarded as a valuable method of treating headaches and migraines. By stimulating pressure points across the body and naturally improving hormone production and blood flow, acupuncture can naturally reduce the severity of chronic headaches or migraines.
With a focus on relieving pain, acupuncture has become an increasingly popular method of treating arthritis, with some scientific studies to show there have been mobility improvements from individuals suffering with joint pain after receiving acupuncture treatment. When acupuncture needles are inserted into the body, it stimulates the production of cortisol, the hormone which reduces inflammation.
Whilst others claim acupuncture is a placebo effect, there is a growing argument that even fake needles can prevent these pain signals reaching the brain when inserted into the body. So if you do suffer from arthritis, acupuncture treatments may be able to provide the relief you’re looking for. Be sure to speak to your general practitioner if you are interested in securing acupuncture to treat your arthritis.
Honing in on the psychological elements thought to lead to addictive behaviours and lifestyle habits, the principles of traditional Chinese medicine claim that if the energy in the pathways of the human body are disrupted, it can cause disease and impact the individuals’ overall health. Therefore, alongside more widely recognised psychotherapeutic methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acupuncture can be used to restore this energy and heal the underlying issues associated with the root causes of addiction
You might be surprised to hear that addiction acupuncture tends to focus around the ear. Specifically, there are five designated points practitioners will use to target separate issues. For example, needles inserted into ‘the kidney point’ will aim to decrease fears and phobias.‘The liver point’ can reduce aggression, whilst ‘the lung point’ helps to manage grief; all of which may be contributing factors towards addiction.
So there you have it – five ways acupuncture can make a positive difference to human health. Perhaps after reading through this list outlining the ideas and potential benefits behind acupuncture, you might consider giving it a go if you suffer from any of these conditions. As such a tailored practice it’s hard to know if it will be beneficial unless you try, and what doesn’t work for one person might be the perfect cure for someone else.
What is worth remembering? There are few concrete examples that can unequivocally prove the effectiveness of acupuncture: it’s not a proven treatment with guaranteed results. But as one of medicine’s longest standing practices, it must be doing something right.