Acupuncture is a non-drug, non-invasive therapy that may produce a variety of benefits – from pain management to helping with nausea associated with chemotherapy. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 8.2 million Americans have been to an acupuncturist, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults used acupuncture in the previous year. For the past 20 years, researchers have been studying the benefits of acupuncture for many conditions, including low back pain, headaches, and osteoarthritis of the knee.
The Philosophy of Acupuncture
One of the oldest healing arts, acupuncture originated in China and other Asian countries thousands of years ago. Acupuncture practitioners believe that an illness is caused from interference with the flow of energy, also called chi, and an imbalance of the opposing and complementary forces within the body: yin, the cold and passive aspect, and yang , the hot, active and excited aspect.
To restore the balance between yin and yang and to unblock chi, acupuncture stimulates specific points of the body through several techniques, including insertion of hair-thin metal needles through the skin. In Chinese medicine, chi is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in the body, which are accessible through more than 350 acupuncture points. Western medicine explains the effects of acupuncture through stimulating nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, which increases the body’s natural activity to regulate pain and increase blood flow.
During Your Visit
While acupuncture providers may have different styles, a typical visits – which usually lasts about 30 minutes – includes an assessment of your condition by the doctor, insertion of the needles and advice on home care. Before the needles are placed, you will lie down on a comfortable table either face up or face down, depending on where the needles will be inserted. Sometimes the needles are gently moved or stimulated with electricity or heat. Each treatment may require the insertion of as many as 12 needles, which stay in place for 20 minutes. During this time, you can doze in a darkened room while listening to soothing music.