What Is Acupuncture?

acupunctureAcupuncture is traditional form of medicine that originated in China thousands of years ago and which is now practiced in countries around the globe. The practice is based on the concept of qi (sometimes spelled chi), the body’s energy or lifeforce, which flows along channels in the body known as meridians. When the body’s qi is flowing properly, we are healthy; when there is a disruption in the flow of qi, we may see signs of pain or disease. Acupuncture helps your body regain a balanced state by stimulating acupuncture points, or acupoints, with needles that are even thinner and finer than those used for inoculations or to draw blood.

Western medicine explains acupuncture’s effectiveness on a number of levels, one being that it is a result of the acupuncture needles stimulating the release of neurochemicals, which can act as anti-inflammatory agents and natural pain killers. One of the advantages of acupuncture over popular medicine, including prescription drugs, is that side effects are rare.

Although most commonly associated with alleviating pain, acupuncture may also help prevent illness and promote health and overall well-being. 

Other common problems often treated with acupuncture include:

  • Fatigue and weight management: weight loss, detoxification/cleansing programs, acne, nutritional counseling.
  • Digestive issues: spastic colon, gas, peptic ulcers, heartburn, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, hyperacidity, bacterial infections, gastrointestinal tract bleeding, hiatus hernia syndrome, ulcerative colitis, bloating, indigestion, dysentery.
  • Neurological and muscular disorders: migraines/headaches, whiplash, tennis elbow, tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder, rib neuritis, facial palsy/tics, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, dental pain, gingivitis, eye problems, fibromyalgia, nausea, dizziness/vertigo.
  • Emotional conditions: tension, stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, weight loss, smoking cessation, addiction, lethargy, pain, sleep disturbance.
  • Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems: irregular menstrual cycles, endometriosis, fibroids, labor inducement, fertility, incontinence, menopause, PMS, morning sickness, urinary tract infections.
  • Respiratory disorders: bronchitis, asthma, chest infections, sore throat, sinusitis/rhinitis, cold, flu, allergies, pulmonary disease.

In the United States, acupuncture practitioners must attend an accredited four-year graduate program in order to receive their certification. More than half the country’s employer health care plans now cover acupuncture in their policies.