Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy that imparts a healing process by the insertion of tiny needles at strategic points in the body. Acupuncture began in China, and has a record breaking practice of over a thousand years. However, it was only in the later part of the 20th century that acupressure found recognition in Western Europe, USA and Canada. Today, acupuncture therapy has evolved as a successful complementary medical practice to cure an illness or relieve pain in the body.
Principle of Acupressure-
There are scores of theories and contradictions which formulate the science of acupuncture therapy.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is linked to the belief that disease is caused by imbalance in natural energy pathways, or “qi”, in the body. The ancient Chinese doctors compared the internal workings of the body to the nature’s system of water course.
Just as the water flowing in a stream can be blocked by a dam or flooded by a mudslide, the human body’s natural energy, or “Qi”, can be disrupted by a disorder like indigestion, cold, fever or asthma. Acupuncture stimulates these points for a spontaneous flow of “Qi”. These points are found either on or under the skin and are called acupuncture points or acupressure points.
But today, western medicine follows an altogether different ideology of acupressure. Western scientists have curated a totally different concept of acupuncture based on the human anatomical system.
One major hypothesis is that acupuncture works through neuro-hormonal pathways. Basically, you put the needle through specific points in the body and stimulate the nerve. By this gradual process, the patient may begin to feel a tingling sensation and get relief from the symptoms of disorder.
Acupuncture is a systematic science which works step-by-step on its way to cure several basic to chronic ailments. There is solid evidence for acupuncture working in multiple ways-
- a) Activating the body’s natural opoid system.
- b) Stimulating the pituitary glands.
- c) By controlling the secretion of pain-resisting endorphins.
What are the Conditions Treated by Acupressure?
Acupressure is the remedy for some of the most chronic disorders and conditions like-
- Postoperative nausea and vomiting
- Dental pain
- Headaches, including tension and migraine headaches
- Labor pain
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Menstrual cramps
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
How Does Acupuncture Work?
There are hundreds of acupuncture points called acu-points along the body’s major 14 meridians (energy-carrying channels). Ancient Chinese doctors revealed the mystic secrets of acupuncture therapy based on the incessant flow of life force called “Chi” or “Qi”. It firmly believed that all the various ailments in the body are caused due to the disruption in this flow of “Chi”.
There are many theories to explain how acupuncture actually works. When acupuncture points are stimulated, it causes a sensation in the muscle.
- The stimulated muscles transmit signals to the brain and spinal cord.
- This leads to the release of endorphins from the brain and other neurotransmitters, which act as pain relievers.
- This restricts the pain from reaching the area of sensation where it’s felt.
Sometimes, acupuncture is also employed using laser therapy and electromagnetic signals for special cases or extremely skin-sensitive issues.
What Happens During Acupuncture?
Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, depending upon the condition of the patient to be treated. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may analyse your symptoms, behaviours and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:
- The parts of your body where the pain persists.
- The shape, coating and color of your tongue.
- If you have cold and fever.
- The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist.
- If your skin is sensitive or allergic to needles.
This initial evaluation may take up to 60 minutes, followed by appointments which take about a half-hour.
- After your diagnosis, the therapist will test you with the sterile needles to find out if you’re allergic to certain needles.
- The needles are normally inserted at various depths or pressure points according to the disorder to be treated. After the needles are inserted and stimulated, you may feel a mild sensation once the needles reach the desired depth.
- In a typical session, the acupuncturist will use different combinations of points and varying lengths of needles, in a definite series. These combinations of points help explore the patient’s response to the treatment.
- Normally the needles are held in place for 20 to 30 minutes and then removed, without causing any discomfort or pain to the patient.
- You should wear loose-fitting clothes, or may be asked to remove clothing before an acupuncture session.
Electro acupuncture is similar to traditional acupuncture, except that it uses acupuncture needles attached to a device through which electric current is generated continuously.
These wonderful electric needles are used on and off for different ailments depending on their severity, with varying frequency and intensity to cure them. Electro acupuncture uses two or more needles at a time so that the impulses can be transferred from one needle to another.
Side Effects of Acupuncture-
You may feel a heaviness, stinging, numbness, twitching, or mild soreness after the needles have been inserted. A feeling of deep heaviness or numbness, called “Deqi” is felt during acupuncture. The patient has to acknowledge this feeling to the therapist, which means that the treatment is working.
Acupuncture is used for a range of complications like anxiety, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, sinusitis, asthma, infertility, menstrual cramps, stroke rehabilitation and insomnia.
Even though acupuncture is not an exhaustive experience, it’s best not to risk your health and be accompanied by someone to the therapist for an acupuncture session. If a person is suffering from a bleeding disorder, then it’s better to consult a doctor before therapy. The most common side-effect of acupuncture is bleeding, soreness and pain. It’s always advisable to rub the treatment area with a disinfectant like alcohol or Dettol to avoid infection. A single acupuncture session uses lots of sterile needles applied at different acupuncture points for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Acupuncture is a great initiative for patients who do not want to be prescribed pain killers. Do not go to a session with an empty stomach, always eat something before you go and try to wear loosely fitted clothes to avoid stuffiness.
If you can field the basic questions from your therapist for your first acupuncture session, then things will be much easier for you and that information will also give the therapist cues for your treatment. After all, communication is the key to any discomfort or ailment to being successfully treated.