The Ins and Outs of Acupuncture: What is It Used For and How Does It Work?

acupuncture-treatment-on-woman's-face

Our world today is more connected than ever before and people are continually opening themselves up to adopting different cultural concepts across the globe. Despite the significant breakthrough in modern medicine, many people are tracing back to their ancient roots—incorporating alternative medicine into their lives in the pursuit of wellness. 

While modern medicine primarily focuses on pathology and disease treatment, alternative medicine is more inclined toward healing the person as a whole— physically, mentally, and sometimes spiritually. 

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine practice that has been in existence for more than 3000 years but gaining global recognition at a very high rate in recent years— but why? We’ll review the ins and outs of acupuncture, its origin, how it works, and the benefits and risks to help you get a clear idea of this ancient wellness practice. 

What is Acupuncture? 

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese pain and discomfort treatment procedure performed by an acupuncturist. The acupuncturist inserts fine needles in specific points called acupoints, to rebalance the body’s energy (Qi) and prompt the body to heal itself.

Traditional acupuncture aims to realign the body through the alignment of energy flow in the meridians. Modern doctors view acupoints as points to stimulate the nervous system, stimulate sensory nerves in the skin and muscles, and boost your body’s natural painkillers.

How Does Acupuncture Work? 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), an imbalance of the yin and yang, components of the Qi, the body energy, can cause illness. The body energy flows in through pathways or meridians throughout your body. 

You can access these pathways through 361 acupuncture points in the body. Inserting fine needles in these acupuncture points combined with gentle and specific movements of the acupuncturist’s hands or electrical stimulation will bring the energy flow back into balance.

Research by modern doctors suggests that acupoints are receptive fields where stimulation can affect the body’s sensory neurons. Physical nerve stimulation by inserting needles affects pain processing in the central nervous system and muscles and increases blood flow to specific body parts. 

The overall goal of the procedure is met as needles stimulate the body to:

  • Rebalance its energy, “the yin and yang.”
  • React to its illness
  • Release endorphins, the natural painkillers, neurotransmitters, chemicals that control nerve impulses, and other body chemicals that regulate the body

There are different types of acupuncture; traditional acupuncturists only focus on redirecting the flow of Qi, while others incorporate western medicine in acupuncture to stimulate the body system. The majority of modern-day acupuncturists combine both approaches in their practice. 

A different type of acupuncture is used to treat myofascial pain, a chronic pain disorder involving muscles and their connective tissue. When muscles are under pressure, they become stressed, injured, or strained, leading to the formation of tight, painful knots known as trigger points.

Pain from the trigger points easily spreads to other parts of the body. Acupuncture for myofascial pain triggers different points in the body, loosening the trigger points, thus clearing the pain. 

woman-getting-acupuncture-treatment-on-back

What is Acupuncture Used For?

Acupuncture is used to relieve chronic (long-term) discomfort and pain associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, including:

  • Cancer and cancer treatment side effects such as chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting
  • Repetitive strain disorders and overuse syndrome
  • Face pain and other nerve discomforts
  • Immune system problems
  • Reproductive system issues such as infertility, menstrual cramps
  • Stomach issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • Menopause and hot flashes
  • Pregnancy discomforts and labor pain
  • Dental pain and neck pain
  • Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines
  • Low back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Procedure

During your first acupuncture appointment, your acupuncturist will cross-examine you to know more about your condition and examine your body to see the areas that will react to acupuncture.

You will have to lie down or sit as the acupuncturist inserts thin, sterile, and disposable needles in specific parts of your body. The practitioner inserts the needles at various depths, ranging from a fraction of an inch to a couple of inches.

You might feel a tingling sensation or very brief stinging as the needle goes in, and a dull ache at the base of the needle. You might feel muscle sensations such as a profound heaviness, numbness, dull ache, or tingling, showing that the treatment is working.

Depending on the procedure, the needles will stay in place for a few minutes or 20-60 minutes. Your acupuncturist might also heat the needles, move or twirl the needles, or apply electric pulses after insertion depending on your condition. The number of treatment sessions you have depends on your case.

Your acupuncturist might decide to use other forms of stimulation on the acupuncture points besides the needles, including:

  • Heat (moxibustion)
  • Impulses of electromagnetic energy
  • Pressure (acupressure)
  • Suction (cupping)
  • Friction
  • Impulses of electromagnetic energy

These forms of stimulation bring the same effects as using needles.

How Does Acupuncture Affect the Body?

Acupuncture gives you a relaxing effect, and you should rest before getting a ride home. Your acupuncturist might advise you not to drive and take it easy on physical activities for a day or two.

Acupuncture is a complementary therapy that can be used independently or in combination with other medications to bring the following benefits:

  • Help you manage chronic pain, migraine, and headaches
  • It is a flexible mode of treatment depending on your case
  • It can be used alongside other treatments
  • Gives your allergy relief
  • Help in curbing cigarette cravings
  • Enhance mental clarity and increases body energy
  • Improves the immune system
  • Has low-risk side effects

What are the Risks Associated with Acupuncture? 

There are very few risks associated with acupuncture from a certified acupuncturist using regulated needles. Common side effects include:

  • Muscle soreness,
  • Minor bruising at the acupuncture points, and
  • An overwhelming, relaxed feeling that fades with time 

However, acupuncture is not a practice for everyone. Your acupuncturist will examine you closely to determine if you qualify for the procedure or not. Here are conditions that might increase your risk of getting complications after an acupuncture procedure:

  • Pregnancy – some types of acupuncture might stimulate labor, which can lead to preterm delivery
  • Bleeding disorders or taking blood thinners – since acupuncture involves piercing the skin, you might get issues with blood clotting or bruising
  • Have a pacemaker – acupuncture might involve applying mild electrical pulses to the needles, which can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture is legal and regulated by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Most medical practitioners are permitted to practice acupuncture within their medical fields. 

Acupuncturists are sometimes required to undergo additional education and training and get certified by the National Commission for Certification Agencies (NCCA). The acupuncture needles are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

All the acupuncture needles are supposed to be steel, solid, sterile, disposable, non-toxic, and properly labeled. The needles can only be used by a licensed acupuncturist and disposed of after a single use. 

NOTE: Ensure that your acupuncturist is certified and permitted to practice. An unqualified acupuncturist can bring you organ punctures, infections, and central nervous system injuries.

Elevate Your Binto Wellness Routine with Acupuncture

Regular health checks and taking the necessary steps are essential for a healthy body. Acupuncture is just one of the many ways you can use to fix chronic health issues. While you are on a mission to live healthily, you can consider using supplements and vitamins to stay in top shape.

 At Binto, we help you build a wellness and supplements routine to address your unique health needs and make you feel good. We do not believe in a one-fits-all mentality on healthcare. As such we combine a variety of wellness mechanisms coupled with our Binto supplements that provide multiple health benefits, including:

  • Improving moods
  • Better sleep
  • Inner and outer glow
  • Immunity boost
  • Hormonal balance
  • Reduced anxiety

You can complement your Binto wellness routine with acupuncture procedures to help you achieve optimal health. Contact us today to learn more about how to customize a healthy lifestyle with Binto to improve your health.

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