Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that makes use of heat, pressure, and thin needles to insert into specific points on the skin, called acupuncture points. This stimulates the nervous system to release natural painkillers known as endorphins, to the affected parts of the body thereby relieving it of the pains.
The practice of acupuncture is based on the idea that an obstruction in the flow of one’s life energy –qi or chi, can cause health damages causing the body not to function properly. This Qi flows through 20 pathways or meridians which are connected by acupuncture points.
The purpose of acupuncture is to open certain points on these pathways and release blocked qi. It has been practiced for more than 3,000 years. Acupuncturists insert thin needles into specific points throughout the body to balance the body’s energy, stimulate healing, and promote relaxation.
An acupuncturist will first examine the patient and assess their condition. This is done by inserting one or more thin, sterile needles. Afterward, advice on self-care or other additional therapies, such as Chinese herbs is being given to the patient. Acupuncture treatments can be costly. However, acupuncture is being used more and more within the NHS.
Acupuncture was examined in the treatment of cancer-related pain according to a French study published in 2003. It was discovered that patients treated with acupuncture had a 35% reduction in pain after 2 months of acupuncture treatments, compared with a 2% reduction in pain in the patients receiving a placebo.
What are Acupuncture Points?
Acupuncture points are commonly found in the deep depressions of the muscles, joints, or bones and are often sensitive to pressure. A unit of measurement called a “cun” is used to determine the locations of acupuncture points.
What Treatment Can Acupuncture be Used For?
Acupuncture is used to treat many ailments such as:
- supplemental treatment for people who experience certain symptoms of cancer
- Help manages nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy
- Xerostomia related to radiation therapy
- Hot flashes related to hormone treatment
- Joint pain related to aromatase inhibitor therapy
- Physical pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, stress, sinus congestion
How Safe is Acupuncture?
Recent medical research in the United States has shown that acupuncture appears to be safe and effective. However, there are a few possible risks.
Possible Risks of Acupuncture
- It is dangerous if a patient has a bleeding disorder or takes blood thinners. Bleeding, bruising, and soreness may occur at the insertion sites. Although it is rare, this happens to 3 in 100 people (3%)
- The use of unsterilized needles may infect the patient. A needle may break and damage an internal organ which is also rare. Needle placement may also affect breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate
The most common form of acupuncture is the placement of sterile, thin, needles into various acupuncture points on the body. Different techniques can be used to stimulate the needles.
There are three methods used in acupuncture to stimulate the needles. They are:
- Manual stimulation
- Electrical stimulation
- Application of heat
Twisting, turning, and pulling the needle up and down after insertion.
Sending electrical pulses to the needles at different frequencies and waveforms using a handheld device.
Traditionally, moxa (a dried herb) is placed on the top of the needles and burned. In modern use, infrared heat sources are used to warm up the needles.
Can Acupuncture Treat Cancer?
No evidence proves acupuncture can treat cancer. But it can help relieve some cancer symptoms and side effects from chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
What is the Use of Herbal Acupuncture?
Herbal acupuncture, also known as pharmacopuncture or acupuncture point injection, is a modern technique that utilizes the injection of natural herbs or biologic substances into acupuncture points to promote health. Some Chinese acupuncturists make use of herbs to complement Acupuncture.
Is Acupuncture Painful?
You may feel some slight sensations; a sting, pinch, ache, or some pain as the acupuncture needle is being inserted. According to a practitioner, the sensation felt during the insertion of needles is a chi sensation. Most times, the pain lasts only a few seconds.
After acupuncture treatment, some people may feel relaxed, while others may feel energetic. If you experience any contrary symptoms, you should endeavor to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Because Illness is said to be the consequence of an obstruction in the flow of one’s life energy, acupuncture is used to open the flow and balance the forces for a healthy life.