While acupuncture has only commonly been used in the Western world for the last few decades, it is far from being a new trend. In fact, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. With a track record like that, it’s no wonder people are beginning to take notice of the benefits of acupuncture throughout the rest of the world too. A survey by the National Institute of Health found that the number of visits to an acupuncturist in the United States tripled between 1997 and 2007.
Acupuncture is a practice that uses fine needles to stimulate acupoints in the skin along 12 pathways, known as meridians, that are thought to be connected to both your physical and mental health. It’s believed that by inserting the needles at certain points you can increase the flow of energy known as “qi” and relieve the pressure by freeing any blockages along the meridians. Typically between 10 and 20 needles are used during a session, which usually lasts 30 minutes, and little to no pain is often felt as the needles are thinner than a standard needle and are inserted shallowly into the skin.
Benefits of Acupuncture
Now that you know some of the basics about acupuncture, let’s take a closer look at how you can use the benefits of acupuncture to improve a wide variety of health issues.
Relieves Chronic Pain
Perhaps the most common use of acupuncture is for the treatment of chronic pain. People sometimes turn to it as a way to relieve pain without all the side effects that come with prescription pain medication. Some examples of chronic pain that can be helped by acupuncture include: back and neck pains, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. It can also help relieve pain caused by carpal tunnel and tennis elbow.
Acupuncture has been found to help relieve chronic tension headaches. Not only does it lower the frequency of headaches but also lessens the intensity of the pain. Since acupuncture doesn’t have any harmful side effects, it’s a good solution for people who suffer from frequent migraines and need an alternative to prescription drugs.
If you’re looking to increase your quality of sleep without the aid of sleep medications and their potential side effects, acupuncture may be the way to go. Trouble sleeping is often caused by an unbalance of energy, known as yin and yang in Chinese medicine, and acupuncture is known to help improve the balance and lead to a higher quality of sleep.
People who have high blood pressure may be able to lower it using acupuncture. A study by the University of California – Irvine found that rats that received electroacupuncture, a form of acupuncture that uses needles with an electric charge, recorded lower blood pressure for at least three days after the treatment.
Boosts Mental Health
Acupuncture can help with more than just physical ailments; it can also improve your physical health. From anxiety to depression, acupuncture helps manage the symptoms by balancing the energies in your body and minimizing mood swings. It’s also known to increase the levels of endorphin and dopamine, two naturally occurring substances that increase positivity and make you feel happy.
Assists Cancer Treatments
Chemotherapy is known to cause nausea but acupuncture can help reduce it. In fact, the National Cancer Institute stands behind the use of acupuncture to effectively manage the side effects of chemotherapy. As an added benefit, acupuncture also helps to boost immunity, which is often lowered by chemotherapy treatments, and speed up recovery time.
While acupuncture can’t reverse the effects of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, it has been found to slow the down these cognitive diseases. It both slows down the rate of memory loss and and increases the ability to perform certain motor skills, like walking and writing.
A Promising Alternative
Acupuncture shows signs of being a viable alternative to treating a wide variety of ailments. If you’re looking for a way to treat chronic pain, improve sleep or any of these other issues, the benefits of acupuncture may be the perfect solution. As always, consult your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.