Acupuncture

WHAT DOES TREATMENT INVOLVE?

After a detailed history and clinical examination, the practitioner will discuss treatment options.

While lying down the needles are inserted in selected acupuncture points; then the patient is left to relax for about 30 minutes.  Electrical stimulation or moxa may also be applied.  Alternatively, treatment with a low energy laser may be preferred.  With the laser, each point only needs to be stimulated for 30 seconds.

WHAT CAN ONE EXPECT FROM ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS?

In general, most people should see some benefit within one to four treatments.  Often there will be an aggravation or worsening of symptoms after the first or second treatment, which should cause alarm.  This quickly gives way to improvement as the treatments continue.  At first, the benefits may only be short-lived, but quickly become sustained.

As the benefits of acupuncture are not only symptomatic, any perceived improvement is a real improvement, equivalent to the tuning of a car engine.  Depending on the cause of the problem, it may take a shorter or a longer time to become “out of tune” again, which may require booster treatments from time-to-time.  It is important to understand that acupuncture can only improve function; but it cannot effect structural changes.  For example, it can reduce the pain and stiffness associated with a pinched sciatic nerve, but it cannot replace or repair the damaged intervertebral disk.

ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?

All modern acupuncture needles are disposable to prevent transmission of HIV.  In experienced hands, complications from needling are rare and never serious.  If you are pregnant, acupuncture can still be used, although caution will be exercised with the use of certain points.  Laser acupuncture has no unwanted side effects.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF ACUPUNCTURE?

As acupuncture is so safe, it is always worth trying, before resorting to drugs and surgery, which themselves often have side effects.  Anti-inflammatory drugs are the conventional mainstay of treatment for musculo-skeletal conditions, but are notorious for causing unwanted irritation of the stomach and intestines.  Excessive painkillers can also damage the kidneys.  In many instances, surgery can be avoided with acupuncture, or at least the condition can be improved to the point where fewer drugs are needed to obtain relief.

On the other hand, many conditions that have failed to respond to conventional treatment can be eased [thus enabling a reduction in drug therapy] or cured.

SCIENTIFIC VALIDATION

Contrary to popular belief, there has been a lot of scientific research into acupuncture over the last 20 years.  The ancient principles, which where hard to understand, have now been largely validated by scientific methods.

[a]        Bio-energetic:  There is much evidence to show that the nature of Qi is electro-magnetic.  Acupuncture points have a lower electro-magnetic potential, which can easily be demonstrated with a sensitive ohmmeter.  Disturbances in bio-energy cause biochemical changes, which in turn cause anatomical changes in the body.

[b]        Neurological:  Although meridians do not correlate with nerve or circulatory pathways, it has been shown that acupuncture has an inhibitory effect on nerve pain transmission.  It also has a direct effect on parts of the brain by increasing the blood flow to the medulla, which relays pain message.

[c]        Chemical:  The body, in response to acupuncture stimulation, releases various chemical substances.  These include endorphins, bradykinins and prostaglandins.  Endorphins are pain relieving and mood elevating and are probably responsible for the euphoria that is often experienced after a treatment.  Bradykinins are also pain relieving, and prostaglandins have anti-inflammatory effects.

[d]        Placebo effect:  Proponents of acupuncture often argue that the benefits are all in the mind.  The scientific term for this concept is the “placebo effect”.  It is generally accepted that in any healing, the placebo or psychological effect accounts for about 30% of the benefit, and that one’s state of mind can affect the outcome of any treatment.  Despite this benefit, one does not have to believe in acupuncture for it to work; notably, acupuncture works in children and animals, which are not subject to the preconceptions of the placebo effect.

Acupuncture does not work any more effectively in one racial group compared to others, nor does it form part of any religion, Eastern or otherwise.

In summary, acupuncture by any means, can be very effective and safe in so many conditions, therefore it is always worth trying.

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