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An Introduction To Acupuncture

May 9, 2008
Acupuncture is thought to have originated in China and is most commonly associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture treatment regulates the flows of Qi ( life energy ) and Blood, tonifying where there is deficiency, draining where there is excess, and promoting free flow where there is stagnation until the body reaches a healthy balance.

Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific sites (acupuncture points) along the body's meridians to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of qi through the individual.

The first forms of acupuncture to reach the United States were brought by non-TCM practitioners -such as Chinese rail road workers- many employing styles that had been handed down in family lineages, or from master to apprentice (collectively known as "Classical Chinese Acupuncture").

Classically, in clinical practice, acupuncture treatment is typically highly individualized and based on philosophical constructs as well as subjective and intuitive impressions, and not on controlled scientific research.

In today's China, acupuncture has a prominent place in medicine with even major surgery sometimes carried out with no other forms of anaesthesia.

However despite this, the effectiveness of acupuncture remains controversial in parts of the scientific community, according to a review by Edzard Ernst and colleagues in 2007, which found that the body of evidence was growing, research is active, and that the "emerging clinical evidence seems to imply that acupuncture is effective for some but not all conditions".

While little is known about the mechanisms by which acupuncture may act, a review of neuro-imaging research suggests that specific acupuncture points have distinct effects on cerebral activity in areas that are not otherwise predictable anatomically.

It is thought that the needling process, and other techniques used in acupuncture, may produce a variety of effects in the body and the brain.

There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners, and that further research is warranted.

Despite some remaining concerns acupuncture has now become quite popular in the western world, where the technique is mainly used to control pain and relieve symptoms of disease such as nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs, but not to cure the disease itself. Acupuncture is often the choice for the alleviation of nagging pains such as back pain where the constant and unrelenting use of analgesics can lead to problems with stomach irritation or in more severe cases dependence on pain killers.

The World health organization recognizes acupuncture treatment for the following conditions:

headaches, migraines, stroke, facial and inter-costal neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, some forms of paralysis, consequences of poliomyelitis, peripheral neuropathy, Meniere's disease, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, acute tonsillitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, sore throat, common cold,toothache, post-extraction pain, gingivitis, hiccups, oesophageal spasms, duodenal ulcers, gastric hyperacidity, gastritis, colitis, diarrhoea, constipation, conjunctivitis, simple cataracts, myopia in children, central retinitis, osteoarthritis, sciatica, low back pain, cervicobrachial syndrome, "frozen shoulder", and "tennis elbow".

In conclusion, acupuncture has been the subject of many clinical studies and in some countries is now part of a medical degree curriculum.

Most countries require a license to practice acupuncture; however, education and training standards and requirements for obtaining a license to practice vary from country to country.

Although a license does not ensure quality of care, it does indicate that the practitioner meets certain standards regarding the knowledge and use of acupuncture.
About the Author
The author has 35 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and alternative medicine fields. He has supervised clinical trials in a number of countries and has been responsible for the launch of one of the first low GI meal replacement bars. Visit acupuncture-select for more information and articles on acupuncture.
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