Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years, but it didn’t become part of western medicine until the latter half of the 20th century. Today acupuncture is a common and effective therapy for a range of physical symptoms.
To understand the physical benefits of acupuncture you first need to understand how acupuncture works. Some misconceptions persist that suggest that acupuncture is a purely psychological treatment. While acupuncture does offer some psychological benefits, there is a very real physiological basis for the treatment.
Traditional acupuncture practitioners suggest that the procedure restores the flow of Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) in the body. We’ll focus instead, however on the scientifically proven benefits of acupuncture.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into the patient’s body. The needles do not hurt but do stimulate nerves under the skin and in muscle tissue. This stimulation triggers the body to release endorphins (pain alleviating chemicals produced naturally by the body) which can also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Acupuncture may also stimulate blood flow.
What are the physical benefits of acupuncture?
According to the World Health Organisation acupuncture is an effective treatment for nearly 30 conditions, including:
Despite its long history acupuncture is only now being studied in depth by Western doctors and researchers. So while acupuncture’s ability to alleviate muscle and joint pain is well documented, it is also claimed, but not proven to have a positive impact on treating:
In 2009, the US Army introduced ‘Battlefield acupuncture’ to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to try to reduce reliance on powerful pain killers prescribed to injured soldiers while in combat.
How safe is acupuncture?
Using acupuncture to alleviate physical pain allows doctors and patients to use less of the powerful painkillers and anesthetics that can be so problematic on a long term basis. Unlike these harsh drugs there is no long term dangerous side effects or risk of addiction from acupuncture.
Acupuncture is not a substitute for mainstream treatment but a complimentary procedure that helps many patients.
Acupuncture from a qualified and licensed practitioner is very safe. Some people may experience short term dizziness or drowsiness but it is not common and only temporary. All equipment is sterilized, and the needles are thrown out and replaced after each session so the risk from infection is low. Acupuncture in Ontario is regulated by the Ontario government.
How does the procedure work?
After taking into account your medical history, your practitioner will ask you to sit or lie down and will then begin carefully inserting the disposable, sterilised acupuncture needles. Once the needles are in place they may be left in for 10 minutes or longer. You will likely feel a tingling or dull ache, if you feel a sharper pain, let your acupuncturist know right away.
Depending on your condition you may experience either immediate relief or it could take a number of sessions before you feel the benefits of acupuncture. Weighing the benefits of acupuncture? Talk to one of our licensed acupuncture practitioners to learn more.