Medical Acupuncture is the clinical discipline of acupuncture as practiced by a physician who is also trained and licensed in Western biomedicine. Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. It involves the insertion of fine needles and the application of electrical stimulation at precise points to stimulate the body to release natural chemicals that relieve pain, promote relaxation, and improve function.
How does acupuncture work?
The classic Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating systom.
What conditions can acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture is used for various types of pain, including back pain, joint pain, neck pain, and headache.
Research studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in alleviating chronic low-back pain, osteoarthritis of the knee, and tension and migraine headaches.
Acupuncture may provide added pain relief when it’s used along with other therapies, such as Physical Therapy, Manual Therapy, and massage. Acupuncture can reduce the need for medicine and can improve the quality of life of people with chronic pain.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, it has much broader applications. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:
- Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea
- Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections.
- Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, neck pain, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis
- Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems
- Physical problems related to tension, stress, and emotional conditions
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture needles are very thin, and most people feel no pain or very little pain when they are inserted. They often say they feel energized or relaxed after the treatment.
Side effects and risks
Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Relatively few complications from acupuncture have been reported. Additionally, there are fewer adverse effects associated with acupuncture than with many standard drug treatments used to manage pain.
Choosing a practitioner
It is important to receive treatment from someone who has met standards for education and training in acupuncture. States vary in their licensing requirements. There are national organizations that maintain standards, such as the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (a physician group), the sole physician-only professional acupuncture society in North America. Dr. Prywes is a Fellow of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, having fulfilled the requirements of Board certification by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture.