If you suffer from headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, depression, back pain or you have suffered a sports injury, and conventional pain management hasn’t alleviated the problem, you may want to consider the standard Chinese medical practice of acupuncture. Acupuncture has been practiced for centuries and it is based on the concept that chi, or energy, flows through and around your body. Illness and pain occurs when something blocks the chi and acupuncture, or the practice of inserting thin needles into the skin to unlock the energy flow. These acupuncture points are located along channels of energy, called meridians, and in addition to the needles, acupuncturists can use pressure, heat, or even a mild electrical current to help the chi’s natural flow. These treatments can help to correct the imbalances in the overall function of the body’s organs. While Eastern medicine speaks to the chi, Western medicine focuses on the belief that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals trigger the release of hormones influencing the body’s own internal regulating system to address the pain.

The first step is locating an experienced acupuncturist. He or she will provide a thorough examination, determine your level of pain and assess your overall health. The provider will then check the pressure points on your body that are blocked, determining the correct points to place the needles. The needles will then be inserted into your skin either with you face down, face up, or on your side, depending on the placement of sterile needles. Several very thin needles will be placed into the skin, at times in groups. These sessions can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to up to an hour and some people choose to have ongoing sessions to relieve pain. While some people may think that acupuncture might be painful, most patients assert that it is not. The acupuncturist may roll the needle back and forth, apply slight pressure to the area or use heat or electrical current on the needle. There may be some slight pressure as the needle is inserted and it may tingle, itch, feel numb or even feel sore. These sensations are an indication that the chi is being unblocked. The number of treatments depends you will need to undergo is contingent upon the type of illness or pain from which you are suffering. For complex issues, frequent visits over the course of months may be necessary.

Acupuncture is being used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments to control pain and to help with other illnesses that don’t respond to the regular treatments. Medical acupuncture is used by trained physicians who also are medical doctors who combine the Eastern and Western medical philosophies. Acupuncture has been used to control pain after surgery as well as relief from the after effects of chemotherapy as well as the treatment of other medical conditions, and has even proven effective in weight loss. You can also ask your specially trained medical doctor to use acupuncture for digestive problems, including diarrhea, constipation, gastritis and colon issues. Acupuncture has been proven to be effective in the treatment of respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, urinary, menstrual, reproductive problems, and additional physical problems related to stress and emotional conditions.

Acupuncture has been proven to be effective in pain management. Clinical studies have shown that people with frequent headaches who have undergone acupuncture treatments reported fewer headaches than patients who were treated with traditional painkillers. Acupuncture has also proven to combat gastrointestinal issues, even better than antacids. Upper GI issues have been tied to stress and acupuncture causes a decrease in stomach acid and speeds up digestion, alleviating the pain associated with indigestion and acid reflux. Additionally, athletes have found that acupuncture helps to increase the flow of oxygenated blood which helps with healing. And if you suffer from anxiety or depression, acupuncture has proven to offer a mental boost caused by the release of neuro transmitters in your body that affect your mood. Acupuncture is an effective alternative for patients who cannot tolerate anti-depression medication and its side effects. Another benefit of acupuncture is its effectiveness in weight loss. If traditional weight loss methods fail, the ancient, alternative treatment of acupuncture may do the trick. Additional, acupuncture is also commonly used to alleviate back pain (just like from a chiropractor) because it increases blood flow to tissues and muscles. It may be a viable option if you have difficulty with pain medication and considering the opioid epidemic, acupuncture is an excellent substitute.

While there are some side effects, the benefits of acupuncture can certainly outweigh them. While the initial thought of sticking needles into your skin may leave you apprehensive, once you experience the benefits of the treatment, the anxiety will disappear. After treatment, some patients can experience a change in appetite, sleep habits and even have urination and bowel issues. Patients may also feel extreme relaxation after a treatment or a sudden release of emotions; all of these are indications that the acupuncture is working and that the chi is flowing properly. In rare cases, some people feel soreness, dizziness and nausea but the vast majority of patients just feel fatigued after an acupuncture treatment.

It is important to find an acupuncturist who is licensed or for a medical doctor who also has a specialization in acupuncture treatment. Individual states issue the licenses, based on the certification results from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. An acupuncturist should have passed the exam they administer and have at least 1800 hours of practical training. Medical acupuncturists, doctors who also engage in acupuncture care, are required to have their medical degree and training from the American Board of Medical Acupuncture; find someone who is well recommended and with whom you feel comfortable. You will want to discuss your particular situation with your provider to ensure your best care. You may also want to contact your medical insurance provider; more than likely acupuncture will not be covered and you will be responsible for the costs.