The traditional process of acupuncture involves inserting needles into the patient's skin just deep enough to keep them from falling out. The needles are placed on acupoints, which are located on regions of the body known as meridians. Meridians are the channels of the body that the vital energy flows through, and also connect various parts of the body in a system of communications. According to traditional thought, illness occurs because these meridians get blocked, causing the energy to stop flowing efficiently. When the needles are inserted, these channels get unblocked, relieving pain and promoting health. Some acupuncture practitioners in the West, however, claim that pain is relieved because the body produces endorphins which then travel to the brain to stimulate a pleasure response, thus lessening the pain. Skilled acupuncturists are able to insert the needles will little or no pain, oftentimes twirling the needle in order to enhance the therapy.
Presently, the effects of acupuncture concerning cancer patients are being studied, although no direct correlation to the reduction of cancer tumors has yet been discovered. Nonetheless, acupuncture has been noted to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy. Cancer, however, is not the only ailment that acupuncture helps to cope with. In fact, this traditional Chinese medicinal process helps to relieve migraine headaches, as well as to treat a number of musculoskeletal diseases. Acupuncture has also been found to help people who are trying to quit addicting behaviors such as drinking alcohol or smoking. In China, acupuncture is still a common anesthetic during surgery, helping to relax and numb a particular area of a patient's body.
Although acupuncture, the process of inserting thin needles into the skin in order to relieve certain ailments, developed in China more than 2,000 years ago, it certainly has relevance today, considering that it has been known to treat many different illnesses that modern medicine has been unsuccessful at treating. Acupuncture can be given in many different forms, including needles that are inserted into the skin or devices that emit sounds vibrations which are placed on the acupuncture sites, or acupoints. Another method, with or without needles, involves stimulating the acupoints with a weak electrical current.
In the United States today, there are roughly 10,000 licensed acupuncturists, most of which practicing in the 35 states that have developed training standards for licensing the practice of acupuncture. Although Medicare does not currently cover acupuncture, private insurance plans and even some HMOs do cover it. At least 2,000 medical doctors also practice acupuncture in the United States, as noted by the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
Of course, with any medical practice, especially regarding alternative medicines, risks are involved with the procedure. Although most are very rare, certain problems have cropped up, usually because of an inexperienced acupuncturist. Such risks include dizziness, fainting, local internal bleeding, convulsions, hepatitis B, dermatitis, nerve damage, and increased pain. Punctured lungs have resulted as well, some even resulting in death, although extremely rare. Contaminated needles also pose a threat to patients.
While acupuncture can assist in dealing with certain ailments, conventional medical practices should not be avoided, but rather used in conjunction with any form of alternative medicine.