If you are like many Americans, at the first onset of aches or pain you reach immediately for the stash of over-the-counter pain-killers. And while popping a few pills may indeed relieve your symptoms temporarily, the pain is sure to return full-force as soon as their masking affects have worn off, not to mention you’ve just added a boatload of extra strain to your liver, which has to process the chemicals you’ve so eagerly fed it.
But, the bottom line is, you haven’t treated the root of the pain, merely masked it. Instead, consider the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture. This ancient technique has been used to treat a wide range of ailments for almost 2,500 years. Its effectiveness is based on the theory of energy flow patterns throughout the body referred to as Qi. When the flows are in balance, the body experiences good health, but when the patterns are disturbed or altered, the body experience pain or illness.
Acupuncture effectively corrects any disrupted patterns to restore proper Qi. Centuries ago, traditional acupuncturists used tiny needles comprised of bone, stone or silver and gold and carefully inserted them into any of the then-identified 365 acupoints located on the body. Once the needle was inserted into the acupoint, the energy flow could be restored and the body returned to proper health.
Modern day acupuncture follows similar theories, yet tools and techniques are far more refined. There are currently over 2,000 recognized acupoints and the needles have evolved from bone and stone to the much thinner sterile stainless steel variety.
While this ancient practice has been studied in Asian cultures for centuries, it was not until President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China that Americans took more of an interest. Since then, the practice has blossomed in America as well as in Europe. As of 2010 there were approximately 18,000 licensed acupuncturists in the United States and over 8,000 licensed practicing medical doctors as well.
But, just what does acupuncture treat and how effective is it? Many Americans and medical professionals remain skeptical but continuous research is finding that acupuncture is a highly successful means of treating a variety of ailments. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine sponsors much of the existing acupuncture research. To date, they’ve found acupuncture to be a successful technique for treating many types of pain, chronic lower back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee being the two most common.
When 18,000 chronic pain sufferers were surveyed about the effectiveness of acupuncture as a means to treat pain, a majority concluded that acupuncture was indeed effective and that it should be recommended by physicians as a treatment method.
Aside from pure pain management, more research is finding that acupuncture is effective in treating several other conditions. A recent study found that acupuncture is as effective for treating symptoms of depression as traditional counseling techniques are. And studies performed by the American Cancer Society have found that acupuncture helps ease the symptoms of chemotherapy and anesthesia-induced nausea, post surgical pain and that it is an effective treatment for several musculoskeletal conditions as well as stroke rehabilitation.
And while researchers aren’t quite sure exactly how this ancient medical art works, there is plenty of ongoing research to discover the mechanisms behind acupuncture’s ability to ease indigestion, treat seasonal allergies and even fight the obesity epidemic.
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