One of the most popular forms of alternative medicine today is acupuncture, an ancient medical practice that originated from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) more than 3,500 years ago. Acupuncture is commonly used to address a wide variety of health conditions such as muscle fatigue, inflammation, headaches, and even depression. While acupuncture is widely adopted in many Eastern countries, the practice has slowly made its way into the Western world where numerous clinics and physicians offer it as a complementary healthcare approach.

While the practice is subject to further scientific investigation, most of the patients who undergo acupuncture can attest to its positive benefits especially the patients of TCM Centre. If you’re interested in learning more about this medical practice, then you came to the right place. In here, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about acupuncture and how it can improve your overall health and well-being.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a holistic healthcare practice where trained practitioners insert fine, filiform needles at numerous points throughout the body. The thin needles are said to stimulate the body’s natural painkillers and unlock its healing mechanisms to facilitate recovery. The most common question people ask is, “does acupuncture hurt?” The good news is, the treatment is relatively pain-free and you may even find the procedure to be soothing and relaxing.

Numerous studies suggest that acupuncture may be used to address chronic pain such as lower back pain, neck pain, muscle spasms, and nerve damage. This makes acupuncture a viable option as a supplementary form of treatment to enhance recovery and provide further relief from one’s symptoms.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is based on the meridian system concept, a belief in Chinese culture where an energy called chi (or qi) flows throughout the body. The practitioners believe that this life force is what separates the healthy from the sick. If the person’s energy flow is imbalanced or disrupted, then sickness, pain, fatigue, and poor sleep can all occur. In the medical field, acupuncture is believed to work through the person’s neurohormonal pathways. The needles stimulate the nerves which sends signals to the brain to release hormones like beta-endorphins. This in turn, increases the patient’s pain threshold and enable them to feel less pain.

The goal of acupuncture is to promote a healthy flow of chi inside the body. The needles work by removing blockages from the body’s energy channels, thus restoring chi balance and accelerating recovery speeds. Acupuncture is performed by a trained practitioner wherein 10 to 20 needles are simultaneously inserted into different acupuncture meridians. In total, there are 14 major energy channel meridians throughout the body and include around 360 different points where the needles can be inserted.

What does science have to say about acupuncture?

Even with limited scientific evidence, more and more institutions are now starting to include acupuncture as part of their practice, particularly to treat nausea and pain. For example, a 2013 review conducted by Cancer Research UK found that acupuncture can reduce nausea and vomiting in patients who are undergoing chemotherapy sessions. Studies are also being conducted to discover how the treatment can benefit patients with cancer-related symptoms such as peripheral neuropathy, hot flashes, and even lymphoedema.

While many can attest to the healing powers of acupuncture, not all are convinced of its regenerative properties. Even some scientists claim that the treatment provides nothing more than a placebo effect. Surprisingly, this supposed “placebo” can trigger a physiological phenomenon that contributes to its positive effects. When patients undergo acupuncture, an actual change in their blood flow patterns occur. This can be seen through an MRI where the blood flow patterns in their brain’s cortices are improved. Some people respond strongly to this phenomenon, making them feel better both physically and psychologically after undergoing the treatment.

Another possibility is that acupuncture promotes the release of endorphins in the brain which are the “feel-good chemicals” in our body. These chemicals have the knack for functioning like morphine and induce feelings of euphoria which can alter the brain’s pain receptors. Studies have shown that acupuncture triggers beta-endorphin releases which is linked to decreased pain levels in some patients.

There’s a growing body of research on whether or not acupuncture can be used as a form of supplementary treatment to cure sleep disturbances, drug addiction, and depression. In the medical field, acupuncture is looked as a complementary to conventional healthcare practices, and is likely to be most effective when paired with a scientific-based treatment.

What’s the bottom line on acupuncture?

Despite limited supporting evidence, acupuncture is a viable treatment option for those who are looking to try holistic-type treatments. There is no universal response to acupuncture. Some people may feel better and more energised after treatment while others may notice improvement after several treatments.  It’s quite difficult to pinpoint exactly how acupuncture works, but the harmonious and balanced feeling that acupuncture gives is what makes it so effective in addressing as well as a whole host of symptoms and conditions.

Keep in mind that acupuncture is not meant to be an alternative to conventional treatment, but rather as a complementary healthcare approach to help boost recovery and improve patient compliance. If you’re looking to try out acupuncture, make sure to visit a reputable clinic that employes licensed acupuncturists. You’ll find the experience much more enjoyable and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of what acupuncture has to offer.

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