Today it is quite common to hear about people turning to acupuncture for chronic pain relief.
The FDA estimates that 9 to 12 million acupuncture treatments are now performed annually in the U.S. Acupuncture supporters claim that it is an accessible, safer, less expensive treatment than conventional pain therapies—providing a surgery-free option to alleviating chronic health problems.
What is Acupuncture
Acupuncture, developed by the Chinese thousands of years ago, is performed to stimulate designated points on the body in order to relieve pain, enhance recuperative powers and strengthen the immune system. This is done through the insertion of small needles, finger pressure, application of heat, or a combination thereof.
According to ancient Chinese belief, there is a network of energy called “qi” (pronounced ‘chee’) that flows through the body and connects these points through different channels or “meridians.” These pathways are related to the organs, the muscular and nervous systems and their specific internal functions.
If there is an imbalance in the flow of the body’s energy, then pain or illness results. With acupuncture, this imbalance can be corrected.
Many physician scientists have shown that acupuncture treatments can stimulate the release of endorphins, natural pain relieving substances found in the brain and spinal cord. This may explain how acupuncture is helpful in relieving pain.
How Acupuncture Is Performed
Acupuncture is done with extremely fine, hair-thin, flexible needles made of silver and steel alloy. There is nothing special about the needle; it is merely a tool to correct the energy imbalance in the body.
As acupuncture is performed, there is often a brief “needle prick” sensation as the needle passes through the skin. Then, as the needle begins to work and the energy effect occurs, the patient may feel numbness, heat, dull aching or tingling where the needle is located. Some people are surprised to find treatments are actually quite relaxing—the result of the natural pain relieving endorphins. The treatment is completely safe and the needles are only used once and then properly disposed.
Acupuncture needles are left in place usually for about 15 to 20 minutes. They may be rotated by the doctor or sometimes stimulated electrically. It is rarely painful as the needles used are much finer than those used for injections, and side effects are rare and minor such as dizziness after the first session or some blood when the needles is removed. Additionally, the treatment does not interfere with any medication.
Conditions Treated with Acupuncture
At Montvale Health Associates, resident physician Dr. Rick Lambert uses acupuncture to treat a variety of disorders including:
- Neck and back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Desired weight loss
- Smoking cessation
- Anxiety/panic disorders
- Carpel tunnel syndrome