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Acupuncture: A Beginner’s Guide For Spring

Acupuncture: A Beginner’s Guide For Spring
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By  Keith D. Foote

As an antidote to the unrelenting winter of 2017/2018, this spring you might want to investigate the potential of acupuncture to renew your energy. Acupuncture is a healing technique where very fine needles (sometimes with electrical stimulus or heat) are inserted into the skin at specific points. There are 365 traditional points of blockage in acupuncture, all of which control the flow of energy throughout the body. The energy being released is called gi, or chi, and is the foundation of many Eastern exercise and health programs.

Reality or Illusion

In the early 1980s, researchers found acupuncture stimulated the release of endorphins, chemicals produced by the body to counteract pain. Aside from counteracting pain, endorphins also produce a pleasurable sensation, something you may have heard referred to as a “runner’s high.” New research indicates there may be other positive effects of acupuncture as well. A growing body of research suggests acupuncture stimulates tissue repair and blood flow around the needle sites, and affects the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls things such as respiration, heartbeat, and digestion.

There are some experts who “loudly” proclaim acupuncture is a hoax and any benefits from the practice are the results of the placebo effect. However, research seems to indicate the foundation for their arguments is a lack of scientific explanations for the positive results. In other words, if, with all their training and education they were not able to understand it, it must an illusion supported by the lessor-educated masses.

Helene Langevin, a researcher of neurology at the University of Vermont, has added a new observation about acupuncture using Western technology. Ultrasound images show when the acupuncture needles are inserted into the target points and rotated, the connective tissue wraps around the needles like spaghetti around a fork. This stretches the cells in the connective tissue, similar to the way yoga and massage do. Langevin further suggests these points are acupuncture meridians sending signals throughout the body. “That’s what we’re hoping to study next,” she says optimistically. Neuroimaging studies at Massachusetts General Hospital have shown acupuncture affects a variety of systems in the brain, including a calming of the limbic system, the part of the brain dealing with emotions, and activating other (less understood) parts of the brain. At the Martinos Center, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome have been observed having altered brain patterns after acupuncture treatments. The parts of their brains regulating pain and fear became calmer, more closely resembling the brains of people without carpel tunnel syndrome.

What Does Acupuncture Treat?

The World Health Organization has formally recognized the use of acupuncture for treatment of a large number of medical problems, including: Digestive disorders, respiratory disorders, tension, stress and emotional conditions, neurological and musculoskeletal disorders, urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems. A single method of treatment for such a wide variety of disorders might seem unlikely, but consider what is not being claimed. There are no claims acupuncture cures measles, birth defects, or broken bones. All of the issues it claims to treat could be the result of an unbalanced energy flow.

How Long Before Results Are Seen?

It depends, in part, on the condition being treated, and on the health of the individual being treated. Some situations may provide immediate relief, or there may be a one or two day delay in response. Some situations may require a few treatments before results are felt.

One visit per week is considered the minimum effective treatment during the “active” healing phase. Once a week treatments normally have a cumulative effect, with noticeably reduced symptoms and improvements. Severe or chronic conditions may need a treatment regimen of two or three treatments per week, at least for the first few weeks.

After the flow of chi energies becomes balanced and a week can pass without any symptoms, the treatment frequency may be reduced. The time between treatments can be stretched out to two weeks, or even a month. The potential for achieving long-term balance may even eliminate the need for additional treatments.

Finding An Acupuncturist You Trust

Getting a referral from friends or other people you trust is one of the best ways to find any service. The phone book and the Internet can help you locate a “licensed” acupuncturist in your area. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. For example, are the needles used single-use and disposable? (As they should be.) If herbs are used, will they interact with prescription drugs you might take? Are you comfortable with the acupuncturist? Does he or she take the time to listen to you? And finally, will your insurance cover the treatments? Some will cover acupuncture, some won’t, and some will cover treatments for certain conditions.

Enjoy the coming spring and summer and give acupuncture a try to discover if it improves your quality of life.

For additional information, check out these sites:

*The National Association of Oriental Medicine: http://www.nomaa.org

*The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture: http://www.medicalacupuncture.org

*Tai Sophia Institute: http://www.muih.edu/

 

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