When I was suggested to get acupuncture for some pretty serious migraines, a few years ago, I cringed at allowing something or someone to stick numerous needles into my arms, legs, head, or another part of my body. I would have considered myself closed to the idea of alternative medicine. Most people have heard of acupuncture, but a far less are brave enough to allow it to be done. I forced myself to learn more.

It’s origin is from a traditional medicine treatment in China.  Their belief is that energy flowing through our body needs to remain in-balance.  This would allow the body to the ability to function properly.  Therefore, the belief is that their are several points on the body, called meridians, which allow for acupuncture needles to realign the energy of the body.  Meridians are believed to be channels of which energy flow through the body.

More recently, Acupuncture has fallen into the category of Alternative Medicine. Those who profess its effectiveness, insist that treatment is effective in areas of generalized health and also for the treatment of pain. In addition, it has been connected to the prevention of disease and for treatment of the following:  Infertility, Drug Addiction, Fibromyalgia, Menstrual cramping, and several others conditions.

In 2006 BBC filmed a patient going into heart surgery without anesthesia except for acupuncture.   The problem was that later it was determined that the patient had been given a weak anesthetic.  This show was highly criticized for a reported false impression it gave. Strictly from a medical standpoint, it is hard to allow a patient to go into surgery without any type of anesthesia. The main concern should have been disclosed in the show.

Let’s now look at the process itself:

The first step is Needles and their placement!

The needles are usually stainless steel and should be sterilized. A large number of the needles can be thrown away directly after use. A smaller portion can be reused.  Patients should make sure these are well cleaned and sterilized between uses.

The needles vary in length and can be anywhere from ½ inch to around 6 inches.  The shorter needles are used on face, near eyes, near ears, and other locations.  Longer needles are used in more fat or muscled areas.

The needles can also vary in diameter.  Usually the needles need to be flexible.

They need to be applied in several different locations depending on complaint or goal. They are inserted into the skin and can be slightly painful – like a needle.  [Go figure]

The needles can remain in the skin for 10 minutes to 60 minutes. But in some cases, like around the ear, they have been known to stay in for a few days. When the needles are within the skin, scents are often burnt.

The sensation felt has been described as a sensation  similar to numbness and/or an electrical tingling. Like having a small continuous volt under your skin.  Typically results or benefits can occur immediately and if no altered sensation is felt, often the needle can be reapplied or manipulation of the technique can be done.  Benefits of acupuncture can last from days to weeks.

The medical community appears to still remain on the fence about acupuncture. Many have called for additional studies to prove the value of this alternative medicine.  Over the last 30 years it has gain in popularity and additional medical backing. It has been approved for treatment of headaches, nausea, and pain.  The World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health has placed some backing behind this procedure. Currently the majority of studies have looked at the safety of acupuncture and not at how effective it has been.

In the end, I never chose to try Acupuncture. I was fortunate enough to get a better handle on my headaches. It was something that was always at the back of my mind. I can promise you that it would have been an easy step to take, if my headaches had continued. Overall, it is quite a fascinating topic.

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