Dr. Elizabeth Trattner is an internationally recognized acupuncture physician who has helped countless patients improve their health through acupuncture and other holistic treatments. Here she explains what acupuncture is and the benefits of acupuncture to treat a variety of conditions. You’ll learn that acupuncture really isn’t so scary and it just might be worth a try!
What is acupuncture?
Although acupuncture may seem mysterious to some, it is a time tested therapy that was first developed in China thousands of years ago and is still very much a main method of healthcare there and in many other parts of the world today. Acupuncture is a system of healthcare that helps to naturally promote health and alleviate sickness by stimulating very specific anatomical points throughout the body. These acupuncture points generally lie along meridians, or energy channels, that run through and along the surface of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that pain and sickness occurs when these energy channels become blocked, and that these blockages can be removed by stimulating acupuncture points. In today’s acupuncture, this stimulation is done by superficially inserting sterile, super thin, disposable needles into the various acupuncture points. This is done with or without the addition of gentle manipulation, heat, or electricity to further stimulate the points and break up the obstructions.
Acupuncture is one of the most proven and well-known forms of alternative therapies, and many studies have been conducted demonstrating the safety and efficacy of acupuncture.
How does it work?
There are two theories on how acupuncture works. According to classical theory, acupuncture works by removing obstructions in the energy channels, or meridians, in the body. These meridians are like rivers of energy that flow along regular pathways and help to irrigate and nourish the body’s organs and tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these rivers acts like a dam that backs up the natural flow of energy, causing an imbalance that can manifest in a variety of ways such as sickness and pain. Through acupuncture, the needles are inserted to stimulate these energy channels, removing the dams and restoring the natural balance and smooth flow of energy throughout the body.
In contrast, modern science proposes that needling acupuncture points helps to stimulate the nervous system and release biochemicals, such as endorphins, immune system cells, and neurotransmitters, in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. In addition to helping to kill pain, these chemicals can influence the internal regulating system of the body and affect involuntary bodily functions such as blood flow, immune reactions, body temperature, and digestion.
What can acupuncture treat?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture has been proven effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions, ranging from pain problems, to addictions, to emotional disorders. Some conditions that I commonly treat with acupuncture are digestive disorders, migraines, and skin issues such as acne, rosacea and overly dry skin. Often, people feel improvements in just one session, although it may take several treatments for complicated health issues.
Is it safe?
When administered by a licensed practitioner, acupuncture is a very safe form of therapy. Licensed acupuncturists receive a lot more training than care providers that only get an acupuncture certification. In the state of Florida where I practice, licensed acupuncturists are required to complete a minimum of 4 years academic years of study, with the equivalent of 2700 hours of study and treating patients. As part of their training, licensed acupuncturists in most states are trained and certified in Clean Needle Technique, which requires the adherence to strict safety guidelines, such as the use of sterile, disposable needles, to minimize the risk of infection.In addition, in order to become licensed, candidates must pass a rigorous national board examination given by the National Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). In contrast, in most states, medical doctors can practice acupuncture with little or no training, and chiropractors can practice it with as little as 300 hours of training.
Does acupuncture hurt?
For most people, acupuncture causes minimal to no pain. The needles used are very fine and are nothing like the hypodermic needles used to give injections at a doctor’s office. A patient may feel a slight prick similar to a mosquito bite when the needle is first inserted. At times, a tingling, dull ache, or warm sensation may be experienced at the point where the needle is inserted. This is a desired effect but it should not be uncomfortable. Often, during an acupuncture treatment, a patient feels so relaxed that he or she will fall asleep.
If you are interested in acupuncture, I encourage you to seek out a licensed acupuncturist who is fully trained in using acupuncture and its underlying theories as their main method of providing healthcare. You can learn more about me and my practice here.
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