Acupuncture is based on the theory that life energy, called "qi" flows through channels in your body. Acupuncturists believe that illness occurs when something blocks or unbalances the qi. The word itself means "needle insertion", and denotes the use of tiny metal or wood acupuncture needles. Acupuncture is used to remove blockages and restore balance to your body by placing thin needles into your skin at specific points on or in your body. Although many patients are drawn to acupuncture due to simple curiosity, there are numerous reasons why people decide to try this ancient therapy. Many people in today's busy and stressful world find that acupuncture is a highly beneficial and effective treatment for relieving pain, stress, and other physical and emotional issues.
History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical practices in human history. Evidence of acupuncture has been found in ancient documents from China, India, Egypt, and Greece in the form of stone carvings and etchings on papyrus scrolls. It is estimated that acupuncture has its origins some 4,000 years ago and has been used for thousands of years since then. Chinese historians have recorded acupuncture as far back as 4,000 years ago. Its earliest depictions appear in ancient scrolls depicting the body with acupuncture points marked on it. But it wasn't until about 2,500 years ago that acupuncture was developed into an effective healing method and integrated into Chinese medicine.
As time passed and its use grew, the people of China created many theories to explain how acupuncture worked. The most popular theory today is that needles stimulate certain points on the body, which treat disease by balancing or unblocking the flow of energy (Qi) through channels (meridians) that connect each part of the body with every other part. Over the centuries, this ancient practice made its way into other countries through military campaigns and trade routes. Today, it is used to treat multiple conditions, with small scientific studies supporting its use for certain health problems.
Benefits of Acupuncture
People use acupuncture in the belief that it can accomplish many different things in the human body. Some of the benefits that are looked for include:
- Pain relief - Acupuncture relieves pain through several mechanisms. It relaxes muscles and opens channels to allow Qi to flow freely. It stimulates the body's healing response and triggers your internal pharmacy, which releases pain-relieving chemicals into your bloodstream. It encourages the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers.
Boosts the immune system - Acupuncture supports immune function by increasing natural killer cell activity. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell that can eliminate cancer cells, bacteria, and other foreign substances in your body.
- Improves blood circulation - By treating at the right point, acupuncture helps improve blood circulation, nourishing the whole body as it passes through that area. It allows qi (vital energy) to flow smoothly around the body, easing it into a deep state of relaxation.
- Induces relaxation - Acupuncture induces relaxation by stimulating the natural ability of your body to self-regulate. This helps it release stress and anxiety.
- Balances digestive system - Acupuncture balances the digestive system. Through the stimulation of specific points in the body, acupuncture stimulates the muscles in the stomach and intestines. The result is a stronger and more relaxed bodily response to stress, leading to better digestion. Acupuncture is also used to treat symptoms such as nausea and bloating.
Finding Local Acupuncture Specialists
The following are three essential things to look for when finding local acupuncture specialists:
- Certification - Choosing a certified acupuncturist can be tough because while state or federal agencies do not regulate the practice, there are some regional boards that offer certification exams and validation.
- Experience - Experience matters more than anything else when choosing an acupuncturist. The most important thing to look for is experience and how many patients the acupuncturist has treated successfully with sterility.
- Availability - Look for the availability of a local acupuncture specialist. Location is one of the first factors individuals consider when it comes to finding health care specialists, especially for patients who need ongoing treatments. Such patients may be unable to travel long distances for treatments, as well as unable to leave work during regular business hours. Many local acupuncturists will have a website or blog with their contact information. Some larger national acupuncture sites even have directories that list local practitioners.
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