hat is Acupuncture And What Are The Risks Involved?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine there is.

It has been practiced in China for thousands of years and is now considered mainstream therapy.


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Although there is a lot of interest in acupuncture and many people are approaching acupuncturists for relief from a wide range of physical illnesses, there is not a lot known about acupuncture in the Western world. The only aspect that most people seem to know is that acupuncture uses needles and that the doctor lightly inserts them into various spot on the body, known as pressure points, to treat you.

There is also a lot of fear about the side effects due to the nature of the treatment. Understandably, this line of thought arises when you have needles pushed into your body. People think that they can injure you and even cause long-term injury.

In this article, we will explore what exactly acupuncture is and whether there are any side effects, and if so, what they are.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of medicine where needles are lightly inserted into various spots on the body to achieve a desired effect. This effect is achieved by stimulating different pressure points. Acupuncture operates under the belief that there is a “life force” within the body. This life force is governed by yin (a cold, slow and a passive force) and yang (a hot, fast and an excited force). In a normal person, both yin and yang are balanced, thereby maintaining good health. In an ill person, there is some blockage in either the yin or yang, leading to the illness. When this blockage is removed, the person becomes well.

This life force travels around our bodies along meridians, and the skill of the acupuncturist lies in identifying where the blockage is and stimulating the different meridians to restore proper flow of energy.

Does acupuncture really work?

There is a lot of scientific information that shows that acupuncture actually works for a number of illnesses. Some common illnesses treated by acupuncture are,

  • Allergies/asthma
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis/joint problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Bladder and kidney problems
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Colds/influenza
  • Dizziness
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Cough/bronchitis
  • Side effects of chemotherapy
  • Headache and migraine
  • Heart problems/palpitations
  • Knee pain
  • Immune system deficiency
  • Addiction
  • Menopausal discomfort
  • High blood pressure
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Paralysis and numbness
  • Rhinitis
  • Gynecological disorders
  • Stress/tension
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin problems
  • Tendonitis
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • Sciatica

Even though there is evidence to show that acupuncture is enjoys success when treating the illnesses mentioned above, it is still recommended that you do not approach an acupuncture practitioner for diagnosis. You need to get diagnosed by a doctor and discuss with him/her your idea about choosing acupuncture as an alternative treatment method.

Are there any side effects to using acupuncture?

There are no known adverse side effects with acupuncture. In a survey conducted in 2007, it was found that an estimated 3.1 million adults and 150,000 children had undergone acupuncture treatment. Even with so many millions of people undergoing treatment, there have not been any cases of any serious side effects. .The most serious side effects are caused due to improper use of needles and inexperienced practitioners, and these are restricted to bruising where the needles were inserted in.

One known side effect is a feeling of lethargy for 24–48 hours after treatment. A lot of people who have undergone acupuncture therapy say that the effects of lethargy are prominent for the first few sittings with the practitioner. The feeling fades away over time.

Acupuncture is regarded as a safe form of treatment, and although it is not useful at treating all illnesses, some of the most common ones like chronic pain may be treated. Surveys have showed that although the cost per sitting for acupuncture may be higher initially, over a 24 month period, the cost is lower than normal treatment.

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