Acupuncture 101

If you have a phobia of needles (belonephobia), you may not want to continue reading this post about acupuncture. But if you can muster the courage to keep reading, you’ll learn about an ancient medical technique that continues to bring people relief to this day.

acupuncture 300x199 Acupuncture 101 Photo

Don’t let all the needles scare you off; acupuncture can be an effective treatment for pain.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the placement of very thin needles into various points on the body. While Eastern practitioners believe acupuncture works by balancing a person’s life force, or chi, Western practitioners believe that the needle punctures in various nerves, muscles, and connective tissues work to stimulate blood flow and the release of the body’s natural painkillers.

Though it may be no consolation to those who are afraid of needles, the needles used in acupuncture cause very little pain or discomfort because they’re incredibly thin in diameter, ranging from .006 to .018 inches. Some are so thin and flexible that they require a tube to be inserted into the skin. In contrast, an average hypodermic needle like the kind used for administering the flu shot ranges from .03225 to .02025 inches in diameter.

During an acupuncture session, the practitioner will insert 5-20 needles into various parts of your body. The needles will be left inside your skin and occasionally moved for 10 to 20 minutes while you lay still. They are then removed.

Proponents of the practice believe that it’s effective in the treatment of pain associated with headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, and other conditions, as well as nausea caused by chemotherapy. It’s also believed to reduce stress, making it a useful aide in smoking cessation.

Besides the risks inherent in going to an unlicensed or unskilled practitioner, there are also additional risks faced by patients with bleeding disorders, pregnant women, or people with pacemakers. Acupuncture is not recommended for these groups.

To learn more about acupuncture and whether it’s right for you, speak to your primary care doctor.

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