Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical procedures in the world and can benefit your general health and well-being. Acupuncture as a practice has been seen in the United States only since the early 1970s, after Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. But it has been used in Asia for more than 2,000 years, and has slowly gained acceptance in the United States.
Acupuncture helps your body to help itself. Similar to Western medicine, our body, mind, and spirit function optimally when in a state of balance or homeostasis. Our lives and lifestyle throw us out of balance. With acupuncture, fine, sterile needles are inserted into specific acupuncture sites along pathways or meridian to balance qi or energy in order to re-establish internal balance.
Acupuncture can be used to treat any sort of pain, whether headache, backache, neck pain, anxiety, stress, or gastrointestinal disorders; acupuncture can even help you quit smoking or lose weight. Acupuncture needles go about 1/4 inch into the skin; they are quite thin, not at all like a traditional needle. Your acupuncturist should use disposable needles that are individually wrapped and sterile.
There are many theories as to why acupuncture works. Some research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the production of immune-system cells and pain-killing endorphins. Other studies suggest that it alters the release pattern of brain chemicals and hormones. But what we know it does is relax you, and for many problems, like chronic headaches or back and neck pain, relaxation is what is sometimes needed.
Special thanks to Shellie Goldstein of the Eva Scrivo Salon for sharing information about acupuncture, and to Dr. Charles Kim from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine for discussing alternative medicine. To find a licensed practitioner in your area, visit nccaom.org. For more information on integrative medicine, visit nccam.nih.gov.