Why Try Acupuncture? When to Try Acupuncture?
Updated: Jul 20
The short answer? For any health concern you might have (physical, mental, or emotional).
Acupuncture is part of Chinese medicine, a holistic medicine modality that uses various therapies (like acupuncture) to help bring about overall wellness. While acupuncture can be used to treat almost all medical conditions, therefore being of potential benefit to everyone, not a lot of education is out there about this very fact.
Before we go into some of the most common benefits that acupuncture can provide, as well as some of the most common conditions that patient seek acupuncture for, let us briefly discuss what acupuncture even is.
As previously mentioned, acupuncture is just one aspect or therapy used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that the physical body, mind, and emotions are all connected. For there to be good health, all three aspects of a person need to be functioning properly and routinely cared for.
Acupuncture can address all aspects of a person. How? Well, when an acupuncture needle is inserted into a specific point on the body, a biophysiological reaction starts. Said differently, the needle causes nerves to send signals to our brain and central nervous system. A cascade of various hormones, neurotransmitters and chemicals are then put into production and released into the body. Depending on the point needled, different products will be created and circulated throughout the body.
Regardless of the specific products (i.e. hormones) produced via acupuncture stimulation, it is the parasympathetic nervous system that is activated. This system is also known as the “rest and digest” system of our body. The system that is needed for us to heal and maintain good health. Unfortunately, a lot of us tend to be stuck in the sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flight.” Acupuncture helps our body to switch out of the “fight or flight,” much like our bodies are supposed to be doing when we sleep.
So, if acupuncture can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system as part of its core “therapy,” what are some of the overall benefits of receiving acupuncture treatments?
One of the main benefits of acupuncture is that it helps promote relaxation. As noted earlier, it helps to activate our “rest and digest” system. It relaxes our nervous system by turning that relaxed nervous system “on.” As a result, we can feel calm and relaxed. This is fantastic for those who experience chronic stress or often find themselves overwhelmed by the daily demands of life: work, family, social, etc. In fact, patients often find themselves so relaxed during treatment that most patients either fall asleep or find themselves in a dream-like state. This is great news as being chronically stressed does create major damage on our bodies over time (think of any chronic inflammatory disease prevalent in this country, like cardiovascular disease!)
Another benefit of receiving acupuncture treatment, tied closely with the promotion of relaxation, is that it helps improve sleep. A large number of the population suffers from insomnia, while many of us have multiple nights where we just do not seem to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up refreshed. Acupuncture can help promote quality sleep through its communication with our central nervous system. Even those without insomnia or sleep disorders often notice that their overall sleep improves with treatment.
If acupuncture helps to promote relaxation and improve sleep, then, acupuncture can also improve our energy levels. One of the repercussions of being chronically stressed is that we often find ourselves feeling fatigued more often then not. Some of us may not feel stressed but a lot of us still are guilty of burning the candle at both ends. In Chinese medicine, one would call this depletion of our ‘qi.’ Loosely translated, this means our energy. Makes sense, right? Being in an overstressed or fast-paced state overtime can deplete our energy resources. Acupuncture helps to boost our energy reserves as well as help us from burning them so quickly in the first place!
From these, we can follow then how acupuncture can help with overall mood. If we are more relaxed, sleeping better, and feeling less fatigued our mood is likely to be better. Several patients report that following treatment, they find themselves in an overall better mood for the next few days to couple of weeks. Less anxiety, less frustration, more patience! Again, this is not just contained to those who come for mood disorders; patients have an overall feeling of well-being and just being in a better mood regardless of why they sought acupuncture treatment.
Reduced stress, better sleep, improved energy levels and better mood are all benefits of acupuncture that almost everyone experiences when they receive treatment. Even better, the more treatments you receive the more likely it is to see a noticeable improvement in these areas as well as in overall well-being. When one has improvements in their health, like the above benefits, that only helps to add to the resolution or treatment of other conditions, such as musculoskeletal pain, poor digestion, or gynecological disorders.
Above are some of the benefits of receiving acupuncture treatment. However, are there certain times when it might be good to see an acupuncturist or have a referral from a doctor for acupuncture due to a specific condition? Of course!
One of the most common reasons that patients come for acupuncture is for pain relief. While acupuncture is not able to adjust or fix structure (think a broken bone or hips being out of alignment), acupuncture can help the body manage pain directly (through the production and release of pain moderating chemicals called endorphins and enkephalins) as well as indirectly. This indirect resolution of pain includes: increasing blood flow to surrounding tissue to bring in nutrients, oxygen, hormones and chemicals to increase the healing process, stimulating your body’s release of natural anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce pain and promote healing and the stimulation of your body’s immune system which also stimulates healing.
If you are experiencing pain, whether it is headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain, menstrual pain, knee pain or even foot pain, acupuncture can help. In fact, it has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as well as other federal health agencies that non-pharmacological treatments like acupuncture be tried first before the use of other-the-counter medication or prescription medication (like anti-inflammatories) and surgery. In fact, the National Institutes of Health reports that acupuncture is the most effective treatment for low back pain and osteoarthritis of the knees. While all treatments may be effective in relieving the pain, acupuncture can do so without any adverse side-effects or damage to the body. It also can heal or resolve the damage in addition to suppressing any current pain.
Should you have a chronic pain, a recent injury, or internal dysfunction that results in pain (think dysmenorrhea, acid reflux or migraines), I would encourage you to try acupuncture for both pain relief and resolution of the condition itself, whether that is simply tissue or tendon repair or an improvement in the functioning of an organ or organ systems. I would encourage you to try acupuncture alone or in conjunction with physical therapy or chiropractic care, if applicable. For example, if you find yourself with an aching lower back but no issues with your spine, perhaps start with acupuncture. However, if your spine is out of alignment and causing you pain and tight muscles, I would recommend chiropractic care and acupuncture. Acupuncture can also help with recovery pre- and post-surgery due to its ability to reduce inflammation and increase tissue repair. This is something that other therapies, manual as well as drug, are unable to do.
Again, acupuncture is a holistic, safe, and natural medical treatment that addresses both the symptoms of a condition as well as the cause of the condition itself. It stimulates your own body’s healing system to bring you back to health and wellness. There are little to no adverse side effects. At the very least, you come away with a sense of relaxation and improved mood for the day. This still has a positive impact on your health, including your immune system.
So, if you are finding yourself looking for answers for a physical, mental, or emotional issue, try acupuncture. While some may be open to trying acupuncture as the initial treatment for a condition, I understand that not everyone is open to trying acupuncture right away. If that is the case, perhaps talk to your physician about coming in for an acupuncture appointment if you find that your condition is not relieved or treated effectively by other modalities, such as prescription medication or physical therapy. For some, they come to acupuncture because traditional western medication does not help. Others come even though medication does help; it's just that there are some unfortunate adverse side effects that are not worth the relief of symptoms for the condition!
Below are just some of the conditions that acupuncture has been proved effective for. This is not a comprehensive list as that would take up too much room! Specific conditions that acupuncture has been shown to treat effectively, from the latest report by the World Health Organization:
Low back pain (acute or chronic) *neck pain *sciatica * tennis elbow * knee pain * periarthritis of the shoulder * sprains * facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders) * headache (including migraines) * dental pain * temporomandibular (TMJ) dysfunction * rheumatoid arthritis * induction of labor * correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation) * morning sickness * nausea and vomiting * postoperative pain * stroke * essential hypertension * primary hypotension * renal colic * leucopenia * adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy (including neuropathy) * allergic rhinitis, including hay fever * biliary colic * depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke) * acute bacillary dysentery * primary dysmenorrhea * acute epigastralgia * peptic ulcer * acute and chronic gastritis Infertility * chronic fatigue syndrome * fibromyalgia * endometriosis * edema
If you ever have any questions, never hesitate to reach out; whether it is to me or another licensed acupuncturist. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.