What is acupuncture?Acupuncture is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine. Today, licensed practitioners use it to treat a variety of conditions, most notably chronic pain. During the procedure, they insert very thin, disposable needles into the skin at specific sites, which adhere to ancient maps of energy meridians that traverse the body.What does acupuncture do?How acupuncture works on a physical level is something that Western medical practitioners are just beginning to understand. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) posits that acupuncture balances “chi,” also known as life force, which is believed to flow through specific pathways in the body.The meridian or pathway points of TCM do, by and large, correspond to specific nerves and organic structures in the body. Many Western practitioners therefore believe that the use of needles and pressure may stimulate certain nerves and possibly boost blood flow.What are the benefits of acupuncture?Many people turn to acupuncture to address ailments that Western medicine has failed to resolve or for which the treatments come with significant side effects. It’s also frequently recommended by Western practitioners as a complement to their treatment plans.What are some of the issues said to be addressed by acupuncture?The most common ailment that acupuncture treats is chronic pain. Several studies suggest that lower-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis are conditions that may respond positively to acupuncture. Studies have also shown that acupuncture may be effective for treating tension headaches, migraines, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.Other ailments said to be ameliorated by acupuncture include, but are not limited to, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, dental pain, and nicotine addiction. However, there is less clinical evidence to support the efficacy of acupuncture for many of these conditions.Is there downtime?There is rarely downtime associated with acupuncture when it’s performed by a licensed practitioner.How often should appointments be scheduled?According to the Mayo Clinic, a common treatment plan may include 6–12 sessions scheduled over the course of several months. The exact treatment plan will vary depending on the condition you’re treating and how you respond to each treatment. Speak to your practitioner to learn more about the typical treatment course for your ailment.Read more about acupuncture and its applications at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
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