Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese healing technique that has been used for over 3,000 years. At first glance, acupuncture may seem like a strange and pseudoscientific way of treating ailments. The practice has grown in popularity in recent years, with nearly 2.5 million Americans reporting they have received acupuncture in the previous year, for one reason—it works. Acupuncture often involves inserting thin needles through the skin to stimulate specific points on the body, but can also incorporate massage, heat therapy, and topical herbal medicines. The concept sounds frightening, but is entirely safe when performed by a well-trained and experienced practitioner using sterile equipment. Acupuncture works by stimulating certain anatomical sites on the body to improve body functions and promote healing. The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California San Diego explains, “Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on an ancient philosophy that describes the universe, and the body, in terms of two opposing forces: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy. Energy, called “qi” (pronounced “chee”) flows along specific pathways, called meridians, throughout the body. This constant flow of energy keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. However, if the flow of energy gets blocked, like water getting stuck behind a dam, the disruption can lead to pain, lack of function, or illness. Acupuncture therapy can release blocked qi in the body and stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems.” Research into acupuncture has show that the technique can help with back and neck pain, shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, digestive function, sleep problems, and can even improve mood and overall sense of well-being. Acupuncture is effective, but should not be used as a substitute for professional medical help. There are complications that can arise from acupuncture if a client takes certain medications, has a pacemaker, or chronic skin problems, so it is imperative to speak with a doctor before making the decision to receive acupuncture therapy. If done safely by a professional, acupuncture can be a wonderful and effective way to find relief from many ailments.
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