Dr. Mark LaBeau - Acupuncture in Carmel Valley, California
What Is Acupuncture?
An acupuncturist will insert needles into an individual's body with the goal of balancing their energy. This, it is claimed, can help boost wellbeing and might treat some illnesses. Conditions it is used for include various kinds of pain, such as headaches, blood pressure problems, and whooping cough, among others.
How Does It Work?
Traditional Chinese medicine explains that health is the outcome of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of "yin" and "yang" of the life force known as "qi," pronounced "chi." Illness is said to be the result of an imbalance of the forces.
Qi is claimed to move via meridians, or pathways, in the human body. These meridians and energy flows are accessible through 350 acupuncture points in the body.
Placing needles into these points with appropriate combinations is said to bring the energy flow back into proper balance.
There is no scientific proof that the meridians of acupuncture points exist, and it is hard to prove that they either do or do not, but many studies claim that acupuncture helps some ailments.
Some experts have used neuroscience to explain acupuncture. Acupuncture points are viewed as places where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated. The stimulation increases blood circulation, while at the same time triggering the activity of the body's natural pain relievers.
It is tough to develop investigations using proper scientific controls, because of the intrusive nature of acupuncture. In a clinical study, a control group would need to receive sham treatment, or a placebo, for results to be compared with those of genuine acupuncture.
Some studies have concluded that acupuncture offers similar benefits to a patient as a placebo, yet others have suggested that there are some genuine benefits.
Research conducted in Germany has shown that acupuncture may help alleviate tension headaches and migraines.
The NCCIH note that it has been proven to help in cases of:
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Knee pain
- Headache and migraine
They list more conditions that might benefit from acupuncture, but which require additional scientific confirmation.
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted a number of conditions in which they claim acupuncture has been shown effective.
These consist of:
- High and low blood pressure
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Some stomach problems, including peptic ulcer
- painful periods
- Allergic rhinitis
- Facial pain
- Morning sickness
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis elbow
- Dental pain
- Reducing the risk of stroke
- Inducing labor
Other ailments for which the WHO say that acupuncture may help but more evidence is needed include:
- Postoperative convalescence
- Substance, tobacco and alcohol dependence
- Spine pain
- Stiff neck
- Vascular dementia
- Whooping cough, or pertussis
- Tourette syndrome
The WHO also says that it may help treat a number of infections, including some urinary tract infections and epidemic hemorrhagic fever.
Acupuncture can be beneficial in that:
- Performed properly, it is safe
- There are very few side effects
- It can be effectively combined with other treatments
- It can manage some types of pain
- It may help patients for whom pain medications are not well-suited
What to Expect
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians, through which vital energy runs. This energy is known as "qi" or "chi".
An acupuncturist will examine the patient and assess their condition, insert one or more thin, sterile needles, and offer recommendations on self-care or other corresponding therapies, such as Chinese herbs.
The individual will be asked to lie down on their back, front, or one side, depending on where the needles are to be placed. The acupuncturist should use single-use, disposable, sterile needles. As each needle is inserted, the individual might experience a very brief stinging or tingling sensation.
After the needle is inserted, there is sometimes a dull pain at the base of the needle that then subsides. Acupuncture is normally fairly painless.
In some cases the needles are heated or stimulated with electricity after insertion.
The needles will remain in place for between 5 and 30 minutes.
The amount of treatments required depend on the individual. An individual with a chronic condition might need one to two treatments a week over several months. An acute problem typically improves after 8 to 12 sessions.