Ask anyone what the term “acupuncture” means and the majority will probably reply that it involves being poked by sharp needles. However, there is a lot more to this ancient Chinese treatment than what meets the eye. Because acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine, there are many who doubt its effectiveness, but research has shown that it does have a beneficial effect on certain conditions, which means it is not only a placebo. To find out the truth about acupuncture and clear up any misconceptions, check out the following facts.
1. It’s Not A New Fad
Although it is true that acupuncture is a relatively new treatment in the west, the Chinese have been using it for a very long time. While some scholars believe the origins of acupuncture date back to more than 10,000 years ago, a more accurate estimate would be in the region of 2,000 years. Regardless of which is right, one thing is for sure and that is acupuncture is definitely not a new fad.
2. Needles Come In Various Sizes
Although sharp pieces of bone might have been used in the early days of acupuncture, the instruments continue to change over time. Stainless steel is used for all modern acupuncture needles, in contrast to the iron, copper and even gold ones that were used in the past. The needles are solid, not hollow like the ones used for injections, as their purpose is not to draw blood. The needles are also available in different lengths and gauges, but most are so thin, about as thick as a human hair in fact, that they would be able to fit inside the hollow area of an ordinary needle.
3. Pain Is Not An Issue
We are conditioned to associate needles with pain, but because of the size of acupuncture needles, this is actually not an issue. Depending on your sensitivity levels, you will either feel a slight pinching sensation when the needle is inserted into the skin, or in many cases feel nothing at all. Some people describe a feeling of weight on the area where the needles are inserted, a tingly sensation or warmth. This means that even people with a low pain tolerance can safely make use of acupuncture.
4. Acupuncture Does Not Come With An Abnormal Risk Of Infections
As soon as needles are involved, there is a tendency to be concerned about the risk of infections and diseases. However, since modern acupuncture needles are made from stainless steel this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Always stick to licensed acupuncturists though, as they are required to make use of sterile, disposable needles for each treatment.
5. Acupuncture Is Useful For A Variety Of Conditions
Acupuncture is most commonly used for the treatment of pain, but the World Health Organization actually recommends it for a variety of disorders. The list of medical problems includes sprains, nausea and vomiting, stroke, acute and chronic gastritis and many others. There are also claims that acupuncture can help with weight loss, insomnia and allergies.
6. The Amount Of Acupuncture Sessions Required Varies
No specific amount of acupuncture sessions are needed in order to feel the results. Instead, the amount of sessions depends on the condition of the individual going for acupuncture. For serious conditions, multiple sessions may be required, while only a couple of sessions can already help for minor ailments. Weekly treatments are recommended for the best results, and then the time between visits can be lengthened as required.
7. Side Effects Are Usually Mild
Like any treatment, acupuncture comes with the risk of side effects. However, in most cases these are quite mild and range from drowsiness to feeling dizzy or faint. There is also a small risk that pre-existing symptoms can worsen resulting from acupuncture.
8. There Are Different Types Of Acupuncture
It might have originated in China, but it didn’t take long for acupuncture to spread to other countries where practitioners developed different styles. In addition to the traditional Chinese style most people are familiar with, there is a Japanese style that uses fewer needles. On the other hand, there is Korean hand acupuncture and even auricular acupuncture. Even pets can benefit from this treatment, thanks to veterinary acupuncture.
9. It Is Not Just A Placebo
Many believe that acupuncture is anything more than a placebo, but studies have shown that the effects are not just psychological. Endorphins, which are natural painkillers, are released during acupuncture, causing a therapeutic effect.