Acupuncture / Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be traced back at least 2,500 years, and has slowly integrated into the healthcare systems in North America since 1960. The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that there are patterns of bioelectrical energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for pain and disease. Acupuncture may correct imbalances of Qi at identifiable points close to the skin called acupoints.
Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese beliefs of energy and blood flow throughout the distinct pathways (meridians) that network the body, much like nerves and blood vessels. In this theory, insertion of acupuncture needles at various points along the body’s meridians enables energy and blood to flow into areas where there is a deficiency and away from areas of excess. These changes in flow create balance and harmony in the body, which allows the body to naturally restore itself.
Biological Effects of Acupuncture
Many studies in animals and humans have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses. These responses can occur locally (at or close to the site of needle application) or at a distance, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to changes in various physiological systems in the brain and elsewhere in the body.
Stimulation by acupuncture may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects, including alteration in the secretion of hormones, and changes in the regulation of blood flow. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture.
Benefits of Acupuncture
The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined (through controlled trials) that acupuncture is an effective treatment for over 40 diseases, symptoms or conditions. A further 70 conditions are currently being studied, with all showing some therapeutic improvements to date. These conditions include:
- Lungs – Some bronchial asthmas, coughs and colds (acute or chronic history of)
- Ears, Nose, and Throat – Toothaches, pain after tooth extraction, earaches, sinus infection and inflammation, nasal inflammation, allergic rhinitis
- Eyes – Central retina and conjunctiva inflammation, nearsightedness (in children), and some cataracts
- Stomach and Intestines – Digestive tract problems, hiccups, inflammation of the stomach, chronic duodenal ulcers, inflammation of the colon, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery caused by certain bacteria, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease
- Pain – Tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, knee pain, sprains and strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ, facial pain, headache, sciatica, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, whiplash, fibromyalgia, cancer pain, nerve pain
- Gynecological & Sexual Problems – Painful periods, PMS, absent or irregular periods, infertility, male sexual dysfunction (non-organic)
- Pregnancy issues – malposition of fetus, prolonged labour, delayed labour (no contractions), morning sickness, lactation deficiency
- Nausea – due to post-operative, chemotherapy or pregnancy
- Emotional – depression, anxiety, insomnia, fibromyalgia, stress
- Miscellaneous – Incontinence (including bed wetting), fever, sore throats, acne, facial paralysis
Read WHO’s initial landmark study for more information.