I have been wanting to try acupuncture for a while to help alleviate the low back pain I sometimes experience. I was inspired to write this post about acupuncture because I have always heard positive comments about the practice. Lately, my husband has been suffering from low back pain and radiating leg pain caused by several bulging and herniated discs in his back.
With the approval of his orthopedist who specializes in sports medicine, my husband has been back at the gym, lifting (not with his maximum weight) and vigorously working out. He is stretching religiously and going to a weekly yoga class. Needless to say, he is trying to avoid pain relief injections and hopes to not have to consider surgery for this problem. Hence, the acupuncture discussions. Besides my minimal low back pain, at times I suffer from upper back/bi-lateral shoulder pain. During a recent massage session, the masseuse explained that I will continually suffer from this shoulder/back pain as long as I carry such a heavy work bag. I can’t help it. I like to be prepared. Always, no matter what the occasion. Admittedly, the work bag that I commute to the city with is so packed with essentials that a family of four could use what’s in my bag to camp out for a week.
Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine dating back over thousands of years . Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain but is also useful in treating many conditions. Acupuncture involves inserting extremely thin, metallic needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. It is a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force (known as qi or chi)- believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. When acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points along these meridians, it is believed that your energy flow will re-balance to bring about a healing response. As the acupuncture needles are inserted, most people feel nothing at all, or a mild tingling. The thin needles are then manipulated by the practitioner’s hands and/or through electrical stimulation.
The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for more than 35 diseases, illnesses and conditions, including the following:
low back pain
cognitive issues- ADD and inability to focus
energy problems- lack of motivation and chronic fatigue syndrome
Acupuncture is also used to stimulate the immune system, relieve drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, aid in weight loss and to help stop smoking. Acupuncture treatments are often used with aromatherapy, massage and meditative exercises to enhance the healing benefits. Most traditional medical doctors believe acupuncture is not an effective treatment, however, clinical trials have indicated that acupuncture can assist in pain relief.
Like any medical or alternative practice, there are risks involved in acupuncture treatment. However, the risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified practitioner. The most common risk is infection at the injection site or sites, especially if the practitioner does not use clean needles. It is important to ask your acupuncturist if he or she uses disposable needles. These are the safest type of needles when it comes to limiting the spread of infection. Diseases like hepatitis can be transmitted by using dirty needles. Acupuncture may be dangerous for patients who have bleeding disorders because they can bleed profusely from a small needle puncture. Also, someone who is taking steroids may not be a good candidate for acupuncture since they may have a compromised immune system and be less equipped to fight against needle-borne infections.
For more information, speak to your doctor or contact a reputable medical facility that is known for acupuncture treatment like Johns Hopkins Medical Center or the Mayo Clinic Health System. When choosing an acupuncturist, ask people for recommendations and check the practitioner’s training and credentials. Most states require that non physician acupuncturists pass a certification exam. It’s a good idea to find out what the requirements are in your state. Interview the acupuncturist before treatment and ask what is involved in the treatment, how it will help your problem and how much it will cost. Find out whether the treatment is covered by your insurance.
After doing the research for this post, I realize that there is almost no down side to trying acupuncture and I will definitely give it a try. Stay tuned!