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acupuncture needles in the back of a hand

Acupuncture: Restoring Balance to the Body

acupuncture needles in the back of a hand


For something that's been around for more than 2,500 years, it's surprising that acupuncture isn't more mainstream. But with more health insurance providers covering the ancient therapy because of its undoubted effectiveness, it's finally starting to get the attention it deserves.

So what is acupuncture, and how can it help improve quality of life?

A primer on acupuncture

This minimally invasive form of traditional Chinese medicine involves placing thin needles into specific areas of the body to open pathways and ultimately manage pain. It's sometimes confused with dry needling, which is specifically used to stimulate stiff or knotty muscles.

Acupuncture has been studied extensively for centuries and has been shown to positively affect the nervous system in several ways by relieving symptoms associated with myriad conditions, including:

Acupuncture is often used as a complementary treatment to traditional medicine or other forms of eastern medicine—although it has two distinct interpretations. In traditional Chinese medicine, it's thought to help balance the body's qi, or life force, so pathways can flow naturally and healing can take place. In Western medicine, it's believed that the needles used in acupuncture help stimulate the body's muscles, nerves and connective tissue to help ease pain.

In this way, the needles act as triggers to let the body know to respond to injury. This response involves stimulating the immune and nervous systems, which then help promote circulation and ultimately healing.

What to expect

Treatments can be different depending on your provider, but you can generally expect to be asked questions about your overall health during an initial visit. Based on your answers, the acupuncturist will insert thin needles into specific trigger point areas.

Treatments may take an hour or more, and you may need several follow-up treatments for maximum effectiveness. Just like going to the chiropractor one time won't heal your back pain, getting acupuncture once is likely just the beginning of a more impactful health journey.

Everyone responds to acupuncture differently, but you may feel a tingling sensation during and after treatment, or you may feel more relaxed or energized.

Know potential risks

Either way you look at it, the needles used in acupuncture have a profound impact on the body. But it's important to note that no two acupuncturists are alike and that your experience can vary wildly from one practitioner to another. Similar to how you'd vet a primary care physician, it's important to ensure the acupuncturist you use has sound ratings and the appropriate credentials from the National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

There are some potential side effects to treatment as well, including bruising or discomfort at insertion points. Infections caused by non-sterile needles are rare, so verify that your acupuncturist is implementing only single-use needles during treatment so you can reap the benefits of this powerful ancient alternative therapy.


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