Alternative Medicine and Acupuncture

By Spencer Schreckengaust
Categories: , , ,

Macro detail of a hand stimulating acupuncture needles along the back

Alternative medicine usually refer to non-traditional or non-Western medical practices for the promotion of health. Over the past two decades, individuals are looking for other medical sources for their well-being and health have reached a prevalence rate between 30-50%. One of these alternative medicine has been acupuncture. What is acupuncture? Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique developed ~2500 years ago which uses the belief of a life-energy known as chi or qi along specific paths or meridians to “cure disease, relieve pain or promote healing”.  In the varied techniques of acupuncture, small and thin needles are inserted at various meridian points in the body to balance the chi or qi.  At times, a low current can be directed to flow through those needles in the skin which is called electroacupunture.

Acupuncture has been purported to help a variety of issues such as chronic pain, low back and neck pain, headaches and migraines, labor pain, back pain with pregnancy, osteoarthritis, tinnitus, stress, anxiety and even shoulder stiffness known as adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. However, most individuals seek acupuncture for symptom and pain management, especially for low back pain. The use of acupuncture in conjunction with other Western, traditional practices such as physical therapy, pain medication and exercise has been suggested as well for a quicker recovery.

What are the risks?

While usually acupuncture is a safe treatment, it is still highly recommended that you seek a trained practitioner with the proper certification. The practitioner should be using the clean needle technique with sterile, single-use needles. However, the contraindications for acupuncture include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Neurological deficits
  • Serious spinal disease (cancer or infections)
  • Blood disorders like hemophilia
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Blood-thinner use like warfarin
  • Liver disease
  • Skin infection or trauma (burns)
  • Pacemaker as cannot allow electrical stimulation with electroacupuncture
  • Severe psychiatric disorders.

What to typically expect?

After the subjective exam or interview of the patient, the practitioner will usually palpate or touch various structures of the body like the radial artery and other areas but will also potentially inspect the tongue and even recommend herbal medicines. Next, the practitioner will insert the needles at the various meridian points while allowing the needles to remain at that location for 15-30 minutes. Also, the practitioner could manipulate or turn the needles to create a dull, localized ache and possibly connect a low current to the needles for electroacupuncture.

How many visits?

Acupuncturists will not recommend only one session but could recommend between 10-12 sessions. If the patient’s symptoms do not improve by the 12th session, the clinician would most likely stop the treatment for ineffectiveness.

Are there side effects to acupuncture?

Despite having only 0.1% of serious side effects such as dizziness, fainting, nausea and vomiting, most of the accidents or infections can be attributed to the neglect of the practitioner. Furthermore, the patient might encounter mild-moderate pain, superficial bleeding and a hematoma at the needle insertion site.

Are you a candidate?

Prior to engaging in any acupuncture treatment, it is recommended to speak to your physician.

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