Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles in your skin at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but over the past three decades its popularity has grown significantly within the United States.
Traditional Chinese theory explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body's natural painkillers and increase blood flow.
You may try acupuncture for symptomatic relief of a variety of diseases and conditions, including:
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Low back pain
- Menstrual cramps
- Postoperative dental pain
- Tennis elbow
Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you many questions about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:
- The parts of your body that are painful
- The shape, coating and color of your tongue
- The color of your face
- The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist
Acupuncture points are located in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your acupuncture practitioner will tell you the general location of the planned treatment and if articles of clothing need to be removed. If appropriate, a gown, towel or sheet will be provided to preserve your modesty. After you lie down on a padded table, the treatment begins.
After the treatment, some people feel relaxed while others feel energized. But not everyone responds to acupuncture. If your symptoms don't begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you.