What Is Integrative Medicine? Part 3: Acupuncture

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A Natural Way to Improve Your Health with Needles


As one of the oldest medical procedures in the world, dating back 2500 years ago in China, Acupuncture is now established as an essential component in an integrative medicine approach to health and wellness.


What is integrative medicine and why is Acupuncture such an important element?

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health.

The old Chinese physicians found pathways or meridians in which energy and blood circulate and nourish the organs and tissues.  Acupuncture helps regulate the body’s systems and functions by addressing imbalances or blockages in these pathways where the energy and blood flow. Acupuncture treatment is an essential component of integrative medicine because it can directly communicate with this system which flows through the entire body, maximizing your ability to fight pain and disease.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves inserting sterile, single use hair-thin needles through the skin into specific “acupoints”. These acupoints are located within the network of energy channels throughout your body known as meridians. Specific acupoints correspond with specific organs and healing systems which are stimulated by the needles to get the desired effects.

Does it really work?

Acupuncture has withstood the test of time and is the most commonly used medical procedure in the world.  The ancient Asian scholars and doctors explained acupuncture as influencing the energy and blood flowing through the body.  Western medicine has shown that acupuncture increases the level of endorphins in your body, which helps reduce pain and stress.

What is it used for?

Acupuncture treatment can help with musculoskeletal ailments including muscle spasms and strains, ligament sprains, arthritis, bursitis, headaches, rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture can also help with the treatment of many other conditions such as allergies, addictions, weight loss, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, PMS issues, hypertension, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s and infertility.

Is it a stand- alone therapy or best used with other modalities?

This really depends on the condition being treated, how chronic the condition is, and the current health status of the individual being treated. Everyone can benefit from acupuncture when it is done correctly. Utilizing multiple modalities from an integrative medicine approach oftentimes is most effective when treating a condition.

What does science say about the effectiveness of it?

In 2003 the World Health Organization published an official report on the effectiveness of acupuncture based on data from controlled clinical trials prior to 1999. Acupuncture was proved to be an effective treatment for 28 various conditions. Also in the report, acupuncture was proved to have therapeutic effect on 63 additional conditions. The amount of well-designed, published randomized controlled trials on acupuncture has grown since 1999. The existing level of evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is much higher than in 1999.

What does science say about the safety?

According to the World Health Organization, generally speaking, acupuncture treatment is safe if it is performed properly by a well-trained practitioner. Unlike many drugs, it is non-toxic, and adverse reactions are minimal. This is probably one of the chief reasons why acupuncture is so popular in the treatment of chronic pain in many countries.

What are the side effects and risks of acupuncture?

The risks of acupuncture are extremely low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner. The possible side effects and complications of acupuncture include the possibility of soreness, minor bleeding or bruising at the needle site. If the needles are pushed in too deeply, they could puncture an internal organ such as a lung. This is a very rare and unusual complication in the hands of an experienced practitioner. Licensed acupuncturists are required to use sterile, disposable needles. A reused needle could expose you to disease or infection.

Is there anyone who should not do it?

Not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture or for particular types of acupuncture.  Bleeding disorders may increase your risk of complications from acupuncture, or if you’re taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin).  Some methods of acupuncture involve applying mild electrical pulses to the needles so it is not safe if you have a pacemaker.

How many treatments are needed?

The number of treatments depends on several factors: general health of the patient, severity of the condition, as well as, type and duration of the condition. In general, one can expect between 4-6 treatments to see noticeable improvement and establish a practical timeline for recovery. Although most people find benefits after the first treatment, they usually need more to obtain lasting results.

What kind of credentials do acupuncturists have?

Entry into the field of acupuncture requires a master’s level education of three academic years in acupuncture and 660 hours of supervised clinical experience, certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and state licensing. Acupuncturists typically have a background in medicine, biology, psychology or neurobiology.

This is part-three of the four-part series on “What Is Integrative Medicine?” Many Americans have never heard of integrative medicine, but this holistic movement has left its imprint on many of the nation’s hospitals, universities, and medical schools.  Mt. Lookout Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center is one of the leaders in the Midwest.  If you would like any more information go online to mtlookoutchiro.com or call 513-321-8484.