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Safety and Effectiveness of Acupuncture

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Acupuncture Needle

One of the most popular relaxation and pain-relieving medicinal therapies is acupuncture. Acupuncture is derived from traditional Chinese medicine and is now currently a well-known form of alternative medicine. It was developed from the ancient belief in Taoism of Qi, which Taoists believe is the fundamental energy or force that drives all living things. Acupuncturists believe that they can regulate or channel a person’s Qi through their practice. Despite the current popularity of acupuncture, there is still much controversy surrounding it that involves its medicinal use. Many doubts its effectiveness and others are even more wary of its safety, as both the apparatuses and the process itself may produce adverse health effects.

Process of acupuncture

The actual mechanism of acupuncture involves stimulating specific points along the body, known as acupuncture points. This is most commonly achieved through the use of flexible, stainless steel acupuncture needles. The needle is first sterilized and tested by the practitioner before being inserted into the right acupuncture point. The depth and manner of insertion vary, depending on the disposition of the patient and the area of the body that is receiving treatment. Once inserted into the skin at the right area, the patient feels a tingling sensation, known as “De Qi.” The De Qi is important for illness treatment and is controlled by the acupuncturist through the manipulation of the needles. Other related acupuncture practices include acupressure, moxibustion, and Auriculotherapy.

Doubts on effectiveness and safety

Many critics doubt the effectiveness of acupuncture as a therapy for pain relief. They cite the lack of a scientific basis behind the mechanism of acupuncture. They claim that the relief many patients feel is due to a placebo effect. Several studies have been conducted to test whether patients that underwent “fake” acupuncture experienced the same relief as those that underwent real acupuncture therapy. The much greater controversy over acupuncture lies in its safety, as its invasive nature risks several viral and bacterial infections. Any of the apparatuses used, such as the towels and needles, could pass pathogens into a patient’s body. Other adverse side-effects from acupuncture may occur in patients with certain conditions, such as spinal disease and hemophilia.

Reported benefits

Despite the debate regarding its effectiveness, there have been several reported cases of conditions healed through acupuncture. Studies have shown that acupuncture is helpful in providing relief for chronic back pain. Many look to acupuncture to relieve lower back pain and migraines. Acupuncture may also be used to treat allergic rhinitis and persistent itches. Its pain-relieving qualities make it a helpful therapy for several cancer patients and for others suffering from physical debilitating conditions. While it may not be able to cure the actual illness, patients claim that it is more helpful in giving them relief than other forms of medication. The therapeutic effects of acupuncture make it ideal for alleviating stress and treating anxiety disorders. Acupuncture is also an effective depression treatment, and has helped in imbuing patients with more optimistic dispositions. Regardless of the general skepticism targeted toward acupuncture, most patients still prefer it over not having any form of pain relief therapy.

Safety guidelines

Many rules and regulations have been adopted regarding the safety of acupuncture. Acupuncturists are strictly trained to clean their equipment and learn how to properly analyze their patients’ conditions before beginning the therapy. As a natural treatment, acupuncture is also generally safer than certain medications and less risky than more invasive procedures. The World Health Organization has approved of acupuncture as a safe form of pain treatment, provided that it is administered by a licensed and skilled practitioner.