Therapies: Acupuncture

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Acupuncture

Eastern Medicine has been making rounds on the internet for the past few years, especially in terms of mental health. Owing to its hundreds of years-long history of use, scientists have been investigating its efficacy in the modern disorders of today, and so far, the results seem promising. Among the various holistic modalities that mental health experts have started using routinely, acupuncture is among the commonest.

This therapy utilizes the concept of Chinese Medicine to heal multiple disorders of the brain and body. Understanding what acupuncture is good for and how it works can help you decide if this holistic modality is the right choice.

What is Acupuncture? An Overview

Acupuncture has been a part of Chinese medical traditions for thousands of years. Recently, this technique has seen widespread acceptance, with many Western healthcare practitioners using it in their everyday treatment plans for additional benefits. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized acupuncture’s potential to improve performance, enhance wellness, and help individuals manage long-term pain.

The technique has also been used to help athletes and other sportspersons prevent injuries while overcoming pain-related issues. Today, many prefer acupuncture as an alternative to medications due to the latter’s side effects which may further compromise health. [1]

Acupuncture therapy involves the application of needles to certain areas of the body. This strategic placement of needles stimulates the nervous system and its association with other organs and functions of the body. According to Chinese Medicine experts, acupuncture balances the flow of energy, also known as qi, through specific meridians or pathways in the body. As experts insert needles at specific points along these meridians, these needles rebalance energy flow and heal the underlying health issues.

Western Medicine has conducted extensive research on acupuncture and found that it also boosts endorphins, the natural pain relievers found in the body. However, further research suggests that multiple other factors contribute to the healing powers of acupuncture. The scientific community accepts that it still hasn’t fully understood how acupuncture impacts the mind and body, and further workup is needed in this field.

How Does Acupuncture Work? The Perceived Benefits

Eastern and Western Medicine have different perspectives when it comes to evaluating the benefits of acupuncture and the mechanism through which they can be experienced.

The Western Perspective

Western experts believe that acupuncture therapy can:

  1. Help stimulate the nervous system while releasing certain neurochemical messengers. These effects can induce certain biochemical changes in the body’s homeostasis to promote emotional and physical well-being. Stimulation of certain body parts through needles can also affect specific areas of the brain that decrease pain sensitivity while promoting relaxation.
  2. Regulate neurotransmitter levels and balance hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, ACTH, neuropeptide Y, ACTH, GABA, and noradrenaline. Together, these changes can improve mood chemistry and combat the adverse effects of stress in a better way. [2]
  3. Stimulate the nerves in muscles and other tissues that release endorphins and other mood-regulating neurohormonal factors. [3]

The Eastern Perspective

Eastern Medicine is of the viewpoint that treating the physical body can also impact the emotional and mental health with no delineation between them. For instance, Chinese practitioners have been using certain points of the body associated with the lungs to treat breathing disorders.[4]

Similarly, other points related to the immune system, skin, and chest can help experts treat the disorders of these respective areas. As acupuncture improves the health and functioning of these areas, it also releases emotions related to loss and grief, letting go, and self-esteem. 

Sometimes, acupuncture can also work in reverse order to benefit people. For example, people coming in with mental health issues may undertake this technique and find their physical health improving as the technique helps release the trapped negative emotions from the body.

Regardless of the concept a person chooses to believe in, acupuncture has been dramatically effective in delivering benefits encompassing both mental and physical health. However, as with other holistic techniques, it comes with limitations that everyone should keep in mind while deciding whether to choose it or not.

How to Know If Acupuncture Therapy Is Right For You?

If you have learned about acupuncture benefits and are considering giving it a try, doing some homework and background research is always a good idea. Start by investigating the benefits and risks of acupuncture and weigh the options against other treatments. To be sure, it is never a bad idea to seek second opinions from other doctors and loved ones.

Following are some questions to consider before you join an acupuncture session:

Are you open to the concept?

If you are unsure about the efficacy of acupuncture and are skeptical if it will work, it may not be best to join it.

Can you commit to regular therapy?

Like most other mental health treatments, acupuncture is an ongoing therapy which means you may need to keep going back for regular sessions. If your personal or professional duties do not allow it, reconsider your choices.

Can you afford acupuncture treatment?

If your insurance does not provide coverage for acupuncture sessions, you will need to pay out of pocket for this therapy. In such circumstances, acupuncture may be costly, especially if your underlying mental health condition requires multiple weekly or monthly sessions.

Acupuncture London: Seeking the Benefits With Safety

It is always a good idea to check with your primary healthcare provider before beginning acupuncture. To minimize side effects and risks, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always choose a well-trained and licensed practitioner with adequate experience in acupuncture services. The technique relies on utilizing specific pressure points; if performed incorrectly, it may cause puncture of vital organs.
  • Avoid going for acupuncture if you have bleeding disorders or are taking a blood thinner for some reason. Such people are at a high risk of bleeding due to needle insertion.
  • Ensure that the needles you use are sterile and unused. A good practitioner must always use new needles for each client and throw them away after every use.
  • Despite the numerous acupuncture benefits, the technique is never a substitute or an alternative to doctors and healthcare.

FAQs

What does acupuncture treat in terms of mental health?

Acupuncture can help patients improve their overall mental health by helping them with the following:

Are there any acupuncture side effects to keep in mind?

Acupuncture is usually a safe modality for most people. It rarely leads to any side effects, both mild and serious. However, in very uncommon instances, some people may develop the following issues while undertaking acupuncture sessions

  • Itching at the area of treatment
  • Soreness
  • Allergic reaction to needles
  • Bleeding from needlepoint
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle twitching in the targeted area
  • Bruising around needlepoint
  • Tiredness

Some rare cases involved acupuncture leading to infections, spinal injuries, and cardiac and respiratory issues. Most of the instances where acupuncture causes side effects involve improper techniques. Hence, always ensure that the practitioner you choose has adequate training and certification in delivering the technique safely.

Can I enjoy acupuncture benefits by using the technique alone?

Even though many people commonly use acupuncture as a solo treatment, its efficacy significantly increases when combined with other treatment modalities, such as therapy and medications like antidepressants. Some studies have highlighted that using acupuncture as a part of ongoing treatment can make clinical treatments work better and even increase the benefits associated with counseling.

Does insurance cover acupuncture treatment?

Insurance can cover acupuncture sessions depending on the specific plan and insurance providers. The situation was horrible during the last few years when the technique remained unrecognized and uncommon. For instance, in 2012, only 25 percent of individuals who received acupuncture had insurance to cover the costs.

Today, many insurance companies cover this type of treatment; however, they may not pay for every claim. For instance, some companies only cover acupuncture if a person uses it to manage chronic pain. The best way to find out if insurance covers acupuncture is by calling the company directly and asking for advice.