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Many of us today are looking for an alternative to allopathic medicine to treat our ailing bodies. This is particularly true for patients with chronic pains who do not wish to take drugs continuously. What is the best alternative to such medication? One can opt for Ayurvedic and Siddha treatments, homoeopathy, or even go for regular body massages. Ayurvedic body massages like Kati Basti, abhyanga, or Greevabasti and Shirodhara can relieve pain to a large extent. There is one other traditional treatment that can be sought for chronic pain, and that is acupuncture. Acupuncture, especially, is known to relieve body pain if done by an expert practitioner. Although it is not a very popular option and people are sceptical about this course of treatment, it has its own merits. Read on to understand more about this treatment.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a type of treatment which involves inserting thin needles into the skin of a person at precise points in the body. These needles are inserted to various depths, depending on the treatment required for the kind of pain the patient has. It is a very crucial component in traditional Chinese medicine which dates back to 2500 years before today. It is a form of treatment that is usually combined with other methods of treatment. Several trials and systematic reviews of acupuncture stand to show inconsistent results, and it is inconclusive whether acupuncture is effective in the treatment of any ailment other than pain.
How Does Acupuncture Help Treat Back Pain?
Acupuncture is based on the premise that our bodies consist of a selective form of energy flow. This energy is known as Prana in yoga and Qi (pronounced as chee) in Chinese medicine. It is vital for optimum energy flow to maintain good health. There are said to be 2000 points all through the body which connect 20 energy pathways. While performing acupuncture, thin needles are inserted at various points to calibrate your energy flow. Most sessions require between 5-20 metallic needles to be placed in the skin for about 20 minutes. The needles usually reach anywhere just below the surface or several inches lower. Longer needles are required where the muscles are deeper, or there is a layer of fat cells.
Stimulation of these points is supposed to activate parts of the nervous system to relieve pain. The needle stimulation is also known to deliver opioid-like chemicals into the bloodstream to numb pain. Also, it is known to trigger electromagnetic impulses that increase the rate at which endorphins and encephalin are released into the body. These chemicals may alter the pain experience or trigger the flow of other hormones which influence the body’s internal pain regulating system. The effect is that our neuroendocrine function stabilises. Additionally, acupuncture is supposed to shut off pain receptors in the body by using neurotransmitters. It stimulates the body’s innate healing abilities and improves emotional well-being and well as physical health.
Energy pathways and points in our body correspond to certain parts and organs of our body. Acupuncture points for neck and back pain differ vastly, and should only be performed by an expert. Acupuncture pressure points for lower back pain are located on the stomach, back of the knees, lower back, foot, hip, and hands. Pressure points for the upper back are entirely different and may be located on the head, shoulder, neck, and upper back. There are no conclusive researches that evidence the exact nature of acupuncture. It is said to be based on intuition and philosophy rather than scientific research. However, it is seen that acupuncture creates a host of desired effects. It is said to stimulate the spinal cord and the brain. Most people who have undergone treatment have reported feeling energised and relaxed.
Precautions To Be Taken While Doing Acupuncture
The ancient practice of acupuncture may have found new takers in the modern world. But it is important to remember a few things if you decide to get acupuncture treatment to relieve your aches.
- Get the treatment from a responsible and well-trained practitioner. A little bit of research on the practitioner will go a long way in keeping you safe and healthy. Your therapist should use medically approved sterile, single-use needles only.
- If you are pregnant and are looking at acupuncture to relieve lower back pain, remember that acupuncture is known to stimulate labour and delivery. Speak to your healthcare provider before you make a decision.
- If you take blood thinners for blood pressure or suffer from a bleeding disorder, avoid acupuncture because it can be a health risk.
- Keep the site of puncture clean post each session to avoid contracting an infection. The risk of infection is minimal if you have chosen a professional practitioner.
- Sometimes there may be a bit of soreness, minimal bleeding, or bruising at the point of puncture. It clears up without any further treatment and does not pose any risk to health.
- Keep in mind that a single session cannot remedy your pain permanently. As all treatments and medication do, acupuncture requires time and belief to show results.
- Do not cancel subsequent sessions if you feel pain relief after the first session. Consistency is key to long-term pain relief.
Acupuncture, although it has many sceptics, is an ancient therapy that has long held value in the East. It can aid in relieving upper and lower back pain as well as neck pain. There are several indications that it can help to reduce the pain of migraine headaches, osteoarthritis, and knee pain too. There are various methods of needling like spinning, moving down, or flicking. The needles are sometimes heated with electric charge after insertion to improve reception of treatment.
Several governments across the world have regulatory bodies governing the practice of acupuncture. WHO recommends a minimum of 200 hours of intensive training before becoming a registered practitioner of acupuncture. Despite this, malpractice has lead to several cases of adverse effects like pneumothorax, oedema, and spinal injuries. It is very crucial to find a professional with many years of experience before deciding to take the treatment.