Acupuncture, what it is and how it benefits us

Acupuncture, what it is and how it benefits us


Acupuncture is a holistic health technique that derives from the practices of traditional Chinese medicine, in which therapists stimulate specific points in the body by inserting thin needles into the skin.

Today, acupuncture is one of the most popular practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the West, which is a type of therapy that originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago and has evolved since then.


  • 1 What is acupuncture?
  • 2 Benefits of acupuncture
  • 3 How is an acupuncture session
  • 4 Are there any side effects or indications of acupuncture where acupuncture should be avoided?

What is acupuncture?

Contrary to Western popular belief, acupuncture is not just a therapy in which fine needles are inserted into specific places of the body to relieve pain. Acupuncture is a complete medical protocol focused on correcting energy imbalances in the body.

The explanation of the effectiveness of acupuncture is that modify the flow of energy (known as qi or chi) throughout the body, but there is no scientific consensus that this is actually its mechanism of action. An investigation published in 2010 in the journal Nature Neuroscience showed that the effects of puncture with acupuncture include increased activity of adenosine, an amino acid that is activated in the skin after an injury to relieve pain. This may partly explain why pain relief is often experienced as one of the benefits of acupuncture. In fact, numerous investigations in the West have focused on this analgesic effect, instead of in the traditional role of acupuncture balance energy to address a wide range of disorders. Apparently, this mechanism may be truly responsible for its overall health benefits.

Acupuncture benefits

Although there is still some concern about the functional use of acupuncture to treat certain conditions, there is a great deal of research confirming certain health benefits.

Because the goal of acupuncture is to promote and restore the balance of energy flowing throughout the body, the benefits of acupuncture can extend to a wide variety of conditions, from emotional disorders (anxiety, depression), through chronic pain and even digestive problems (nausea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome).

Reduce chronic pain

This is perhaps the most common use of acupuncture in the human body, and that is why it has been the subject of most research to prove its validity. Some studies have shown that acupuncture reduce pain by up to 15% When used to relieve different types of pain, although it focuses mainly on back pain as a result of physical stress, old injuries that never healed completely, muscle tightness, pregnancy or other sources.

Knee pain is another common condition that makes people try acupuncture, and although studies have occasionally contradicted themselves, most have positive results that make acupuncture an effective way of reduce knee pain from surgery or pain associated with osteoarthritis and aging.

It is also used successfully for ease the pain in the following cases:

  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Menstrual pain.
  • Neck pain and contractures.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Anxiety treatment

There have been several studies on the effects of acupuncture on the anxiety. As in many of the other uses of this technique, the exact mechanism is not fully known, but clinical trials show a positive correlation between anxiety reduction and acupuncture. In addition, some studies indicate that when acupuncture is added to a pharmacological treatment for stress and anxiety, the dose needed to relieve symptoms is usually lower.

Reduce insomnia

Studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce the frequency of insomnia in many people. Apparently acupuncture increases nighttime melatonin secretion, which is a chemical that helps and induces sleep. Some studies show that in less than five weeks, regular acupuncture significantly decreases the presence and effects of insomnia. Therefore, if you cannot sleep and do not want to suffer the potentially complicated side effects of sleep medications, talk to an acupuncturist!

Headache Relief

Another of the most popular applications of acupuncture in recent years has been the relief of migraines and headaches, both in terms of pain relief and frequency reduction. Although the exact mechanism to prevent these conditions through acupuncture around the face, neck and scalp is not known exactly, the research results have somehow justified dozens of generations of this method of treatment. There is also a much lower chance of side effects in acupuncture than in medications to treat migraine.

On the other hand, neck pain has actually been one of the most proven conditions for which acupuncture is effective. In a review of the year 2011, there was almost unanimous support that Acupuncture is a reliable way with no side effects to relieve chronic neck pain, very often the pain is accompanied by general muscle pain and constant headaches.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis is a very debilitating disease that affects tens of millions of people worldwide. Unfortunately, the benefits of modern medicine are often insufficient to solve it in the long term, which means that you must constantly take (at least once a day) powerful medications to relieve joint pain. Acupuncture offers a different option to reduce the painful and debilitating effects of arthritis.

In the traditional acupuncture belief system, there are 14 meridians or energy channels in the body that allow the flow of qi, or natural energy of the body. These meridians often correspond to key nerve endings that act as impulse receptors for parts of the body such as knees, back, joints, temples, facial muscles, etc.

By inserting needles into these meridians, our nerve endings communicate with our brain, and tell you that our muscles feel sore or "full." This will cause the release of endorphins, which are normally released during stress to increase energy and block pain receptors. These Endorphins, combined with normal neurotransmitters that affect nerve impulses, can stop the pain associated with arthritis that physically limits so many people.

Prevents nausea and vomiting

Acupuncture has also proven to be a very effective tool against nausea and vomiting. There is an acupuncture pressure point in the lower part of the forearm, near the wrist, which when stimulated, is thought to reduce the feeling of nausea that can induce vomiting. After surgery, when a patient is recovering from the effects of anesthesia, they often experience postoperative nausea and vomiting. A study published in 2009 argued that acupuncture was as effective as antiemetic medications that are commonly given to recovering patients. And again, the side effects of antiemetic medications can change the chemistry of our body, something that most people who use acupuncture try to avoid.

Chemotherapy is often used as a treatment for cancer patients, and it can be a very effective way to save lives. However, the side effects of chemotherapy are quite serious and include hair loss, nausea and vomiting, among others. Another study published in 2011 showed that Acupuncture was effective in preventing nausea and vomiting on the day of chemotherapy treatment.

Minimizes acidity and indigestion

It has been shown that regular acupuncture therapy reduces the signs of heartburn and indigestion, causing patients to consume less antacids, according to a recent study.

On the other hand, Brazilian researchers carried out the study and found significant differences between these symptoms in pregnant women who used acupuncture and those who simply controlled their diet and took medication when necessary.

How is an acupuncture session

Usually, the first acupuncture visit involves a thorough evaluation of the health history. The questions included may seem strange, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which covers acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage and other modalities, energy flow and body interaction are the keys to diagnosing all diseases physical For example, the doctor may request examine your tongue, feel your pulse to help determine the flow of energy, or ask many questions related to bowel habits and diet, even if they seem to have nothing to do with the main complaint.

After the initial consultation and evaluation, the needles are placed in very specific places. Upon insertion, one can feel a sharp or sharp momentary sensation; however, many report that they do not even feel the majority of insertions. It is common to experience deep pain for a short time at some of the points. Acupuncture needles are usually handled gently and some professionals may use heat or even electricity.

The depth at which acupuncture needles are inserted varies according to the treatment and the professional; however, needles should never be placed deep enough to pierce organs (other than the skin). Needles usually they are left in place for five to 20 minutes, usually no more than 60 minutes, and then they retire.

After an acupuncture treatment, therapists will usually reassess the client and will often give suggestions for home care.

Acute symptoms may require two to four sessions; while for chronic cases, it is common to have up to 12 or more treatments, usually over a period of eight to 10 weeks. Regular monthly visits can be suggested as preventive measures to reduce stress, improve energy or increase immunity.

Are there any side effects or indications of acupuncture where acupuncture should be avoided?

People with bleeding disorders or taking blood thinners should check with their doctors before undergoing acupuncture. The most common side effects of acupuncture are bleeding and bruising on the site, along with minor pain and pain. It is recommended that a disinfectant such as alcohol be cleaned with a swab over the area before needle insertion to reduce the small chance of infection. Obviously, needles must be clean and never shared among customers. Rarely, a needle may break. The worst case is a punctured organ.

Nevertheless, Serious complications are extremely rare when acupuncture is performed by a qualified and certified professional..



David Alvarez Therapist