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Acupuncture is among the best known of complementary and alternative therapies. It is a treatment that originates 2,500 years ago in china and spread quickly to other countries and is practiced in most of the world. The practice of acupuncture consists of inserting fine, solid needles into selected body locations, and it is used to relief pain, stress and many other diseases. It is very effective therapy but it has some side effects like any other treatment and it is used instead of many other treatments and surgeries that take long time to help and cure people.
Uses and Benefits of Acupuncture
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a Chinese therapy started 2,500 years ago so it is very old. It is based on the flow of energy (Qi) through the body that is important for health. Acupuncture therapy is used to treat many diseases and it requires the insertion of specialized thin needles at specific points on the body, “This therapy is rarely used in America until the visit of president Richard M Nixon to china in 1972”. It then spread quickly and became very frequent in United States, Europe, and Middle East where people studied Western and Chinese medicines and used then to treat and reduce symptoms of diseases and many other illnesses. Edmond Ibrahim, a Lebanese who studied western medicine at Lebanese university, but later switches to Chinese medicine because it offers healthier methods to treat patients, after studying it in Beijing University. He returned to Lebanon and start using it in treating patients. Therefore acupuncture therapy can help reduce pain and the symptoms of some diseases and it costs less than many other medicines (Nordqvist, 2009).
Origin and Development:
Acupuncture plays an important role in Chinese medicine. It was discovered 2,500 years ago and at this time 365 acupoints are obtained but after that as the therapy developed the number of acupoints increased to become 2000. Acupuncture is maintained by using specialized needles that are made of bones, stones or metal including gold or silver. Later they develop new needles that are made of very thin sterile stainless steel. “In 1966 the US food and drug administration (FDA) approved the use of acupuncture needles by licensed practitioners”. Many people are afraid from therapies that depends on needles since they believe that needles are used for several times in different patients, but the law saves human life and prevent transmission of infections by mentioning that needles are labeled to be used one time that make the therapy a safer one, since people come to cure from diseases not to acquire new infections. Later as this therapy develops it spread quickly and become popular in Europe and United States and it is used to relieve pain and common symptoms of diseases but not to treat the disease itself (American Cancer Society, 2010). The first man who wrote an article about acupuncture is James Reston who works in the New York Times and travel to china in order to receive acupuncture to treat some health problems happened to him after a surgery and he was surprised from the results. “In 2010 there are 18000 licensed acupuncturists in US and statistics shows that more than 40 states have set up training standards for licensing to practice acupuncture, also 8000 medical doctors in the US have been trained to practice acupuncture” (Nordqvist C. 2009).
Method of Applying Acupuncture
There are different types of acupuncture, and all these types do the same thing that is to treat symptoms of diseases and relieve stress and pain. The first type is the TCM based acupuncture this one uses eight principles of complementary opposites to make harmony in the body and it includes internal/external, hot/cold, excess/deficiency. Second type is the Korean hand acupuncture and in this type they use hands and feet instead of needles since they believe that they have concentration of qi similar to the needles. Other type inserts needles on specific points on the ear to treat addiction disorders and this is called auricular acupuncture. In Japanese style they put more importance on the needles and feel meridians in diagnosis. On other hand there is type that uses ultra sound device instead of needles and it is called sonopuncture, it depends on transmission of sound waves to specific points in patient’s body. The last type is acupressure and this depends only on hands to reduce stress and pain. Patients receive more than one treatment and the number differs from one patient to another depending on the patient condition and disease. It is preferable not to use acupuncture during pregnancy, but if the women started it she must continue until delivery of the infant (Answers and questions about acupuncture, 2013).
Types of acupuncture needles
There are different types of acupuncture needles, today the most common type used is filiform that is made of stainless steel. Acupuncture needles come in different diameters and length in order to be inserted on different points in the body, today they prefer to use very thin, and 0.12mm to 0.35mmin diameter. In addition to the filiform there is other specialized type, the three-edged needles it is a thick needle with a very sharp tip and used mainly on specific points in the body to remove few drops of blood. The other type is plum blossom needle, this type is called seven star needle and it combine seven filiform needles in the form of a flower and grouped like a hammer head to a long handle and needling process is maintained by tapping the needles on the skin lightly and swiftly. Intra dermal needles they differ from other needles that they are very short, thin and inserted to a shallow depth in the skin then kept in place for certain time and covered with water proof tape, they are mostly used to help in chronic pain and addictions. Press needles they are small (1-3mm long) and used in treatments that need to insert the needles for a long time (1-3 days),and it is called press needles since they are “pressed” on to specific points and left in place with a small sterile adhesive patch, and in order not to penetrate to a long depth in the body the box of the needle is made of metal forms a spiral loop, and it used a specific points including the external surface of ears (Maryin, 2012).
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
Acupuncture and cancer
There are many advances in cancer treatment, but they are aggressive and cause pain and many side effects. Acupuncture is very effective treatment it is used to relief pain and to treat the symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation (Acupuncture Shows Promise in Cancer Treatment, 2014). The needles inserted stimulate responses in pituitary glands, brain and nerve cells, these responses cause body to release chemical proteins, hormones and other chemicals that affect blood pressure, body temperature and increase immune system activity (National Cancer Institute, 2014).
Acupuncture to relieve stress
Stress is an emotion that appears at certain situation and every person feel “stressed” because of everyday problems, work, and relationships. People doesn’t know the severity of continuous stress that cause high blood pressure, fatigue, and many problems so people must receive a treatment to relieve stress and the best one is acupuncture. In acupuncture therapy the needles are inserted on certain points in which there is pain like neck and shoulders, the person rest for 30min, the lights are low, and classic music is on which allow the person to relax and at the same time the needles work to balance and relax the whole body , if the stress causes neck and shoulder needles work to relax muscle tension, and if the stress is emotional, acupuncture works to release bad feelings and change the mood so acupuncture work is the best way to relieve stress and the time of treatments needed depends on the individual and the severity of symptoms (Acupuncture for the Treatment of Stress, June 4 2014). A study made on animals show that animal who received acupuncture has no rise in stress-associated hormones but those who didn’t receive any treatment show increase in corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) with other hormones, this increase in hormones causes stress, depression and anxiety. So acupuncture is effective treatment to relief stress and depression, and the acupuncture point used in this study was a point in the stomach that work by tapping to the gut-brain connection (Mercola, 2013).
Infertility and pregnancy
Nowadays infertility is a major problem that people suffer from, and it is described as the inability of the couples to have children. “There are many causes of infertility like low sperm count, in 19% of couples, 27% of couples has ovulatory disorders, and 14% has tubal damage and 30% of cases of infertility remains unexplained” (NCCWCH, 2004). The problem of infertility leads to stress in most couples and also result in the decline of conception (Eugster & Vingerhoets, 1999). Many studies made by Smith in 2010 shows a good effect of acupuncture in the treatment of infertility in which it works to solve the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) that most girls suffer from, and it is considered the common cause of infertility. The acupuncture works to treat the infertility by balancing the hormone levels, decrease the number of ovaries and nerve activity, and it stimulate ovulation and enhance the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS problem and this shows many good results in 2008 and 2009. Also acupuncture treat infertility by increasing the blood flow to reproductive organs by inhibiting the sympathetic activity that causes the constriction of ovarian arteries and by doing this it increases the blood flow to the ovaries (Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010) thus improving the environment in which ovaries follicles mature. Acupuncture increases the blood flow to uterus (Stener-Victorin 1996, Huang 2008), which increases the thickness of endometrial lining and enhance the chance of embryo implantation. Also acupuncture works on regulating the fertility hormones many factors in our lives causes decrease in the function of hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis which cause infertility, and in the brain, that causes the release of many hormones, like estrogen and progesterone from the ovary ( Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010), follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and gonadotropin hormone from the hypothalamus, and all these hormones are important in reproduction and avoiding infertility.
Acupuncture and weight loss
Nowadays many people suffer from overweight and many treatments and medicines fail to solve this problem. Recent shows that Ear acupuncture can help reduce weight and to confirm this they make different studies and observe that patients who receive acupuncture on 5 points on the ear, the shen men point, stomach point, hunger point, endocrine and spleen point, and this happen using a sterilized needles and the needles are covered with tape to left in place for few days to set the result, and the results observed show 6.1% drop in their body mass index (BMI). The principle that acupuncture is effective in weight loss is that “it helps in improving digestion, regulating obesity related hormones and managing the way nutrient, are used and also it strengthen the function of line that produces many chemicals needed in digestion, also it increase tone in smooth muscles of the stomach to help people know that they are full” and by this they don’t eat more than their need and 4 weeks after acupuncture they observe a significant weight loss (Russell, 2013).
Many studies showed that acupuncture helps reduce chronic head pain (migraines). Study obtained in 500 adults who receive traditional acupuncture or sham acupuncture in which the needles are inserted in nonspecific points after completing the study, they observe a decrease in the average of migraine from 6 days in a month to 3 days in the month, and also they detected continuous decrease in migraine days, frequency and intensity in people receiving traditional acupuncture but who treated with sham did not. The study shows the benefit of traditional acupuncture over the sham acupuncture (Collins, 2012), Researcher Claudia Witt, MD of university Medical center charity in Berlin says “previous research suggest that people who respond best to acupuncture are those who have not been helped by other treatments and those who had past positive experience with acupuncture”. Also Albrecht Molsberger, MD, a medical acupuncture specialist who wrote an editorial on the study, says that “even in sham acupuncture, the simple insertion of needles into the skin, regardless of the exact points of insertion, can lead to fewer migraines and reduced pain”.
Acupuncture in helping children
Many studies in Pacific college of oriental medicine reflect the positive effect of acupuncture in children suffering from back pain, headache, depression, stomachaches. A study made by Yuan-Chilin an anesthesiologist specializing in pediatric pain management at Boston-based Harvard-affiliated children’s hospital. The study made on 243 children of age ranging from 6 months to 18 years old, they suffer from many conditions (pain, headache, stomachache) which make them absent from school and after receiving acupuncture they show a decrease in pain and they show increase participation in school and improved sleep. A new study shows that acupuncture can help children with disease called amblyopia, known as lazy eye. Study made on 88 children of age 7 and 13 years thy divided into two groups and subject to different treatment, results shows that 42 percent of children receive acupuncture show an improvement in their lazy eye after 3 months of getting the therapy, and only 17 percent of whom were only patch show improvement in their eye, so acupuncture is more efficient and show a great results (Chilin, 2014).
Acupuncture and Kidney failure
A study made in 2013 in Shijiazhuang kidney disease hospital show that acupuncture therapy is used to treat various chronic kidney diseases. Kidney is an essential organ in our body it balance body fluids, extract waste from blood and from urine. In kidney failure the kidney lose its ability to function properly and this is caused by low blood flow to the kidneys, blood clotting disorders, urinary tract infection and necrosis, so we use acupuncture in order to reduce many symptoms of kidney disease like kidney pain, vomiting, fatigue, headache and nausea also acupuncture increase blood flow to the kidneys and reduce inflammation and increase the function of kidneys. In other hand acupuncture also use to treat kidney stone that is frequent in our days because of unclean water. In this case the needles are inserted at specific places near the kidney and dilute the ureter to allow the flow of the stones into the bladder so the stones will be removed from kidneys, and this therapy is easier than surgeries and other treatments (Curative effects of acupuncture for kidney disease, 2013).
What are the side effects of acupuncture?
Although acupuncture is described as a magic medical treatment .There are 7 major side effects of acupuncture, the person feels worse symptoms, when people receive acupuncture therapy they may feel worse better before they start feeling better and this is referred to as healing crisis, in which the body starts respond to the treatment and more toward health, so all things get stirred up, start feeling worth this is good and marker that the treatment is effective and the body start responding ( Calabro, 2013).
After acupuncture most people feel fatigue, the common result is increasing energy, this is positive response from the body is to tell the person that he need some rest after the treatment. People should not get afraid it is normal to feel fatigue, just the person should rest, take bath at night to relax their body sleep early and the next day they start feel better. And if patients appear exhausted suggest that they call their family to drive them (Calabro 2013).
After finishing the acupuncture therapy, the body parts in which the needles are inserted start feel sore for few days after removing the needle, but unexpected soreness can actually help identify trigger points or medical issues. This mostly occur with points in the feet and hand, also they can experience muscle soreness if a trigger was released during acupuncture therapy. Soreness from acupuncture remains for 24 hours and acupuncturists will tell the patients about this before receiving the treatment (Calabro, 2013).
Bruising may also occur at needles site but it is less common than soreness it result from collection of blood at the site in which needles are inserted and this is called hematoma and it last longer than soreness, still acupuncturist doesn't know the cause of bruising, although there are many patients who bruise every time even the acupuncturist uses a high quality of needle brand, technique and size, and the majority never experience bruising anywhere (Calabro, 2013).
People also may experience muscle twitching after or during acupuncture, they may feel it in the whole body no matter where needles are placed, or only in the points in which needles are inserted. And this is not dangerous it’s only muscle spasm, and when people feel this they should tell the acupuncturist in order to help release it before leaving (Calabro, 2013).
This is rarely to happen after acupuncture, it results when patient get up quickly from the acupuncture table and their stomach is empty which is not good, eating is essential thing to do before acupuncture appointment. When the acupuncture session finished, take your time to get up and movies gently while taking your things to leave. If you feel lightheaded after the treatment sit for a few minutes and take deep breath, this is normal since acupuncture is an emotionally and physically intense treatment and your body may need some extra time to recover (Calabro, 2013).
People also feel emotional experience not only physical during acupuncture patients can cry and feel a variety of emotional releases, and if this continues for a long time patients will feel depressed. So, after discussing all possible side effects that may happen after or during acupuncture, so now we know that something wrong can happen during this treatment so it is important for Acupuncturist to carry insurance since everything can happen, no matter how professional the acupuncturist is he/she cannot protect patient from their own body’s reaction to the acupuncture therapy (Calabro, 2013).
In conclusion, acupuncture is an essential medical treatment started from china and spread to Europe, US, and Middle East. Many doctors studied it in universities and use it to treat illness in healthier way instead of surgeries and medicines that has harmful side effects. In my opinion acupuncture should be more used, spread and applied in Middle East. Arab people believe that medicines and surgeries is the only cure for diseases which is not true; there are many other treatments like acupuncture and herbal medicines. People should study and know more about Western and Chinese medicines to get more professional and experts in this field in the Middle East. Can acupuncture replace medicines and surgeries in the next years?