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I'm on pins and needles!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm on pins and needles!

So many of us that grow up on Western medicine think that acupuncture is a ridiculous idea, and others, who have tried the traditionally Eastern medicine since the mid 20th century in this area of the world, have long benefitted from the bodies response to the long thread-like needles inserted into our meridians and realigning our Qi.  These needles are inserted at certain specific points and depths along the meridians that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, contain vital levels of your Qi.  Just to clarify, qi is your circulating life energy.  I totally understand how people can easily scoff at what they don't understand, it is even a really difficult practice to study because you really can't use a placebo.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture is considered medically appropriate to treat around 40 different medical problems, and there are numerous other problems that acupuncture provides therapeutic effects.  A study from a major university in Germany that people with tension headaches and migraines had significantly decreased symptoms (to no symptoms) with use of acupuncture as treatment.  As well, a study at M.D. Anderson in Texas showed that neck cancer patients, who have a side effect with treatment of severe dry mouth, had a significant improvement of symptoms with acupuncture when added to their treatment regimen. Most commonly acupuncture is used to treat: migraines/headaches, stress, infertility, PMS, depression, allergies, addictions, hypertension, GI disorders, menopause, the symptoms related to cancer treatments, osteoarthritis, and many other ailments.

How are treatments performed?
It usually involves several weekly or biweekly treatments, as you are treating your whole body, which involves an exam, a past medical health questionnaire, insertion of needles, and a consultation for advice and follow-up.  Usually the treatment sessions can last from 30-60 minutes.  Make sure that your acupuncturist is using single use, disposable needles, an when they are inserted the the correct depth, you may feel an aching sensation, they will stay there for 20 minutes, then be removed.  Most people feel immediately better, despite the need to have multiple treatments.

How does it work?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is described that health is the result of a balance of   the yin and the yang (also known as yan) of the life force (Qi).  There are 350 acupuncture points in the body and all of these energy pathways need to be assessed and the ones with poor flow need treatment with acupuncture to allow for increased flow and personal balance.  If needles are inserted into the areas where there is illness or improper energy flow, the needles can help to change the balance and bring back the proper balance and energy flow.

Who should go?
The best part of acupuncture is that besides a few contraindications, mostly anyone can get treatment, even for just feeling like you have low energy.  Although many insurance companies are starting to cover part of the cost of acupuncture for certain medical diagnoses (check with your specific insurance company to find out if they cover and how much).   The only people that should be wary of treatment are people with bleeding or clotting disorders or if you are taking blood thinners, you are at a higher risk for bleeding at insertion sites or bruising; it should be discussed with your HCP before being treated.

The benefits?
It is safe, very few side effects, and it is a good alternative for some patients as adjunct to medications OR for people who do not wish to take medications.  And there are so many benefits, including reduced stress and overall feeling better.

Any Risks?
Besides the bleeding risks, as discussed above, there is a risk of the needle breaking or going into an internal organ and causing damage (which is extremely rare), and if unsterilized needles are used (which should NEVER be done) there is a risk of infection.

There is always a risk when using an unregulated alternative therapy that you are going to someone who doesn't know what they are doing, and that they are not appropriately trained for what they are doing, so always talk to your HCP about acupounctire treatment before going, and get referred by them OR by a current client.  Meet the acupuncturist and if you feel uncomfortable at any point, just leave, and don't be discouraged, just talk around and find one that is right for you. You can try looking online for acupuncturists, just beware and talk to current clients as references.  Also, don't be discouraged if your HCP doesn't "believe" in alternative therapies, it is your body and your treatment, happiness, and health is your decision and no one else's.  So go out and get some needles stuck in you, and let me know how you feel!!

Yours in Good Health,
B

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