For more than 3,500 years, acupuncture has been providing relief to people around the world. Originally developed and practiced in China, this soothing therapy is today embraced by patients who seek to alleviate symptoms caused by ailments that range from arthritis to migraines to the aftereffects of chemotherapy. It is even effective in helping people quit smoking.
The Eastern medicine philosophy of acupuncture draws on the belief that an energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”) circulates throughout our body, from the top of our head to the soles of our feet. When we experience good health, this energy flows unobstructed along pathways in the body called meridians. Each meridian is believed to be connected to a specific organ system, and when an energy flow is disrupted by a disease or an injury, illness or pain occurs. Acupuncture is then used to balance the flow of Qi and stimulate our body’s natural ability to heal.
Ongoing modern research in the field of acupuncture has provided insights into how acupuncture works. Functional MRIs point to specific brain activity in addition to the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving chemical, when acupuncture treatment is performed. Research has also shown acupuncture’s ability to release muscular trigger points which can cause myofascial pain, in addition to having an anti-inflammatory effect.
Acupuncture is one of the most utilized services offered at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine, and is most effective with regular and frequent treatments.
What We Treat
Acupuncture Helps Treat Numerous Diseases and Conditions
The World Health Organization endorses acupuncture, and clinical studies have shown it to be a beneficial treatment for many conditions, including:
- Chronic pain: migraines, neck and back pain, tendinitis, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis
- Digestive disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, gastritis and constipation
- Urinary and reproductive disorders: menstrual cramps, irregular or heavy periods, infertility and menopausal symptoms
- Psychological and emotional disorders: depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia
- Symptom management for adverse reactions to chemotherapy and radiation, including fatigue, generalized pain, dry mouth, peripheral neuropathy, nausea and vomiting
- Seasonal allergies
- High blood pressure
- Addictions to nicotine, alcohol and drugs
- Overweight or obesity, when coupled with diet and exercise
What Can I Expect?
Acupuncture treatments involve placing hair-thin needles of varying lengths into certain areas of the skin. The number of slender needles – as few as three, as many as 20 – and the length of time they are kept in place depends on the ailment being treated. During the treatment, the needles may be twirled, warmed or electrically energized to intensify healing effects. Some patients may feel a tiny prick when the needle is inserted. Others feel a tickle. But many patients don’t feel a thing.
Acupuncture sessions generally run for 45 to 60 minutes in total, with needles being retained in the body for about 30 minutes. Patients lie on a padded table with and soothing music playing in the background. Some patients say they feel an electrical sensation during a treatment, or a sense of heaviness, which is all typical. Most people end up falling asleep on the table, feeling peaceful, yet energized after the treatment.
Acupuncture Complements Conventional Medicine
Acupuncture works nicely as an adjunct to your conventional treatment plan. For example, many patients undergoing chemotherapy also use acupuncture as a way to lessen the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Acupuncture has also been used as a complementary therapy in the treatment of allergies, asthma, sinusitis, pain, hot flashes, insomnia, irritable bowel and infertility, and is used in conjunction with physical therapy for rehabilitation from serious injury. A full course of treatment can range from 3 to 10 visits.
In Ohio, acupuncture practitioners must be licensed, possess at a minimum a master’s degree. Additionally, all licensed acupuncturists must pass board exams in Eastern medicine. Search the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine website for a licensed acupuncturist in your area. You can also visit your state’s medical board website to be sure that the acupuncturist has a valid medical license with no disciplinary actions.