How does acupuncture work and what are the benefits?

Acupuncture is a complete medical protocol focused on correcting imbalances of energy in the body. From its inception in China more than 2,500 years ago, acupuncture has been used traditionally to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, as well as to improve general health.

The traditional explanation for acupuncture’s effectiveness is that it modifies 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. Research published in the May 30, 2010 online edition of Nature Neuroscience demonstrated that the effects of acupuncture needling include influencing the activity of adenosine, an amino acid which becomes active in the skin after an injury to ease pain. This may explain in part why pain relief is often experienced as one of the benefits of acupuncture. Some medical acupuncturists argue that the therapy triggers the release of endorphins.

There are 14 major energy-channel meridians on the body, with hundreds of points located along each meridian where acupuncture needles are placed. The FDA regulates acupuncture needles as medical devices and requires that the needles be “sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only.” The needles will usually stay in for a short period of time while the patient's energy is reworking and balancing itself. After the needles are removed, the patient can go about their day and are usually advised to drink plenty of water to help the detoxifying process.

acupuncture can extend to a wide variety of conditions, from emotional disorders (anxietydepression) to digestive complaints (nausea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome). It can be beneficial for pain syndromes associated with physical injuries or chronic degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be helpful in treating neurological problems like migraines or as a rehabilitation strategy for individuals who suffered a stroke. Acupuncture has also proved beneficial for reducing fatigue and addictions, and for promoting overall well-being.

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