Discovering the Benefits of Acupuncture Through Science

a model dummy of acupuncture showing the channels and pointsAcupuncture has been used for thousands of years in China to help ease pain, alleviate tension and provide healing for a number of ailments.

People from Canada, Western Europe, and the United States began turning to acupuncture as an effective alternative treatment method for a variety of medical conditions and illnesses around 60 years ago. Since this time, the practice of acupuncture has continued to grow in popularity in the West.

The Background of Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses very fine needles. These needles are placed into specific points, known acupuncture points, which are located along channel pathways, which are said to traverse the body.

Although there is no conclusive evidence as to how acupuncture works, science has observed that there are in fact numerous therapeutic benefits of this alternative approach.

More specifically, results have been achieved for pain relief and the relief of chemotherapy-induced nausea, although acupuncturists claim that the therapy can treat far more than just these ailments.

According to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body contains an energy force called Qi (pronounced Chi). The patient’s Qi flows through twelve pathways throughout the body. These channels are referred to as meridians.

The different meridians are responsible for various organs and physiological and psychological functions of your body. Acupuncture points are located along these meridians, each with different functions and eliciting a unique response in the body.

There is not yet any conclusive scientific evidence proving the existence of these meridians and acupuncture points; therefore, there has been a lot of controversy regarding acupuncture theory among Western scientists and doctors.

a picture of the yin yang symbol from Chinese medicineScientists have a difficult time doing case studies of acupuncture because of its invasive nature. In these studies, one group of participants have needles placed in areas that are not acupuncture points. The other group of participants has actual acupuncture. Some studies have shown that both methods of “treatment” offer benefits while other studies have shown that the benefits only occur with real acupuncture. The British Medical Journal states that acupuncture is indeed grounded in science.

The World Health Organization, also known as WHO, states that acupuncture can be used to treat 28 conditions. Evidence also indicates that acupuncture may be therapeutic for many more conditions.

One study done by the Technical University of Munich Germany found that acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of migraines and tension headaches.

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center also found that acupuncture can help alleviate dry mouth suffered by patients receiving radiation for head and neck cancers.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Traditional Chinese medical practitioners believe that health is the result of the balance of the Qi. Qi flows throughout the body along the meridians.

There are said to be around 350 acupuncture points along these meridians. When the Qi cannot flow properly, it can cause illness and disease. Placing acupuncture needles along the acupuncture points restores energy flow, thus healing the body.

Acupuncture can be explained using the concepts of neuroscience. Western practitioners believe these acupuncture points are specific locations that stimulate the muscles, connective tissues and nerves in the body. When these points are stimulated, blood flow to the region increases and triggers the body to release its natural pain killers.

Many conditions can benefit from acupuncture, including migraines, stress, nausea and the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. More and more people are turning to this alternative treatment to find healing and relief of a multitude of symptoms.

Learning Acupuncture

As one can expect, learning acupuncture is not an easy task. A person needs to undergo at least three years training at an established institution to be able to practice acupuncture.

The International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM) is one of the oldest acupuncture colleges in the West. Founded in 1972, ICOM was the first training college to be the established in the United Kingdom. Click here to see ICOM’s location.

ICOM’s core philosophy and practice are rooted in Classical acupuncture. However, they teach an integrated syllabus, which encompasses all the main disciplines and techniques of acupuncture. Here is more information on acupuncture tuition at ICOM.

ICOM frequently hold open days for people interested in becoming practitioners and for those who are curious about acupuncture and would like to know a little more about how it works. If this interests you, then you can attend one of their open days to finds out more about this fascinating practice.

Alternative Medicine: What Exactly Is It?

Bach flower remediesAlternative medicine is a term used to describe other forms of therapy other than traditional Western or allopathic medicine. Instead of using standard medical treatments, alternative practices are used. Alternative medicine differs from complementary medicine which does not replace medical practices that are standard but accompanies them instead. In general, the medical community does not recognise alternative medical practices as conventional or standard.

Alternative medicine includes disciplines such as spiritual healing, magnet therapy, massage therapy, herbal preparations and dietary supplements.

There are five major domains, or categories, into which alternative and complementary medical therapies fall into.

Medical Systems That are Considered to be Alternative

Complete systems of both theory and practice provide the basis for alternative medical systems. In many cases, the systems evolved earlier than and apart from the approach that is taken by the conventional medicine commonly practiced in the Western world.

Naturopathic and homeopathic medicine developed within Western culture and were examples of alternative medical systems. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine are examples of medical systems that arose in cultures, not of the West.

Interventions Between Mind And Body

To help the mind to affect both disease symptoms and bodily function, a variety of techniques exists in mind-body medicine. Cognitive behavioural therapy and patient support groups were considered to be CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine) techniques in the past but have now entered the mainstream. However, mind-body therapies using dance, music, art, or other creative outlets and mental healing, prayer, and meditation are still considered CAM.

Therapies That Are Based On Biology

In CAM, there are therapies that are biologically based that rely on natural substances, such as vitamins, foods, and herbs. Some examples are not proven scientifically but are natural, such as treating cancer using shark cartilage. Others make use of herbal products and dietary supplements.

Body-Based and Manipulative Methods

Body-based and manipulative methods in CAM either physically move or manipulate a single or multiple parts of the body. Examples include massage therapy, osteopathic manipulation, or chiropractic care.

Therapies Using Energy

Energy fields are used in energy therapies. There are two primary types:

Biofield therapies work by affecting the fields of energy that penetrate and surround the human body. There is no scientific proof that these fields exist. Some types of energy therapy manipulate these fields by applying pressure or moving hands through the fields. Examples include therapeutic touch, Reiki, and qi gong.

Electromagnetic fields are used unconventionally in bioelectromagnetic-based therapy. The fields used may be direct current, alternating current, magnetic, or pulsed fields.

Here is an interesting interview with Dr Kelly McCann on alternative medicine