What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the use of pins inserted into specific points along the body, called meridians or channels to activate the Qi (energy) and restore good health.
It probably evolved from acupressure, a form of massage thousands of years ago in East Asia, not just from China. Countries that use acupuncture include China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
It is still used in East Asia today to treat a vareity of health care problems. Over the last 20-30 years, acupuncture has gained increased popularity in western countries. It is now used in western countries to treat common conditions, such as pain, anxiety, stress and infertility.
It is classified in western countries as a complementary or alternative therapy. Medical acupuncture was invented in the last few decades and doesn't exist in Asia. Medical acupuncturists don't believe in the flow of qi or the flow of energy.
How it works
From a biomedical viewpoint, the effects of acupuncture work by regulating neuromodulation, such as vagus nerve stimulation and has been used for inflammation control and pain treatment.
In addition, acupuncture and sciatic nerve activation also regulates inflammation through vagus nerve activation and dopamine release.
In western countries, acupuncture is commonly used for:
In East Asia, it is used to treat more health problems.
What happens at an acupuncture session
After a consultation where you'll be asked lots of questions about all aspects of your life, you'll be asked to lie down on a couch and roll up your sleeves and trousers legs.
Very fine pins the size of a human hair will be inserted into various areas of your body. The pins are inserted from 2mm to 4cm depending on the area.
Normal sensations include a dullness, tingling or electrical sensation. Sometimes you may feel a sharp sensation which is the needle breaking the skin badly.
You'll then be allowed to rest with the needles in for around 20-25 minutes. Normally, relaxing music will be played to you.
After 20-25 minutes, the pins will be removed and placed in a sharps box, which when full will be incinerated.
After finishing the treatment you can return back to your normal life.
Why acupuncture is more than just needles
When people think of acupuncture they think of the needles. However, there is a lot more to it than the needles it uses to affect the flow of qi in the body.
It is a way of life, a way of thinking and seeing the body and how it fits in with Nature. This includes the way we eat, sleep and work.
If you would like to learn more about how it is more than just needles, you can read an article I wrote about it.
What are ear seeds and acupuncture tacks?
An acupuncture tack or ear seed is a small object that's stuck onto specific points on a person for them to stimulate in between acupuncture sessions. They are left stuck on the body using sticky tape night and day, until they loose their stickiness and fall off.
Acupuncture tacks and ear seeds work by stimulating points a person might need to help rebalance their health. This reinforces the acupuncture treatment allowing for greater effect. A common use of ear seeds is on the 'mind' point on the ear (Shenmen) to help calm the mind and treat anxiety.
Ji, R.-R., Chamessian, A., & Zhang, Y.-Q. (2016). Pain Regulation by Non-neuronal Cells and Inflammation. Science (New York, N.Y.), 354(6312), 572-577. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf8924