For many people who have grown up with Western medicine, acupuncture may seem strange or mythical. They may wonder, does acupuncture work? According to many different public agencies around the world – it does. Of course, not all may easily trust what people tell them, especially when it comes to their health, but there is something to be said for the sheer numbers that lend their support to the practice.
Acupuncture’s effectiveness has been proven to some degree in several different aspects of medical care, including: arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, curing addictions and cravings, cramps, headaches, and easing nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy and surgery. For those who suffer from these chronic conditions, acupuncture can be a welcome relief.
A skeptical person may wonder how it works, but it is difficult to argue with those who have experienced the results of acupuncture. To be sure, this is anecdotal evidence, but there have been studies done that back up such claims. For example, insurance companies (many of which do cover acupuncture treatments) would not be willing to pay for acupuncture to treat certain conditions if it was not effective.
How acupuncture works is debated between adherents of traditional Chinese and Western medicines. Traditional Chinese medicine is based upon the whole body, and uses meridians, Qi, Yin and Yang, and other concepts that are not easily accepted by Western medicine. Chinese medicine says acupuncture works by getting the Qi to flow properly, and/or by putting the Yin and Yang back into balance.
The meridians just mentioned are often likened to rivers that run throughout our bodies. When there is a blockage of Q (energy)i in these rivers, they must be unblocked to flow freely. This is the aim of the acupuncturist’s needles. Once the Qi is flowing properly through the meridians, the body should be back in balance. The average person might assume acupuncture involves needles being haphazardly inserted all over the body. This is not true. There are different meridians and acupuncture points that correspond to different organs and conditions.
Practitioners of Western medicine theorize that it is related to the nervous system, neurotransmitters, the activation of immune cells, or possibly the release of endorphins. In other words, there must be some scientific and medical explanation. In fact, many doctors in the West practice some form of acupuncture, or will recommend it to their patients for certain conditions.
Regardless of which side you take in the debate of how acupuncture works, it is clear that there is a growing acceptance of the practice. Again, it is difficult to argue with the results someone has experienced firsthand.
Skeptics are quick to point out that very few properly controlled scientific studies have been done. There is even some evidence to show that some positive effects have been achieved when fake acupuncture points were used. Then again, doesn’t this really show that acupuncture does work? Perhaps it is just the expectation that acupuncture is supposed to work that causes a placebo effect. Meaning that your mind plays tricks on you into thinking there has been a cure, when there has not.
The placebo effect can indeed be powerful. Yet, there may still be an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. Using acupuncture as a complementary method, with your doctor’s knowledge, is one way to make sure your health is truly improving.
Finally, though it won’t appease skeptics, acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. This alone is not proof of its ability to heal, but you really have to wonder if it would last that long if it did not work at all. Scientific studies may not prove why, how, or if acupuncture works – but millions upon millions of people for thousands of years have not needed studies to prove it has worked for them. And if this is not enough for you, why not try it out yourself before making a verdict?
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